More than 130,000 students will begin their Junior and Leaving Cert exams this morning.

It is the first time the Leaving Cert has returned to its traditional exam-based format since the pandemic began – with no calculated grades element to the results.

Instead, students will sit exams in much the same way as they did pre-pandemic – with results based on written exams, orals, practicals and project work.

The exams themselves are quite different to previous years however, with students offered more choice and fewer questions.

Record numbers

In all, over 60,000 students are sitting the Leaving Cert and over 3,000 are sitting the final year examinations in the Leaving Certificate Applied.

Meanwhile, over 68,000 are preparing to sit the Junior Cert exams, which are returning for the first time since 2019.

It means a record number of students are sitting the exams – up 6% on the last time a full set of exams were held in Ireland.

“Tremendous resilience”

Education Minister Norma Foley said the exams offer students a chance to showcase everything they have learned over an incredibly difficult couple of years.

“They have shown tremendous resilience, determination and focus over these past two years,” she said.

“They’ve been an especially challenging two years, but they’ve just got on with the work to hand and they begin their exams now.

“Today, they have an opportunity to showcase all the time and work they have put in over these two years, so I wish them well.”

Students at Belvedere College in Dublin, sit the first day of the Leaving Cert, 03-06-2009. Image: Mark Stedman/RollingNews Students at Belvedere College in Dublin, sit the first day of the Leaving Cert, 03-06-2009. Image: Mark Stedman/RollingNews

She urged students to remember that the exams are just one of many pathways towards their career goals.

“Exam time is always a stressful time but again I would say to the students, you know you have done the work, believe in yourselves now,” she said.

“This is just an opportunity to showcase all that you have learned.

“Equally, I would say to the Leaving Cert students, remember now there are so many different avenues and pathways forward for you.”

Exam stress

In a statement, the HSE encouraged parents and students to remain aware of the signs of stress and learn how to manage exam-related anxiety.

Mark Smyth, Senior Clinical Psychologist, HSE said: “Exam time can be an anxious, stressful and potentially overwhelming experience.”

“Remember, test taking anxiety is normal, and because anxiety is an emotion it will pass if you give it time. The more you fight it the longer it will last.

“As the phrase goes, ‘If you see a wave coming, grab a surfboard.’”

He provided these tips on managing exam stress:

  • Sleep: Getting a good night’s sleep is the best thing you can do to help you perform well in exams and stay focused during study.  Try to wind down before going to sleep.
  • Eat: Try to eat well and stay hydrated.
  • Exercise: Regular exercisecan help to relieve some of the stress build-up and improve your mood.
  • Downtime: Make time for some fun, it’s not only allowed, it’s recommended. Schedule things you enjoy at weekends or during breaks between exams.
  • Keep some perspective: In ten years’ time you’re not likely to remember what grades you got in your exams.
  • Post-mortems: Dwelling on what has already happened will only mess with your head
  • Exams don’t define you as a person: We’re all more interesting and important than a grade on an exam.

The Leaving Cert runs until Tuesday June 28th, the Junior Cert runs until Monday June 20th and the Leaving Cert Established and Vocational runs until Tuesday June 28th.

The examinations are being held at 5,575 examination centres around the country.

With reporting from Alan Cantwell.