Everyone remembers the same thing being drilled into them come exam time: how the Leaving Cert would set you up for life. Well, that was the OTT version. At the very least, you (or your parents) were told that it was a solid footing into college life; that it would help you to get comfortable in a strange new setting.


It turns out, many students don't think it does this very effectively at all. 


Over 300 students told researchers in Dublin City University (DCU) that they felt the state exams had failed to "prepare them well to interrogate and critically evaluate information or ideas," according to BreakingNews.ie. In fact, only one-in-four thought the exams had helped in this way. 


 Slightly more felt they were well prepared in terms of being able to identify sources of information or to compare information from different sources - helpful for some college assignments, no doubt.  


The research for DCU Institute of Education’s Centre for Assessment Research Policy and Practice (CARPE) was carried out in this year April and May with students from a range of courses, all who did the Leaving Certificate last year. And it found that only 40% felt it made them ready to perform well across different types of assessment or to be intellectually curious. Less than one-third felt prepared to be open-minded or explore ideas from a number of different perspectives.



As we know, for some, the pressure of the exam cycle just doesn't encourage natural talents and creativity to shine through - some can find them mere intense memory tests that have served no purpose once they complete them. The one-size-fits-all model rarely works successfully, so why do we insist on using it to gauge whether or not a person will be more comfortable in college or, even find success in a career?  


On the plus side, many found that the exams give them at least some guidance in a positive sense. At least three-quarters of those who had completed almost a year at university felt well prepared by the Leaving Certificate to persist when learning was difficult, to be well organised and self-disciplined, and to cope with the pressure of heavy workload.


As a result of the survey, the same publication reports that the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) is in the early stages of a review that could lead to an overhaul of the two-year senior cycle of second-level education that leads to the Leaving Certificate.


A review of this sorts seems long overdue and CARPE director Professor Michael O’Leary affirmed that, despite some encouraging elements, the DCU research reveals "a worrying disconnect and a challenging transition between second-level and third-level education."


"Despite being the main pathway used for entering third-level education, the Leaving Certificate programme is not, on this compelling new evidence, sufficiently equipping students with the necessary skills for third-level study."


“At senior cycle, this might involve, for example, exposing students to a wider range of literature and teaching them how to cite others to lend support to their views while at the same time broadening assessment to include approaches that facilitate the gathering of evidence for critical, independent thinking,” he added.