Exam Times: Subject Choice

Choosing your Leaving Cert subjects is an important decision faced by over 60,00 students every year. The choice you make can have long term implications in terms of third-level study options and even future careers.

This practical guide, written by Mary Dorgan, Career Guidance Counsellor at The Institute of Education, provides key advice to students who are considering their options.

In the video below, Mary outlines the main things students should keep in mind when making their choice…


In 2014, most students who completed the Leaving Cert saw CAO entry points rise for many courses. This reflected increased, reduced or renewed interest in various courses and careers. The trends visible through the CAP point’s fluctuation can be attributed to many external causes, and can provide an interesting insight into current economic and social developments.

Science courses

Career experts at Forfás predict high demand for jobs in science, engineering and technology. This is visible in the CAO demand in 2014. In 2009, entry points to study Science varied from 395 (UCD) to 440 (TCD). However since then, science has continued to soar, reaching 515 (TCD & UCD) in 2014. Most engineering courses also increased in UCD, UCC, NUIG and UL.

Language courses

Third level language courses have continued to rise significantly, reflecting the career trends and graduate opportunities available for students with language skills. Ireland is a hub for European headquarters for International companies, therefore graduates with European language skills excel in the current job market. International Business Studies in DCU has risen by 20 points to 465, in addition to courses such as Global Business with German rising 45 points to 475. In NUIG, Commerce with German or Spanish have increased by 10 points to 460 and 470 respectively. In UCD International Commerce with Chinese has risen by 35 points to 405, and Arts International has increased by 25 points to 455. In UL, Business Studies with Japanese has jumped by 20 points to 420.

Business courses

During the recession, points for third level business courses dropped quite significantly. But since 2013, there has been a turn in the tide. Commerce in UCD rose by 15 points to 490. Commerce in NUIG rose by 5 points to 380.

Construction courses

Most significantly in 2014, the points for architecture and construction have seen a considerable rise. During the recession, these courses experienced a huge drop in points, with very little demand from students. As the industry emerges from recession, the demand for third level courses in this area have begun to rise again. Architecture rose by 65 points to 585 in DIT, by 40 points to 490 in UCD, by 20 points to 420 in UCC, and by 10 points to 385 in UL. Structural Engineering with Architecture in UCD increased by 55 points to 455. In DIT Construction Management climbed 40 points to 300, and Quantity Surveying & Construction Economics climbed 45 points to 320.

Humanities and Social Science Courses

Some career areas also experienced a decline since the beginning of the recession. Points for courses in the humanities and social sciences decreased in 2013 and tended to either decrease or stay the same in 2014. Journalism courses also decreased in 2014. Arts with Journalism in NUIG decreased by 50 points to 430. Journalism and New Media in UL dropped 45 points to 365. In DCU, Irish and Journalism fell 15 points to 425, whereas Journalism on its own rose by only 5 points to 440.


There are lots of things to consider when choosing your subjects for the Leaving Certificate.

  • Firstly, look at your Junior Cert results and find the subjects that you were best at. Choosing subjects you are good at will benefit you in achieving the highest grade possible for it in the Leaving Cert.
  • Next, consider the subjects that you enjoyed the most. Taking an interest in a subject will greatly help to motivate you when it comes to studying and allows the information to stick in your mind easily.
  • Finally, make sure to include any subjects you might need for third level study (either required by the course, or which will benefit your studies for that course).


Welcome to the Exam Times Study Skills guide, published on November 13th 2014 by The Irish Times in association with The Institute of Education.