The Challenge of Choosing Subjects for 3rd & 4th Year Students

The Challenge of Choosing Subjects for

3rd & 4th Year Students

Choosing subjects for 5th Year can be a daunting enough task. A Transition (4th) year student will have had more time to contemplate their options and so sometimes make more considered choices than those coming straight from the Junior Cycle (3rd year). This is something Parents need to be aware of. It is important to put thought into how your subject choices may influence your career options later. You should also consult with the teachers you know well and ask them about the level of work that’s required for success in a given subject at a specific level.

Students; If you have a course or career in mind, I would have a quick look at its content online and see are there any minimum entry requirements to gain access to it. It is important to note that no matter what points you achieve, you will not be allowed onto a course unless you achieve its minimum entry requirement (if applicable). This may guide you to choose a particular subject. In the case of compulsory exam subjects like Maths, you will be studying these anyway so there is no choice to make there. However, if there is a requirement on your desired course to score a certain grade in a foreign language or other subject, you will need to opt for this subject when decision day arrives.

If business is something you are really interested in, for example, you could choose Business and Accounting (assuming they don’t clash on the school timetable). Similarly, if Science is your area of passion, you could opt for two from Biology, Chemistry or Physics. Applied Maths or Agricultural Science may also be other options here.

The best advice I can give you about choosing subjects is to select ones that keep your options open. You can best do this by choosing one foreign language and ensuring that at least two of the other three subjects picked are those you have some sort of interest in or flair for. Remember you will be spending a lot of time studying your chosen subjects over the next two years and the nightmare scenario would be dreading going to that class every day.

While reflecting on subject choice, I did an analysis of the Leaving Certificate results (Table 1) from August 2018. From the point of view of choosing subjects, the percentage of students scoring a H4 or above (A H4 being between 60% and 70% on a higher-level paper) has thrown back a very interesting breakdown.

Table 1: The percentage of students that scored a H4 or above per given subject 2018*

Subject Percentage of Students achieving

a H4 or Above

Music 89%
Technology 72%
Engineering 70%
Irish 70%
Design and Communication Graphics (DCG) 70%
Home Economics (S&S) 68%
Accounting 63%
Biology 61%
Chemistry 61%
Maths 60%
Politics and Society 59%
Physics 59%


What I find interesting here is that the top half of the table (the first six subjects) are those that have a practical, project or oral element to them. Whereas the bottom half (the second six subjects) have solely a summative final exam. As is clear from the table, there is quite a big disparity in the results between the top and bottom half of this table, leading me to wonder is there an imbalance in the system towards subjects that are currently including some form of continuous assessment. This trend has broadly continued for the class of 2019. Eventually all subjects will have continuous assessment but this is not the case as we speak.

From this table and for these subjects, it is true to say that, statistically, a student would be better off leaning towards the type of subjects where some element of assessment is performed before the final exam. Some may say that I only analysed twelve subjects; but it’s an interesting analysis none the less. From these statistics, I certainly think that it is yet another consideration students’ need to take into account when choosing subjects, one I wouldn’t have contemplated previously.

All in all, when it comes to subject choice, students should think a little about their futures, talk to teachers, look at courses they may have an Interest in and discuss with their peers gone ahead how it all worked out for them. Take your time and choose well. It may be wiser to choose subjects you have an interest in, as oppose to ones you feel you must choose in order to get into a certain career later. It’s a balancing act. Enthusiasm for a subject will foster your interest and desire to learn more about it. Studying these subjects won’t even feel like learning. Good luck in your decision. Joe.

More details about how to purchase ‘How to ACE the Leaving Certificate’ for all subjects and Joe’s ever popular ‘ACE Maths Solution Books’ for the Junior and Leaving Certificate are on his Facebook page and website Pick up your copy today!