Skip to main content


In Ireland we have two Certificate exams (known to all as Certs), the Junior and the Leaving.

The Junior Cert is taken when you're a minimum of 12 years old: usually 13 or 14. There are seven compulsory subjects, namely Irish, English, Maths, CSPE (Civic, Social and Political Education), SPHE (Social, Personal and Health Education), PE and RE. Pupils can then choose at least two optional subjects, although most take more than that. There is an incredibly broad number of optional subjects on the curriculum, but of course not all schools offer all of them. Each subject has three levels: Foundation, Ordinary (“pass”) and Higher (“honours”), with CSPA having an extra 'Common' level. The level at which you take your Junior Cert subjects has a bearing on your Leaving Cert levels.

The Leaving Cert, taken at the end of the Senior Cycle, is similar in its broadness of curriculum. There are three paths you can take, which vary in their academic and vocational foci. The Established Leaving Certificate is academically focussed: students typically take six or seven subjects, three of which (Irish, English, Maths) are compulsory. The Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme is similar in structure, with each student having to take Irish, two vocational subjects, a modern European language and two 'link modules' in various aspects of business studies. The Leaving Certificate Applied has three elements: General Education, Vocational Education and Vocational Preparation, all of which are practical and vocational in nature. Like Junior Cert, all exams have three levels of difficulty: Foundation, Ordinary ('pass') and Higher ('honours').

The pass mark for both Certs is 40% (with the exception of Leaving Cert Foundation exams, which sits at 75%), although it's not possible to be held back after taking Junior Cert: you progress regardless.

The Junior Cert is the minimum requirement for getting a job: some people drop out after taking it. The Leaving Cert Applied was formed to coax vocational or practical-minded students into not dropping out, but to give them a valid qualification to aim towards. Also, passing the Leaving Cert is a requirement for accessing Higher Education.