Physics Leaving Certificate entrants 2001–2017

What does this data show?

The number of entrants taking Leaving Certificate physics in 2017 is 7585. This is the second highest number of entrants taking the subject since 2005 and represents a 2.2% drop in the number of students taking the subject compared to 2016. The number of entrants taking Leaving Certificate physics rose by 1379 students, or 21.6%, between 2013 and 2016.

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The proportion of all entrants taking Leaving Certificate physics in 2017 was 13%. This was a drop of 0.3% from 2016, which was the highest proportion of all entrants since 2007. The proportion taking physics had risen every year between 2011 and 2016, 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 2017 has fluctuated between 11.4% and 14.8% - with the average proportion being 13.1%.


The pattern in physics over the past 15 years has been relatively similar to chemistry. The number of chemistry entrants in 2017 is at its highest point since at least 2001 (9468). At 16.2%, this is also the highest proportion of chemistry entrants since at least 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 2017 is 13.4%.


The picture is very different in biology and mathematics. In 2017, 34292 entrants took Leaving Certificate biology – 58.6% of all entrants. 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 2017 is 49.4% and grew every year between 2002 and 2015.


In maths, 54665 entrants took the subject in 2017 – 93.4% of all entrants. The proportion (and number) of maths entrants has remained largely stable since 2001, ranging between 90.3% and 93.4%, with an average of 91.3%. 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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