Irish at Leaving Cert what should I expect?

Students at Leaving Cert are introduced to Irish Literatiure and culture. The Leaving Cert exam takes the form of three parts-oral,aural (listening skills) and written examinations. The syllabus has been revised and there is a greater emphasis on the spoken word and trying to be more fluent in our native tongue. The oral exam is now worth 40% of the overall mark and it takes place after the Easter mid-term. Students engage in conversation with an examiner and discuss different topics in Irish.
The aural exam takes place on the same day as the written paper and has been shortened in length as part of the new syllabus. The aural exam now will last about 20-25 minutes. Students will listen to series of dialogues/conversations and answer questions about the content.

What are the changes to the new Oral Irish exam?

As you should be aware the changes in the syllabus have placed a far greater on spoken Irish and the oral Irish exam plays a significant part in deciding how well you will. The percentage for the oral exam part of Irish exam is being increased from 25% to a massive 4O%. Students from Gaeilscoileanna and who have attended Irish college win greatly benefit from this new syllabus. You should practise the oral exam as often as possible, even practise speaking Irish with your friends as often as possible. The revised Irish Syllabus for Leaving Cert has caused the exam structure to change to the following:
To view the 2013 Sraith Pictiúr / 2013 Irish Picture Sequences click here

Irish is a compulsory subject in all state schools for students who were born and educated in Ireland.

To gain entry into the National University of Ireland colleges (UCD,UCC,NUIG and NUIM)  you must pass Irish in the Leaving Cert.

Do NUI Colleges allow you to drop Irish? 

There are a few exceptions where the NUI colleges allow you to be exempt from Irish. These exemptions are for the following:

  • If you are born outside of Ireland
  • If your last three years of Secondary level education were outside Ireland
  • If your primary Education up to the age of 11 years was outside Ireland

Students who are exempt in accordance with points B and C above probably have  been granted an exemption from learning Irish at school.

Remember you should inform NUI if you are exempt from learning Irish at school as you will also be exempt from the requirements of completing Irish to enter NUI colleges.

You will need to forward a copy of the Dept of Education granted exemption  by your school, this needs to be accompanied by a declaration signed by the head of your school.

There is a special form for this which is available from the NUI website You should wait until you have received your CAO application number and include this form when you are contacting NUI.

Is there any exemptions from Irish for students with dyslexia or other disabilities? 

In some instances students may have been granted an exemption from Irish at school on the grounds of dyslexia, for this they would have been assessed by a professional psychologist.

The NUI will grant an exemption from Irish and also from the third language requirement if the student sends a signed copy of the certificate of exemption by the school principal, together with the psychologist's report. 

However we must also inform you that the position of students with dyslexia is a complex one, Exemptions are not guaranteed and they require professional evidence to be granted, however NUI are in general sympathetic to students with dyslexia who can provide professional evidence of the effect of dyslexia on their language abilities.

Again in some instances students are diagnosed late as having dyslexia and have not come to the attention of the National Educational Psychological Service Agency. We are happy to inform you that in these circumstances NUI will accept a recent (no more than 2/3 years old) report from a professional psychologist, you can download a form of certification from

Do I need honours Irish?

It depends on what your course choice is in Third Level, you must obtain a minimum of a C3 in honours Irish to study to become a primary school teacher in any Irish training college.  Other courses which require Irish such as:

  • law and Irish in UCC or
  • computer science, linguistics and Irish in TCD

Should I drop down to ordinary level Irish?

This is dependent on whether you require Irish to make up the points you need for the course of your choice.  You should ask yourself the following questions:

  • How many honours subjects am I doing?
  • Do I have too many already?
  • Am I good at Oral Irish?

If you feel, you are only capable of getting a D grade or low C grade and to get this will require a lot of work you might be better off dropping to ordinary level Irish.  Subjects at Higher level generally take up more of your time, so you should be confident of doing well in it to remain at Higher Level.

Your study time should be allocated evenly among your subjects and if a subject is taking up too much time this could have a detrimental effect on your other subjects and the potential points you might get. Why not download our new iPhone and Android app for free and set out your study timetable on it.

Should I devote a lot of study time to ordinary level Irish?

This is dependent on how comfortable you are with Irish, if you have dropped from Higher-level Irish, you should be more confident and will not need to give as much time to the subject as you would to other subjects you are studying at Leaving Cert.

If you only want a D grade in ordinary Irish, don't let Irish take too much time