Physics Leaving Certificate entrants 2001–2016

What does this data show?

The number of entrants taking Leaving Certificate physics in 2016 is 7752. This is the highest number of entrants taking the subject since 2005 and represents a 3.25% increase on the number of students taking the subject compared to 2015. The number of entrants taking Leaving Certificate physics has now risen in each year since 2013. Between 2013 and 2016, this rise has been 1379 students, or 21.6%. Between 2004 and 2013 the number of entrants in physics had fallen year on year.

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The proportion of all entrants taking Leaving Certificate physics in 2016 is at its highest point since 2007. In 2016, 13.3% of all entrants took physics. The proportion taking physics has risen every year since 2011, after falling every year between 2004 and 2011 (from a high of 14.8% in 2003). The proportion of entrants taking physics between 2001 and 2016 has fluctuated between 11.4% and 14.8% - with the average proportion being 13%.

The pattern in physics over the past 15 years has been relatively similar to chemistry. The number of chemistry entrants in 2016 is at its highest point since at least 2001 (9089). At 15.5%, this is also the highest proportion of chemistry entrants since 2001. The proportion of chemistry entrants since 2001, against all entrants, has grown in all but two years (2007, 2008). The average proportion of chemistry entrants between 2001 and 2016 is 13.2%.

The picture is very different in biology and mathematics. In 2016, 34102 entrants took Leaving Certificate biology – 58.3% of all entrants. Although this represents the second highest number and proportion of students taking Leaving Certificate biology since at least 2001 (only 2015 was higher), biology has had a consistently higher proportion (and number) of entrants than either physics or chemistry – and this has increased from 37.7% in 2002 to 58.8% in 2015. This is down in part to a combination of the fact that there are more teachers qualified to teach biology, and common careers advice to students to include at least one science subject. The average proportion of biology entrants between 2001 and 2016 is 48.8% and grew every year between 2002 and 2015.

In maths, 54226 entrants took the subject in 2016 – 92.7% of all entrants. The proportion (and number) of maths entrants has remained largely stable since 2001, ranging between 90.3% and 92.9%, with an average of 91.2%. Maths is essentially a compulsory subject in Ireland, as a pass is required by most universities in Ireland as a prerequisite of entry.

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