The Junior Cycle covers the first three years of secondary school. Children begin their second-level education around the age of 12 or 13. The Junior Cycle examination is held at the end of the Junior Cycle in post-primary schools and students normally sit the exam at the age of 15 or 16.
There are many subjects available for examination, but not all schools offer them. You can view the Junior Cycle syllabus and curriculum information here. All students must follow courses in Irish (except where that student is exempt from studying Irish), English and Mathematics. From September 2020, students are also required to study History. Depending on local school policies other subjects may also be compulsory.
Junior Cycle Profile of Achievement (JCPA)
The Junior Cycle Profile of Achievement (JCPA) is replacing the Junior Certificate. There is a classroom-based component to the assessment which is based on work completed by the student during second and third year.
Sample JCPA’s are available in the JCPA Handbook for schools 2018(pdf).
The new Junior Cycle introduced a second qualification for students with special educational needs. Student numbers qualifying for these 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 L2LP’s.
More information about the changes to the Junior Cycle is available on the Department of Education’s website.
Junior Cycle subjects
There is a wide range of subjects available, but all subjects are not offered in every school. The Department of Education publishes syllabus and curriculum information. The National Council for Curriculum and Assessment provides a list of Junior Cycle subjects.
All students must follow courses in Irish (except where exemptions apply), English and Maths. Depending on local school policies other subjects may also be compulsory. Examinations in a number of other EU languages are offered to students who meet certain criteria.
For Junior Cycle, English, Irish and Maths are studied at either ordinary or higher level and all new subject specifications are at common level. The classroom based assessments in second and third year are also set at a common level.Examination grades: new grading system for JCPA
The examination grades for the new Junior Cycle Profile of Achievement (JCPA) are as follows:
|90 or over||Distinction|
|75 but less than 90||Higher Merit|
|55 but less than 75||Merit|
|40 but less than 55||Achieved|
|20 but less than 40||Partially Achieved|
|Less than 20||Not Graded|
The JCPA grading system currently applies to English, Science and Business Studies. It will be rolled out to other subjects as their new specifications are first examined.
Both the old Junior Certificate grade bands of “A-NG” and the new Junior Cycle descriptors of “Not Achieved-Distinction” will appear on your Junior Cycle Profile of Achievement Award. This format will apply until 2021 when the last Junior Certificate subjects are expected to be examined.
Assessment and examinations
The classroom-based component 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.
You can find the timetables for the Junior Certificate written examinations and for the practical course work as well as the Junior Certificate examination papers on the website of the State Examinations Commission.
The timetables for classroom based
assessment tasks for the new JCPA, a copy of the English assessment task
booklet as well as guidelines on completing the assessment task booklet for
English , Business Studies and Science are also available on the website of the State Examinations
Students sitting for the Junior Cycle must pay an examination fee. In early February of the exam year, the school sends parents who are paying the examination fee a form. The parent makes the payment through a bank and the bank must stamp the form. The parent then returns the form to the school.
Students whose parent or guardian holds a current medical card do not have to pay the fee. In the case of parents who have a current medical card, details of the medical card are put on the form and the parent then sends the form back to the school.
The examination fee for the Junior Certificate or Junior Cycle Profile of Achievement in 2019 is €109. There was no fee in 2020 due to COVID-19.
Read more about COVID-19 and the Junior Certificate.
How to apply
The State Examinations Commission manages and administers the State Certificate Examinations including the:
- Established Leaving Certificate
- Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme
- Leaving Certificate Applied
- Junior Certificate or Junior Cycle Examinations
Appealing your results: If you want to appeal your examination results, you should apply through your school. The appeal fee is €32 per subject (2019) which is refunded if your result is upgraded.
To request a certified statement of examination results you can either apply in writing or download and complete the application form. Your application should specify the following personal details:
- Full name
- Name at the time of the examination (if different)
- Current address
- Daytime phone number
- Date of birth
- Year of examination
- Name and address of school attended
- Examination number (if known)
Forward your completed application form together with the appropriate fee to the State Examinations Commission.