Post Leaving Certificate Options and the Central Applications Office (CAO)

All you need to know about the CAO Points System

Q. How does the system of CAO offers work?

A. In the first round of offers the student is offered the highest preference which they have listed on their CAO Application to which their points rating entitles them in the round of offers. Once they have been offered their highest choice, the student is excluded from further consideration for any course which is lower than the place offered.

The student may still be eligible for a course of higher preference if a place becomes available later on. You can make enquiries on by using the ‘Contact Us’ facility. The CAO Handbook also gives examples of how the system of offers works.

What other options are available if a young person doesn’t receive their first choice?

Hopefully the young person will be offered their first course choice in the first round of CAO offers, but if not, there are a number of additional options available to him. These include:

  • Offer of another course choice further down the CAO list
  • Offer of a similar course at a lower level
  • Offer of their preferred course choice in the second or subsequent rounds
  • Offer of their preferred course choice on successful appeal of Leaving Cert Results
  • Additional available places coming available through the CAO website
  • Other options outside the CAO

Q. My young person wants to accept a CAO offer, how can they do this?

A. When an offer arrives, you should read through the offer and instructions carefully. After that, to accept an offer you will need to log into the CAO system using an access code and password and submit acceptance of the offer.

For CAO offers in 2020, the dates for acceptance of offers are pending. 

You may only accept one offer. This may be either a Level 8 offer OR a Level 6/7 offer.

Q. My son has been offered Level 7 Engineering. If he accepts this offer can he still be offered a Level 8 Engineering course in the next round?

A. Yes, he can accept the Level 7 course and this will not affect his chances of being offered a Level 8 course in the next round. However, he may not be offered a level 8 course in the second round so it may be good idea for him to accept the Level 7 course anyway. Many students find that entering college at level 6 or 7 in their chosen course area works out very well in the long term.

Q. My daughter is hoping to get into Nursing in NUIG. On the basis of the current Leaving Cert result, she may fall short of the points. However,  she thinks she may be upgraded on appeal. What should she do when the first round of CAO offers comes round?

A. If your daughter has filled in all ten Nursing choices on her CAO form, it’s possible she will be offered a place on a Nursing course with lower points. Before accepting this offer, she should consider

  • Genuine course interest
  • Medium & longer term career plan
  • Possible transfer options between courses and colleges
  • Geography
  • Costs

If she decides that the first CAO course offered is not for her, then she can simply allow the offer to lapse and await the second round and the results of the appeals process.

Alternatively she may accept the offer and consider transferring or deferring to any new course offered that might be offered to her on appeal. She must also consider the possibility that her LC results may not be upgraded on appeal.

Q. My son applied to do Engineering in TU Dublin. He got the required number of points but failed Maths and hasn’t been offered a place. Does he have to repeat Leaving Cert Maths in the coming year?

A. A number of colleges, including TU Dublin, offer Engineering students the Maths Competency Test (MCT) or equivalent. This gives the student a chance to boost the Maths results and secure their college place. Students that have studied the Leaving Cert Higher Level Maths programme are invited to sit the MCT.

Other Colleges offering Special Maths Entrance exams are:

  • NUI Maynooth
  • NUI Galway
  • WIT

A number of students opt to repeat Leaving Cert Maths the following year. For more information on ‘Second Chance Maths’ see the CareersPortal Website.

Q. What if my young person accepts a Round 1 offer and receives a better offer in the second or subsequent rounds?

A. They can accept the Round 2 offer, which will automatically cancel out the Round 1 offer since only one acceptance from any candidate can remain in the CAO system at any given time.

If you have been offered a college place in the second round, again you must accept before the deadline indicated. For CAO offers in 2020, the deadlines for acceptance of offers are pending. 

Contact Information

Unit 6 -Building 125,
OMNI Shopping Centre,
Santry, Dublin 9
Phone: +353 (1) 862 3346
Email: [email protected]

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