Career Guidance

Updates coming shortly                                                                                                                                         

Over the coming weeks we will be posting some important and hopefully interesting material in this section for all those hoping to attend College or University later in the year.

What is the CAO?
The Central Applications Office (CAO) is the organisation responsible for overseeing almost all undergraduate applications in the Republic of Ireland. The primary mission of the Central Applications Office is to centrally process applications in a fair and efficient manner. The colleges and universities delegate the administration of admissions to the Central Applications Office; colleges and universities retain full control of admissions.

CAO Course Choice
Advice and information on CAO course choice is widely available. Students – and parents – are welcome to attend multiple College Open Days. The Media offers much useful advice and guidance – all this in addition to the school Guidance Service. So a vast quantity of relevant information is accessible. Yet every year a significant number of students find themselves signed on to courses unsuitable for them. Why is there such disconnect?  Sadly many students fail to process this information effectively and particularly fail to apply it to themselves.

Take your time regarding your selection of courses for third level, access all the relevant information you can for each course you are interested in. Compile this information and avail of the Career Guidance facilities available to you in your school.

So, how does the CAO work?
Top 10 preferences
Every student sitting the Leaving Certificate will be entitled to fill out the CAO application form. On this form, you rank your top ten preferences twice – ten Degree courses (Level 8) and ten Diploma/Certificate courses (Level 6/7). So in all you can put down up to 20 courses. You do not have to (and should not!) rank courses by points, you rank them by preference.
When the results come out, you are offered the highest ranked course in each list that you have sufficient points for.  You will be offered a choice from your level 8 and from your level 6/7.

Depending on the subjects you sit and the level you take them at, you will achieve a points total based on your six best results. The table outlines the points that accompany the grades at Higher Level, Ordinary Level and Foundation Level.

The lowest amount of points for a course is the number achieved by the last person to get into the course. So if a course has 10 places and the candidates results are 530, 510, 470, 445, 430, 420, 415, 410, 405, 400 – then 400 will be the minimum cut off point.

Random Selection
So what happens if there is only one place left, but two candidates on 400 points? Then the place is simply given at random. This is often donated by an asterisk * beside the course points. Random selection can be very harsh, but is necessary to distribute places in the event of equal points.

The Second Round
After a long summer, students often change their mind and hence many people defer for a year, or simply don’t take up an offer. Also the exam result rechecks usually upgrade a number of people. These events make it necessary to have a second round to distribute all remaining places in courses.

Bonus Points, Portfolios & Special Requirements
An additional 25 points are now allocated to all students who sit Higher Level Maths for the Leaving Certificate. Sometimes 600 points is not enough for a course. This is because course entry requires a portfolio, interview or other special requirement to gain entry. It is important that you have researched all requirements well in advance. Most architecture courses for example require extensive portfolios to be submitted.

Similarly many science courses require you take certain science subjects for the Leaving Cert. Failure to meet special requirements means automatic disqualification.

Accompanying conditions:
1.    The six best results, in recognised subjects, in one Leaving Certificate Examination will be counted for points computation.
2.    One sitting only of the Leaving Certificate Examination will be counted for points purposes.
3.    In the case of certain subjects, e.g. Home Economics (General), Foundation Level Mathematics or Foundation Level Irish, some HEIs may not award the points shown above. If in any doubt, check with the Admissions Office of the appropriate HEIs.

Far more detailed information on the CAO system is available at