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Brendan Kennelly for Leaving Cert English: Begin

"Begin" by Brendan KennellyYou may also like: 2019 Guide to Leaving Cert English. Full notes on Brendan Kennelly will be made available to everyone who has the 2019 guide, free of charge, as soon as they are ready.

Summary: a philosophical reflection on starting something new again and again communicated through the description of a morning walk across the Grand Canal in Dublin.

Style features:
anaphora (1) (highlighted in bold) adds a sense of determination as does the repetition of the word “begin” throughout the poemenjambment highlights the never ending need to begin again imperative tone, “begin again” is an encouraging command to never give up alliteration e.g. “dying in dark / determination” enhances the imageryreference to familiar places, “Pembroke Road” near the Aviva Stadium in Dublin 4, make the poem more accessibleimagery appeals to multiple senses: “summoning birds”, “sight of the light”, “roar of morning traffic”, “crying birds in the sudden rain”, “branches…

New Leaving Cert Grading and CAO Points System

The exam structure is unchanged. The marking schemes are as they were before. The bell curve is still there, though it won't be as granular. The CAO application process is as it was previously. 

What's changed, besides the name?

1. Students will pass with a 30% rather than a 40% exam mark  - at Higher Level (HL).

2. There are fewer grade bands: from 14 down to 8.

LC grade (HL)
Exam grade (%)
CAO points

LC grade (OL)
Exam grade (%)
CAO points

How to calculate your points

As before, to calculate your points, identify your top six subjects from one sitting of the Leaving Cert.

Here is the official CAO grid for calculating points from 2017:

new leaving cert points system

What about those yummy 25 points for HL Maths?

As per the CAO, 25 bonus points will be awarded for Higher Level Mathematics for H6 grades and above. For example, if an applicant receives a H6 grade an additional 25 points will be added to the 46 points already awarded for a H6 grade i.e. Higher Level Mathematics now carries a points score of 71 for this applicant. Click here to view a more detailed description of the Bonus Points Scheme for Higher Level Leaving Certificate Mathematics, with some examples.

If you prefer, use this official CAO online calculator to add up your points.

Why the new points system?

Here are the arguments from the new points system enthusiasts:

"It has been designed to reduce the number of students who get the CAO points that they need but still miss out due to random selection." (Source)

Missing out on random selection is (probably) especially sickening, so the new points system zooms out and it bands people together with a more blunt instrument.

So basically, there are fewer grades so if you miss your course, you will miss it outright because you've been bundles with people who have on average scored below you. If you get lucky, you get into your course outright, because you've been bundles with people who have on average scored above you.

"Focus on individual achievement"...

The director of the National Association of Principals and Deputies said:

“Under the current system, the majority of grades are separated by just five per cent, equating to an additional five CAO points. This can cause heartbreak for many who fail to qualify for their course because they have missed out by those five points. The new system puts less focus on points gaps and more on individual achievement.” (Source)

It's a soothing comment, but let's look at the substance for ourselves.

Let's say you got 89% in your exam. 

Under the new system, this confers no benefit over getting 80%. 

How does this focus on individual achievement exactly? 

If they had genuinely wanted to focus on individual achievement, they would have just added up your percentages instead of translating them into points. Then you would actually get what you should get, #nofilter. This isn't to say that the new system is worse that the old one, but let's not dress it up as a panacea when it obviously isn't one.

"Less pressure towards rote learning"...

"Currently, the majority of students receiving a given grade are within 3 percentage marks of a higher grade, and 5 extra points, creating pressure towards rote learning and using the marking scheme to gain those few additional marks." (Source)

Lads, you will still have to learn as much as you did before. Rote or not - that's up to you and you alone. You are still competing for the same resources. "A rose by any other name would smell as sweet"...

How will the required points change?

There will be probably be a bigger difference in points between different courses compared to last year. We also hypothesise that random selection won't go away completely. 

Is the new points system good or bad?

The new 8-point scale brings the Irish Leaving Certificate closer to school leaving examinations in other countries, such as Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland, Finland, and to the International Baccalaureate. That's probably good.

The change to a 30% pass mark encourages people to study at Higher Level. This is a double-edged sword in its own right, so let's see how it plays out.


The conversations we will have about the Leaving Cert will be confusing to the rest of the country now.

"Are you happy with how you did?" 


"Ah no way!"

"Yeah, have you seen Biology? 'Twas a balls of an exam. Still gonna get my course, so couldn't care less."

"Good. Don't forget to bring ID tonight."


What if you sat the Leaving Cert before 2017? 

The new points still apply. Here is how you convert:

You may also like:

625 points Leaving Cert Notes
Leaving Cert Sample Answers and Notes

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