When receiving your CAO results, the first thing to consider is that the required points for courses can change between years, as factors like course demand and student performance in the Leaving Cert are taken into account.

As always, offers are made in stages, with round one taking place on 8 September from 2pm. Students have until 3pm on 14 September to decide whether to accept their place or not. Subsequent rounds of offers will be made until colleges have filled their courses. Round two will open on 19 September and students will only have until 3pm on 21 September to reply.

New grading scale

In 2017, the Department of Education introduced a new grading scale for the Leaving Cert. The scale has eight grades, which are delivered at both higher and ordinary levels. The highest grade is grade 1 and the lowest is grade 8.

Each grade is awarded a certain number of points, with higher level being worth more. For example, a higher level 1 (H1) is worth 100 points, whereas an ordinary level 1 (O1) is worth 56.

A student’s six best results are tallied and a 25-point bonus for taking and achieving a minimum H6 in higher level maths is awarded, which means a maximum total of 625 points is potentially up for grabs.

Vocational programme

In the Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme, students may obtain a distinction (66 points), merit (46 points), or pass (28 points), which can be used as well as their six best subjects.


After points have been calculated, applicants are placed on a list in order of performance. So, if a course has 50 places available and 100 students have achieved enough points for the course, the top overall performers will be offered places. The remaining 50 will be offered a lower preference course, assuming they have met the criteria for that course.

There may be cases where a random number system (or lottery) is implemented. Each applicant is given a randomly generated number for each course before the order of merit lists are drawn up. If there are three places left on a course and five applicants all have the same points, the applicant with the highest random number goes first, followed by the one with the next highest random number, etc.


The 2017 changes to the grading system were made to minimise the chance of this occurring, but it could still theoretically prevent someone who got more than enough points for a course from getting their place.

Moira Leydon, assistant general secretary of the Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland (ASTI), says these changes were designed to lessen the pressure created by the traditional points system. “However, that did not occur to the degree anticipated for the simple reason that there has been sustained growth in student numbers at second level, with concomitant increased demand for places at third level,” she adds. “Invariably, the supply of places at the third level has not kept up with this demographic growth.”


If you don’t get accepted onto your first-choice course, do not fret – you may be offered that place in subsequent rounds. Accepting a first-round lower choice won’t prevent you from accepting a higher choice if you are deemed eligible and it’s offered to you in a subsequent round. Students can accept the round two offer, which will then automatically cancel out the round one offer.

It is important not to decline your first offer in hopes of getting a better one in round two, though– 84,321 students have applied to the CAO this year and course competition is tight.

Similarly, accepting a level 6 or 7 offer in round one won’t prevent an offer of level 8 in subsequent rounds. You can accept the round one offer and then switch if you are offered a level 8 place in the following rounds.

Available places

The available places facility will open on 9 September. This facility allows applicants to apply for courses with unfilled places after all offers have been made. This is not a separate application to the CAO – if you have been made an offer in previous rounds, you can put your available place choice above that offer. If you have not been made an offer, put your available places choice below the courses you prefer.

Students will be made aware of the offers through email or SMS if they have selected this option. Alternatively, they can log on to the CAO website (cao.ie) and go to the My Application tab.

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