New CAO Points 2017

2017 is the first year that the new revised CAO points system will be implemented. This article will tell you what CAO points are and why the changes were necessary.

What are points and how do I achieve them?

Some Higher Education Institutes have been awarding points for Leaving Cert achievements since the 1960s to determine what candidates should be offered a place on their courses. Each college had its own unique points scale. In 1977 with the introduction of the Central Applications Office (CAO) points became more widespread. Up until the 1980s there were various points scales in operation.  In 1992 the HEIs decided that all colleges should operate from the same points system so the earliest version of the CAO points came into being.  Within this system  grades were broken down in to A1,A2,B1,B2.B3 etc and each grade was awarded its own points value. The latest revision is coming into play for current Leaving Cert candidates so in order to reduce confusion the rest of this article will focus on the most current points system. The A1,A2,B1,B2,B3,C1,C2,C3,D1,D2,D3 grades have been replaced with a new grading system H1 to H8 and its ordinary level equivalent O1  to O8. The percentages for each level are displayed below.

H1 O1 90-100%
H2 O2 80 – 89%
H3 O3 70 – 79%
H4 O4 60-69%
H5 O5 50-59%
H6 O6 40-49%
H7 O7 30-39%
H8 O8 0-29%


The grade bracket has increased from 5%  to 10% in width. Previously the points were always rounded up to the highest % value of the grade e.g. if a student achieved 70% (B3) on a Higher level paper, he would be awarded 75 points i.e. the top value of the grade band width 70-75%.  The points awarded now fall within the grade band width so therefore the points awarded can be slightly more or less than the achieved percentage. The table below displays how points are awarded under the new system. Points are now awarded for a failed paper at Higher Level. This has proven to be a controversial move but one which CAO stand over as they believe it encourages students to take the higher level.

H1 100 O1 56
H2 88 O2 46
H3 77 O3 37
H4 66 O4 28
H5 56 O5 20
H6 46 O6 12
H7 37 O7 0
H8 0 O8 0


Why were these changes brought in?

This new points system will reduce the number of students achieving the same number of points. Through creating a greater variation in points achieved colleges reduce the need for random selection of places offered because too many students achieved the required points.

So show me an example of how my points will differ from previous years.

In the example below the candidate has presented with 7 subjects. Candidates received points for their best 6 subjects. In this case Irish was the lowest result therefore Irish was discounted for  points. This candidate was awarded 25 bonus points for Higher Level Maths. Under the 2016 points scale the candidate achieved 480 points. The students achieved slightly less, 471 points under the 2017 points scale. You may think that is unjust however reserve judgement until you see example 2.

Subject Level % 2016 points 2017 points
English H 81 B1 – 85 H2 – 88
Maths H 67 C1 – 95 H4 – 91
Irish O 52 D1 – 15 O5 – 20
History H 85 A2 – 90 H2 – 88
Geography H 77 B2 – 80 H3 – 77
French H 79 B2 – 80 H3 – 77
Art H 89 A2 – 90 H2 – 88
Total 480 471


In example 2 the percentage achieved has been slightly modified. The student performed slightly less than in example 1. This has made a difference to the points awarded under the 2016 points system. The student’s points dropped from 480 to 460. However in this example the students 2017 points have remained the same, 471, because although the student’s percentages dropped they still remained within the wider grade bands of the 2017 points system.

Subject Level % 2016 points 2017 points
English H 81 B1 – 85 H2 – 88
Maths H 61 C2 – 90 H4 – 91
Irish O 52 D1 – 15 O5 – 20
History H 82 B1 – 85 H2 – 88
Geography H 72 B3 – 75 H3 – 77
French H 70 B3 – 75 H3 – 77
Art H 89 A2 – 90 H2 – 88
Total 460 471


What are the implications for Higher Level Maths?

There is no change to the previous system. Higher level Maths grades are awarded a bonus 25 points for a H1-H6. A failed paper is not awarded the bonus 25 points.

What are the new points awarded for LCVP?

Distinction – 66

Merit – 46

Pass – 28


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