The Junior Cycle Grading System


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With the old Junior Certificate course now obsolete, here’s a guide to the new Junior Cycle grading system. The grade descriptors in this guide apply to the Junior Cycle written exams, and do not apply to the Classroom Based Assessments (CBAs). There is a different grading system for CBAs.

There are six possible grade descriptors that you can achieve in your Junior Cycle exams, ranging from distinction to not graded (NG). You will receive a grade for every exam that you sit. We will use the 2019 Junior Cycle Science exam results to give you an idea of how many students achieve each grade descriptor. [1]

Please see below an overview of the new grading system. Each grade is explained in greater detail thereafter.

Grade DescriptorOverall Percentage
Distinction≥ 90 to 100
Higher Merit≥ 75 and < 90
Merit≥ 55 and < 75
Achieved≥ 40 and < 55
Partially Achieved≥ 20 and < 40
Not Graded (NG)≥ 0 and < 20
An overview of the grading system in the new Junior Cycle. [2]


This is the highest possible grade you can receive in your Junior Cycle exams. It’s more difficult to achieve than the old ‘A’ grade in the Junior Cert. In order to be awarded a distinction in any subject, you will need to get between 90 and 100% overall.

This is a difficult task and is something that will require a substantial amount of work to achieve, but it is doable. In the 2019 Junior Cycle Science exam, only 2.0% of students achieved a distinction.

If you are aiming for distinctions, we can help you. Check out all of our free notes and resources and begin your journey to distinctions.

Higher Merit

The next grade descriptor that you can achieve is a higher merit. If your result is ≥ 75 and < 90%, then you will receive this grade.

This is still an excellent result and it’s something you should be really proud of, if you achieve it. In the 2019 Science exam, 25.4% of students achieved a higher merit.


The merit grade descriptor covers a large range of percentages. Students with results ranging from ≥ 55 and < 75% will receive a merit grade descriptor. In the 2019 Science exam, this was the most common result, with nearly half of students (49.0%) receiving a merit.


Students who receive a result ranging from ≥ 40 and < 55% will be awarded an ‘achieved’ grade descriptor. In the 2019 Science exam, 17.2% of students achieved this grade.

Partially Achieved

The ‘partially achieved’ result is awarded to students who receive exam results ≥ 20 and < 40%. In the 2019 science exam, 5.9% of students achieved this result.

Not Graded (NG)

Students who receive exam results below or equal to 20% will be given the NG grade descriptor. Only 0.5% of students received this in the 2019 Science exam.

If you are currently receiving results around this area, don’t worry! There’s still plenty of time to boost your grades. The best thing to do is to make sure that you’re doing all your homework and attending classes. It’s very difficult to get good grades if you don’t do these two essential tasks.

If you’re already doing the above, we recommend checking out our guide on Study Methods No One Talks About to help improve your study sessions.


Thank you for reading our guide on the Junior Cycle grading system! Hopefully you found it useful.

If you’re looking to improve your grades, that’s amazing! Check out all of our free notes and resources here.

-The examable team


[1] Junior Cycle 2019 National Statistics (2019)

[2] Candidates: Junior Certificate/ Cycle Grading (2019)

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