Joe’s Jotter: Grade Inflation 2022 – Startling Subject Statistics

With Leaving Certificate grades ‘apparently’ rising recently, I decided to do my own comparison analysis of Leaving Certificate results from the years 2018 and 2021 as per Table 1 below. Over 90% of students sat 245,850 leaving cert papers in 2021. In comparing the written papers that the students sat against the accredited grades given by their schools, the results show that 68% of accredited grades were inaccurate (i.e. they were at least a grade out compared to what the student scored in their June sit down exams). Firstly, this margin of error is way too high to endorse the ‘Accredited Grades’ process.

Upon looking closer at this data, the percentage of students scoring a H4 or above in 2021 (A H4 is between 60% and 70% at higher level) has produced very surprising results. What amazed me from looking at the statistics was how grades in nearly all subjects have jumped in three short years. Across the twelve subjects I sampled, the average increase (H4 grades or above) when comparing LC 2018 to 2021 was an eye watering 14%. This is substantial.

Table 1: The percentage of students that scored a H4 or above in LC 2021 and LC 2018*

Sample Subject
Percentage of Students achieving
a H4 or above (2021 in Red) (2018 Bracketed)
Music 95% (89%)  +6%
Technology 83% (72%) +11%
Engineering 78% (70%) +8%
Irish 84% (70%) +14%
Design and Communication Graphics (DCG) 88% (70%) +18%
Home Economics (S&S) 82% (68%) +14%
Accounting 84% (63%) +21%
Biology 73% (61%) +12%
Chemistry 80% (61%) +19%
Maths 73% (60%) +13%
Politics and Society 74% (59%) +15%
Physics 78% (59%)  +19%

*Source: Data from

From this data, my feeling is that you cannot compare Leaving Cert students who completed exams before 2018 to the 2020 or 2021 cohort; and of course we are doing so. This throws up a lot of questions about where our education system is going. It seems serious inconsistency has set in, with a new benchmark set for future student results.

Is it now a ‘medal for everyone’ mentality, with this seemingly watershed moment in 2020? How can we even compare Leaving Certificate results before and during/after the pandemic? To me this ‘Grade Inflation’ whiffs of optics and how Ireland’s PISA scores ‘need’ to compare globally. I feel that the department has taken the opportunity to ramp our scores right up under the darkness of pandemic cover. From the data and in my view, ‘Accredited grades’ hasn’t worked and isn’t a future option. That’s not to say that I wouldn’t welcome a Leaving Certificate review now, with a view to more continuous assessment.

Adding Increased marking scheme flexibility to this emerging data, the bell curve has all but been eliminated, while shockingly some students who got the maximum 625 points in 2021 didn’t even get their first choice in college. If the model of the last two years remains in place for our 2022 6th years, many of these students will be heading to third level without having the experience of completing a State Exam. This will put them at an immediate disadvantage heading into first year. Students are scoring higher than ever now, but are they more knowledgeable than their predecessors? I doubt it. Radical percentage increases over such a short period of time like this doesn’t sit well with me at all. It may well stabilise itself in future years, but worryingly a new bar and paradigm has been set, and like everything that changes, the genie is out of the bottle now.

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