Junior Cycle

What is the Junior Cycle?

The Junior Cycle covers the first three years of secondary school. Children start secondary school (post-primary school) around the age of 12 or 13.

You can study a range of subjects during the Junior Cycle. Students are assessed and an examination is held at the end of the Junior Cycle. Students normally sit the exam at the age of 15 or 16.

Junior Cycle subjects

There are many Junior Cycle subjects, but all subjects are not offered in every school.

All students must study Irish (unless you have an exemption from studying Irish), English, Maths and History. Depending on your school, other subjects may also be compulsory.

English, Irish and Maths are studied at either ordinary or higher level. All other subjects are studied at common level. The classroom-based assessments in second and third year are also set at common level.

Junior Cycle Profile of Achievement (JCPA)

In 2022, the Junior Cycle Profile of Achievement (JCPA) fully replaced the Junior Certificate. It adds a classroom-based assessment to the Junior Cycle.

The classroom-based component of the JCPA is based on work completed by the student during second and third year. The written examination takes place in June of the third year of the programme

The Department of Education has published the assessment arrangements for Junior Cycle 2023.

You can find more information about Junior Cycle exams and results.

The Junior Certificate School Programme

The Junior Certificate School Programme (JCSP) is designed to help young people who are at risk of leaving school early and who would benefit from special support when they are working towards the Junior Cycle exams.

Students taking the Junior Cycle exams study the normal Junior Cycle syllabus. All students participating in the Junior Certificate School Programme must be entered for the Junior Cycle exams. All JCSP students are entitled to a profile - this is an individualised record of their achievement.

Junior Cycle and special education needs

The Junior Cycle has a qualification for students with special educational needs. Student numbers qualifying for Level 2 Learning Programmes (L2LPs) are small (one or two in a typical school) and each student has their own Individual Education Plans (IEPs). You can find more information on L2LPs.

Where to apply for Junior Cycle

Contact your nearest post-primary school about their Junior Cycle programme and the subjects available. The Department of Education has a find a school facility on their website.

Mature students

There are organisations who can provide information about returning to education as an adult.

State Examinations Commission


Tel: (090) 644 2700
Fax: (090) 644 2744
Page edited: 29 November 2022