Grade inflation is set to remain a major aspect in the running of Covid-impacted Leaving Cert exams despite the concerns of students and third-level institutions.
Predictive and accredited grades were introduced amidst the pandemic but led to students achieving significantly higher CAO points and caused the points required for many courses to rise to all-time highs.
Education Minister Norma Foley has confirmed that this year’s exams would go ahead traditionally with more choice and fewer questions for students.
Though predictive grades and hybrid Leaving Certs are no longer on the agenda Minister Foley also stated this year’s points would be “no lower” than 2021’s record levels.
The State Examinations Commission (SEC) has also said all students in the 2022 class may have their marks raised if needs be though they won’t be lowered under any circumstances.
It looks set to be a third year running for grade inflation despite the challenges it has presented for prospective university students.
Dublin-native Ana Lynch was part of the Leaving Cert class of 2021. When applying for BA Government here in NUI Galway, inflated grades meant that the points went up by 44 from 407 to 455.
“I know a lot of people who got messed over by points by putting high courses of over 540 points and were left with their sixth or lower choice courses” explained Lynch.
While Ana was lucky to have applied through the DARE scheme which offers reduced points to eligible students, grade inflation still impacted her points.
“I think we [the class of 2021] were so lucky with the exam changes, but I know people in a much less privileged position such as bigger schools were super worried and basically just not having any support at all.
“When grades came out, I think there was a lot of shock and definitely more people going for round 2 or 3 offers,” she finished.
Nessa O’Connor from Galway sat her Leaving Cert in 2020 but then reapplied through the CAO for a different course in 2021 meaning she experienced the effects of grade inflation twice over.
She applied for Global Commerce in NUI Galway in 2020 and due to the points jump, she barely got the course.
“I realised during the year that commerce was not a course that suited me, something I didn’t get to figure out early enough to switch in 2020 because being online meant I couldn’t tell whether it was the course or lockdown that was causing unhappiness” explained O’Connor on her decision to switch.
When reapplying, Psychology and General Science at NUI Galway were her first and second choices. “The point inflation this year really hit because even though I was over by 9 points for Psychology in 2020 it went up by 41 to 564 in 2021, and I suddenly found there was no chance of me getting in.”
General Science in NUI Galway was now at 555 which O’Connor stated was “just insane in terms of points. It’s a course that is often treated as a backdoor into higher point qualifications, so being almost 500 points is ridiculous.”
For Ella Ní Cheallaigh, a second-year English and Media Studies student also in NUI Galway, it was deflated grades that almost impacted her entry into college. English and Media Studies is no longer offered by NUI Galway as of the current academic year.
“I’m a bit unusual in that my grades deflated,” explains Ní Cheallaigh.
“I went down one grade band in 6 of my 7 subjects and my points went down from 570 to 460. It was quite stressful because I was afraid that I would miss out on my first choice,” she added.
“I felt robbed because I’d worked so hard and lost out on over 110 points just because of, what I see, as a bell curve.”
Though inflated grades have been a significant obstacle for many, the Education Minister proposed “locking in” the 2021 increases to ensure the 2022 class weren’t at a disadvantage this time around.