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In Praise of the Junior Cycle

Let's talk all things 'Junior Cycle'! What is the Junior Cycle? How does

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Like all testing, the Junior Cycle gets a fair bit of backlash. Some claim it causes unnecessary stress for students. Others criticise the structure of the tests themselves. But, is the Junior Cycle really not worth taking? I’d beg to disagree. The Junior Cycle is a students only real practice exam before the Leaving Cert. So, it actually is quite crucial. Especially with the new reform that has been made to it. But, it also has benefits outside of Leaving Cert prep. It provides space for growth, a chance to try different learning styles, and a focus for students. Overall, the Junior Cycle is actually more deserving of praise than you may think.

What is the Junior Cycle?

So, what actually is the Junior Cycle? The Junior cycle begins when students enter Secondary School around 12 or 13 years old. It ends when they sit the exam around 15 or 16 years old. This is the period of time in school that prepares students to take the Junior Cert exam. This exam is composed of 10 different subject exams. In terms of how it’s graded, we’ve actually already written a blog post here breaking down the whole process. The purpose of the exam is to test students on their knowledge of the various subjects. It also gives them an idea of what subjects they are strongest in. But most importantly, the exam is used to give students practice for the Leaving Cert. The Junior Cert is the only standardised test (that’s similar to the Leaving Cert) that students take before their Leaving Cert Exam. It’s the only real practice they get!

After the Junior Cert is graded, it’s reported back to students. But, the grade actually doesn’t count towards anything. The only result that matters for Secondary School students is the Leaving Cert. The Junior Cert is just used to give students standardised testing practice. So really, the Junior Cert is only beneficial for students. They don’t have to stress about the results affecting them in any way. They get a sense of which subjects they may want to continue studying for the Leaving Cert. And, they get an idea of what the Leaving Cert exam will actually be like.

The Junior Cycle Creates A Focus

The Junior Cycle doesn’t only prepare students for the Leaving Cert, though. It transitions students into their teenage years. Secondary School is a big change from the familiar routine of Primary School. There’s a new environment to learn, more teachers, harder subjects, and new classmates. We hear from parents all the time about their children are overwhelmed from the changes. They start to fall out of their routines and they struggle with the challenging new material. It’s all very common issues. It can be a lot for a child to handle, but it prepares them for the changes that will continue to come as they grow up.

During this transition in a student’s life, it’s important to provide them with a focus. The Junior Cycle does just that! Everyone, especially students figuring out the world and education system, needs a focus. It gives them something to work towards. Helps to create structure in an overwhelming environment. The Junior Cycle provides a great focus. It gives students one exam to focus studying towards for three years. It also allows them to give their all, without stress about it impacting their future. Remember, the Junior Cert results don’t actually count towards anything. So, students are free to use these years how they wish. They can experiment with different study techniques. They can also figure out which subjects suit them best. And throughout all of this, they don’t have to stress about the Junior Cert results too much. What a wonderful structure during such a transitional time in students’ lives!


Junior Cycle Reform


– Ellie Smith

Contact Ellie here.

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