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A Glance at The Irish School System

In recent years, Ireland has become a popular immigration destination because of its lower living costs and the relatively less stringent immigration procedures. In addition, many high-tech giants such as Google, Facebook have set their European headquarters in Dublin, turning the capital city into the leading destination for foreign investment in headquarters, and providing jobs and investment opportunities to international professionals and immigrants.

The quality of education is one of the crucial factors for family to consider before finalising the destination. And Ireland has its unique school system, consisting of three parts, Primary (junior infants, senior infants, and 1st to 6th classes), Junior Cycle (12/13 and 15/16 years) and Senior Cycle (age 15-18) before university.

The Senior cycle includes an optional Transition Year, which follows immediately after the Junior Cycle. During the final two years of Senior Cycle, students take one of three following programmes, each leading to a State Examination.

Established Leaving Certificate and Its Assessment

Most Senior Cycle students choose the Established Leaving Certificate programme.

34 Leaving Certificate subjects are available to schools. They are normally studied at either Ordinary(informally Pass) or Higher Level(informally called Honours) , though two subjects, Irish and Mathematics, can also be studied at Foundation Level.

In general, students take five or more subjects (usually seven) for examination, one of which must be Irish.

Subjects are assessed by an examination paper and additional assessment methods at the end of the two-year programme of study. The Leaving Certificate is the terminal examination of post-primary education.The grading scale has 8 grades. The highest grade is Grade 1 and the lowest grade is Grade 8.

Admission Requirement on Leaving Certificate

As Leaving Certificate is quite different from international qualifications such as IB or A-level, applicants wishing to apply for universities outside Ireland need to know how Leaving Certificate is recognised by their desired schools.

We have looked into several schools in UK, US and Hong Kong:


Entry requirements vary for different subjects and universities. Take Oxbridge as an example:

Cambridge The typical offers for students taking the Irish Leaving Certificate and applying for most subjects would be based on H1H1H1H2H2H2.

OXford: For courses with an A-level entrance requirement of AAA,the requirement is H2H2H2H2H2H2 at Higher level Leaving Certificate; A*AA: H1H1H2H2H2H2 at Higher level, and for courses with an A-level entrance requirement of A*A*A,students need to have H1H1H1H1H2H2 at Higher level.


Applicants with Ireland Leaving Certificate are no different from other international students. They need to submit the required materials and may take standardized tests such as SAT or ACT though the results are not required now due to the Covid-19.

Hong Kong

Few schools in Hong Kong have clearly stated requirements for Ireland Leaving Certificate. According to the website of HKU, admission to Dental Surgery or Law, for example, requires H2 or better in five subjects at the Higher Level.

Students who are interested in other universities in Hong Kong are suggested to contact admission offices at individual universities for specific requirements, if such information cannot be found on its website.

Given that the Ireland Leaving Certificate is less commonly recognised, we suggest international students who wish to apply for universities outside Ireland to check thoroughly before taking the qualification or they may also look for schools where IB is taught just to make the future admissions planning easier!

Norton House has helped many students achieve excellent results in IB and other international curriculum in the past decade and gained admissions to world's top universities, so feel free to contact us if you need any advice or academic assistance.

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