Myths & Truths about Pass & Fail in Leaving Cert [2023]

There is no overall pass or fail grade for the Leaving Certificate exam. Before enrolling in any course, students should study the prerequisites and subject requirements. They may have the requisite number of passing grades and satisfy all university academic requirements. With that said, there are grades which offer you no points under the newly introduced points system. These are- H8 at the Higher Level and O7, O8 at the Ordinary Level. People consider these “failing grades”.

Today, in this article, we’ll give you a comprehensive look at the following:

  • Pass and Fail in Leaving Cert- at both Ordinary and Higher Level
  • Statistical data of pass and fail in LC 2022
  • What to do if you fail maths in the Leaving Cert?

What is Pass or Fail in Leaving Cert?

There is no formal ‘fail’ in Leaving Cert after the introduction of the new grading system in 2017. Under the old grading system, the E, F and NG grades were considered as failing grades, and no points were awarded. You only start securing points from the D3 grade and above. The following was the old failing grades system. We’ve also included the D3 grade here for reference.

Old LC GradesPercentageCAO Points at Higher LevelCAO Points at Ordinary Level
No Grade (NG)0-9.900

However, after the introduction of the new LC grades, one of the most significant changes is that falling in the range of the old E grade is no longer an automatic fail. Under the new system, if you take a subject at Higher Level, you’ll receive 37 points for marks between 30 and 39%. Scoring anywhere between 0 to 29.99% doesn’t mean you ‘failed’ the subject. But you won’t be awarded any points either.

The following table will give you a good idea about the ‘failing’ grades in LC.

Obtained Marks PercentageGrade at Higher LevelPoints
40 – 49%H646
30 – 39%H737
0 – 29%H80

Not receiving any points may hinder you from getting the desired course later down your education line. So always check whether the institution you want to get into has put forth any such conditions.

The same is true if you take any subject at the Ordinary Level. However, ‘failing’, or as the new grade system puts it, not getting any points at the Ordinary Level, happens when you score lower than 40%.

Here’s a brief overview of that. We’ve included the O6 grade for reference here, which you’ll be awarded if you score at or over 40% but under 49%. This is the first grade where you’ll start receiving points.

Obtained Marks PercentageGrade at Ordinary LevelPoints
40 – 49%O612
30 – 39%O70
0 – 29%O80

Minimum Points to ‘Pass’ Leaving Cert: Ordinary & Higher Level

Needless to say, since there is no ‘pass’ at Leaving Cert, you can consider earning points as a ‘pass’. If you take a look at the two tables just above, you’ll see that you’ll have to obtain at least H7 at the Higher Level and O6 at the Ordinary Level to receive any points.

H7 will award you 37 points, whereas O6 will award you 12 points. Note that if you take Maths at Higher Level, scoring anything at or above H6 will get you an additional 25 points. So, in effect, you’ll actually receive 62 points in Maths.

Statistics of ‘Pass’ and ‘Fail’ in LC [2022]

Now for some statistical data of  ‘pass’ and ‘fail’ in LC 2022 so you’ll have a good idea of which subjects students find hard across the board and vice versa.

Top 5 Subjects Students ‘Fail’ in LC

In the following table, we’ll examine the top 5 subjects in which students consistently fail to receive a mark that will result in any “Higher Level” points being awarded to them.

Higher Level
Subject Grade Percentage
Latvian H8 13.2
Dutch 7.4
Physics and Chemistry 6.8
Accounting 5.5
Chemistry 5.4

As you can see, the top 2 subjects where students failed to secure any points at the Higher Level are both languages. 2 of the rest of the three are sciences.

Let’s examine the same data at the Ordinary Level now.

Ordinary Level
Subject Grade Percentage Subject Grade Percentage
Classical Studies O7 18.5 Physics & Chemistry O8 16.4
Japanese 15.4 Classical Studies 14.8
Chemistry 10.9 Accounting 11
Accounting 9.8 Arabic 10.7
Bulgarian 9.7 Chemistry 9.7

It seems, just like Higher Level, Physics & Chemistry, Accounting, Chemistry are the common subjects that students fail to secure any points in at the Ordinary Level too. Apart from them, other languages like Japanese, Bulgarian, and Arabic also turn out to be difficult for some students.

Top 5 Subjects Students ‘Pass’ in LC

The top subjects that students “pass” in LC is what we’ll take a look at now. Remember, here, ‘pass’ roughly equals securing points, as there is no ‘pass’ or ‘fail’ in LC. If you can secure any grade from H1 to H8 at the Higher Level, you’ve ‘passed’.

Higher Level
Subject Grade Percentage
Czech H1-H7 100
Swedish 100
Mandarin Chinese 100
Portuguese 100
Irish 99.9

To ‘pass’ or secure any points at the Ordinary Level, you have to secure any grade from O1 to O6. Let’s look at the top subjects that students successfully managed to ‘pass’ in.

Ordinary Level
Year- 2022
Subject Grade Percentage
ARABIC O1-O6 100

What to Do if You Fail Maths in the Leaving Cert?

It’s a common myth that if you don’t pass Maths in your Leaving Cert, you won’t pass the entire exam. This is completely untrue. If you don’t do well in maths, the two worst things that can happen are that you will always have that poor grade on your resume. Furthermore, no matter how many points you receive, you will not be given a course if it requires a particular Maths grade in order to enrol. That’s as bad as it gets.

However, we understand how frustrating it can be to not get the course you want just because you did badly at your maths. Higher-level maths is typically a subject that gives many students great concern in the Leaving Cert.

Students are required to take mathematics as their first course at almost all Irish universities. With effective revision and the right materials, you can easily obtain those extra 25 points too.

Let’s relieve your stress a bit with some stats of LC 2022.

  • A staggering 99.6% of students ‘passed’ (secured points) in LC 2022.
  • 98.3% of them also secured the extra 25 points.
  • A massive 18.1% received the H1 grade in Maths.

How to Pass Leaving Cert?

You can see how easy it is to do well in maths, even at the Higher Level. But it’s always best to get some expert help with Maths.

1. Get Expert Help

BreakThrough Maths grinds use a different methodology from everyone else. It’s online. It’s 1 hour a week. It provides help on any part of Maths outside the grinds We instruct students on how to study effectively, and how to approach exams. Because of this, kids easily relate to our energetic, 600+ point tutors. The first grind is free! Just take a look. You’ll definitely fall in love with our tutors.

2. Self Study Tips

We understand not everyone has the luxury of getting expert help and thus, self-study is the only option for them. Even if you go for self-study, with some careful planning, you can do well in Maths. Here is a list of things you may do to make self-study more convenient for you:

  1. Break the syllabus down into manageable pieces
  2. Reviewing the previous exams thoroughly
  3. Keep track of your timing For each paper, you have 2.5 hours to complete two extended questions (worth 50 points) and four short questions (worth 30 points). Make sure you understand how much time you need to answer each section.

Wrapping Up

Under the new grading system, there is no pass or fail in Leaving Cert. However, people consider grades where you receive no points (H8, O7-O8) as ‘failing’ grades as they won’t contribute to your cumulative LC points. Still, if getting these grades in a subject will not affect your educational plan down the road, don’t let it bother you. Just focus on satisfying the criteria your favourite course has put forth.


1. How many subjects to pass the Leaving Cert?

There is no mandatory number of subjects that you need to pass in Leaving Cert. As there is no pass or fail in LC, the worst that can happen is your cumulative points will suffer if you score a H8, O7 or O8 in a bunch of subjects as these grades don’t offer any points.

2. Is O7 a pass in Leaving Cert?

Securing a O7 grade in any subject will not award you any points. Hence it is not really a ‘pass’. Points are awarded at the O6 grade and upward. To secure at least O6, you’ll have to score at least 40% marks in a given subject.

3. Is a H7 a fail?

H7 is not a ‘fail’. Securing H7 in any subject will get you 37 points in Leaving Cert. However, if you secure H7 in Maths, you’ll miss out on the bonus 25 points. To get that bonus, you’ll have to secure at least a H6 in Maths.

4. Is 30 percent a fail?

At the Ordinary Level, securing 30% marks means you’ll get the O7 grade. This will not get you any points. Hence it can be considered a failing grade. However, if you secure 30% marks at the Higher Level, you’ll get the H7 grade which offers 37 points and hence it is a ‘pass’.

5. Can you fail math and still pass?

Yes, you certainly can. As there is no pass or fail in Leaving Cert, failing maths (which means securing either H8, O7 or O8 grade) will not affect your result adversely. However, your overall points will come down and, in turn, your result. But, if this doesn’t prevent you from getting your favourite course, there is really no need to worry.

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