So what have we learned from the CAO?
The CAO results have finally been announced and now would-be students have a big decision ahead of them. But about what and why?
It’s been awhile since I did my Leaving Cert, so what’s all this about the CAO?
Well, if you really want to start off from the beginning… the CAO is the Central Applications Office, and they have to deal with all the applications students send to colleges. They decide on how many points a particular course ‘costs’ based on how many students are applying for the course and how many places it can actually hold. They’re basically they middle men.
Oh right… So why where they giving out free points with higher-level maths then? That wasn’t around in my day?
Students who sat the higher-level maths paper could potentially stand to gain an extra 25 points, once they scored higher than a D3, that is. However, it’s higher-level maths we’re talking about (1+1=0… and all that).
I bet everyone and their dog went for higher maths with the hope of a few extra points… and then failed?
Well it seems that way alright, even though most of them passed. According to John Kennedy from Silicon Republic, ‘some 11,000 students obtained 25 bonus points, but according to various reports these extra points only benefited 3,000 students’. So as you can see, a fair few people didn’t benefit at all.
Well, the CAO Operations Manager Joseph O'Grady explained that as it is only a student’s six best subjects that count towards CAO points, only a minority of applicants, who have performed very well in higher level maths, will actually benefit from the extra points. So anyone who's higher-level maths paper was their weakest exam, wouldn't benefit from their extra 25 points.
Wow, that doesn’t sound too promising for the scheme… So have points gone down because not as many people benefited from the extra maths points?
It has been quite the opposite actually. Seeing as this year saw a record number of people applying to the CAO, and also because they were handing out ‘free’ higher-level maths points in the first place, most courses have actually gone up. Some science courses breached the 500-point mark while technology courses, life sciences, computing and agriculture have all seen a rise too.
Anyone thinking of going to Trinity is going to have a tough time getting in as 81 per cent of their courses took a rise, while 68 per cent of courses at DCU and 61 per cent of courses at UCD all saw an increase.
So are they going to keep the extra maths points lark if only a few people benefited from them?
We’re not sure, but apparently the Minister for Education Ruairi Quinn TD plans to review the points system in 2014 - as do the colleges themselves - so we could see a fair few changes in how students get into college by that stage.
We’ll have to wait and see…