CAO 2023: Points down for 60% of courses including medicine and nursing

First round offers: Six in ten applicants get first choice, while large majority get one of top three preferences

Generic CAO

  • Tens of thousands of CAO applicants found out this afternoon whether they secured college course offers
  • Points for some health courses – nursing, medicine and others – fell due to extra college places this year and a dip in application numbers
  • A live help desk for the 2023 Leaving Cert results and CAO, staffed by our team of guidance counsellors, is available to answer all your queries online

Good reads:


Our CAO liveblog is now finished but you can read back on all of today’s CAO news in the posts below. Our help desk runs until 8pm today, and will begin again tomorrow at 12pm so feel free to submit any CAO queries you may have to our specialist guidance counsellors Brian Howard and Deirdre Garrett.


How many students secured 625 points?

The CAO has released details of how many points were achieved by college applicants this year. It shows how grade inflation has led to a large proportion of students securing very high points.

625 points: 952 students, or 1.6 per cent of applicants

600-624 points: 1,848, or 3 per cent of applicants

500-599 points: 11,378, or 20 per cent of applicants

400-499 points: 15,852, or 27 per cent of applicants

300-399 points: 13,902, or 24 per cent of applicants

200-299 points: 8,233, or 14 per cent of applicants

100-199 points: 4,022 or 7 per cent of applicants

Less than 100 points: 1,819 or 3 per cent of applicants

These numbers are similar to recent years, due to grade inflation, but significantly ahead of points achieved by students in pre-pandemic years, when grades were lower.


Big decreases in points for nursing. Why?

One of the big talking points of today’s CAO offers is the decrease in points for nursing.

General nursing is down in UCD by 48 points (from 451 to 403), while in Letterkenny it has fallen by the same margin (408 to 360) and in Dundalk it is down by 35 points (from 415 to 380).

Some of this is to do with a fall-off in demand for nursing this year, which appears to be a post-Covid adjustment to more normal application patterns.

It may also be down to a big effort being made to fund additional college places both in Irish universities, and through the purchase of 200 additional nursing places for students from the Republic in Northern Ireland colleges.


Points are down for 60% of CAO courses. Why?

Despite the high points this year, the general trend of points is downwards.

As this CAO points at a glance table below shows, the downward trend in points is across most areas of study: medicine, science, business, arts, technology, etc.

It is a surprise, given the fact that grades were kept at the same level as last year.

So, what happened?

There seem to be a number of factors at play.

For one, additional places have been created or targeted at more popular entry routes, especially in the health area.

In addition, a decrease in top grades for higher level maths may also have affected the number of points candidates had, especially in high-points courses.


A small – but significant – drop in points for medicine

Medicine courses typically command the highest points requirements.

While the same is true this year, there has been a small but significant reduction in points.

For example, points have fallen for medicine at the following colleges: UCC is 732 points (-4 on last year), RCSI is 734 points (-7), Trinity is 741 points (-4 points), UCD is 736 points (-7 points) and University of Galway is 729 (-7 points).

This likely a reflection of the fact that 120 additional medicine places have been created between this year and last.


Breaking: Almost 60% get first choice CAO course, while 85% get a top-three preference

Almost 60 per cent of CAO applicants have secured their first-choice college course this year, an increase on last year when just over half did so.

Some 85 per cent have managed to get one of their top-three preferences.

Points are down for many nursing, medicine and other health courses, and up for many in environment, construction and business.

There has also been a significant fall in courses chosen on random selection, down from about 47 last year to almost 20 this year.

Among the courses affected by random selection this year include medicine at RCSI and University of Galway; biomedical science at UCC and MTU; pharmacy at Trinity.

One of the courses on random selection – Trinity’s management science and information management systems studies – is on the maximum points requirement of 625.

In all, points requirements for a total of 60 per cent of all level eight courses have fallen in points.

Minister for Further and Higher Education Simon Harris said he was encouraged to see so many students securing their first choice college course this year.

In addition, he said the Government additional allocation of college places in areas such as nursing and medicine appeared to have led to a welcome reduction in points requirements across many of those courses.

This year’s CAO course points requirements are below:

Colleges at a glance:


Six undergraduate entry courses at University College Dublin have seen their points increase over last year’s first round CAO offers.

The biggest increase was seen in City Planning & Environmental Policy (DN130), up 32 points to 487 points in 2022′s first round.

Landscape architecture (DN120) also saw a sharp rise, increasing its round 1 cut-off points to 477 – up 22 points.

Veterinary nursing (DN310) first round points for 2023 are up by 18 to 518 points, while both architecture (DN100) at 567 points, and sport and exercise management (DN430) at 484 points have seen a smaller increase compared to 2022′s first round, with increases of 11 and eight points respectively.

Humanities (DN530) also increased from 442 points to 444.

Three UCD programmes require over 600 points, including actuarial and financial studies (DN230) which remains on the same points (613) as last year.

Economics & finance (DN670), which was 625 in 2022, is down 7 points to 618. It has continued to be UCD’s highest points degree for several years.

Biomedical, health & life sciences (DN440) has seen its first round points fall from 613 to 601*. It is one of just two courses that are on random selection for this first round, along with medicine (DN400) at 736*.

A total of some 9,568 CAO students opted to give UCD their first preference out of a total of 26,855 applications received in July.

Four undergraduate entry courses see no change in their first round points from 2022 to 2023; these are actuarial and financial studies (DN230) at 613 points; agricultural science (DN250) 400 points; radiography (DN410), 556 points; and commerce international (DN660) at 544 points.

Trinity College Dublin

Cut-off points for Trinity’s level eight single honours courses have dropped on average by 12 points, while cut-offs for joint honours courses rose on average by 26 points.

The number of courses requiring candidates to have achieved 600 points or more fell to eight from nine in both 2022 and 2021.

Markedly fewer courses were offered by random selection this year: four single honours programmes versus nine in 2022.

Medicine (TR051) dropped from 745 points to 741 (including HPAT) due to an increase in available places. 7

Applications for music education (TR051) were up 131 per cent, leading to a surge of 103 points to 555. Law and German (TR019) rose by 10 to 564.

Biggest points drop: Middle Eastern and European Languages and Cultures (TR040), dropped 79 points to 473.

Random selection: just four Level 8 single honours courses (psychology TR006, management science and information system studies TR034, pharmacy TR072 and business economic and social studies TR081) were offered at random selection, down from nine in 2022 and 17 in 2021.

Maximum points: Two courses were at 625 points: TR052 Dental Science (no longer at random selection) and Management Science and Information System Studies (TR034 – random selection). One joint honours combination, Economics and History (TR202) was at 625 points.

Overall, one in four CAO applicants (22,354 or 26.5 per cent) applied to Trinity College Dublin, which attracted a total of 10,862 first-preference applications this year.

The university made 3,784 offers to students in round one today. Two thirds (63 per cent) of level eight offers will be the student’s first preference.

University of Galway

Almost half of the university’s courses experienced an increase in points.

The university has more programmes in 500-plus range than in other ranges, and noticeably, all engineering and law programmes are above 500 points and all bar one commerce programme.

In the area of teacher education, arts (mathematics and education) is up 3 to 418; while education (computer science & mathematics) shows an increase of 10 points to 435.

In healthcare, medicine is on random selection, despite a small drop in the points requirement; midwifery is seeing a 10 point increase to 463; while nursing is also seeing a slight fall.

In science, marine science is up a significant 17 points to 477; while mathematical science is up 56 points to 566; physics up 14 to 454; and computer science and information technology is up 11 to 521.

One programme saw a decrease of more than 50 points – environmental science.

Of the seven programmes which saw a significant decrease in points requirement in 2022, five saw an increase in demand this year – arts with human rights; arts – drama, theatre and performance; arts with journalism; global media; electronic and computer engineering.

In engineering, five of its eight programmes show an increase in demand – energy systems engineering up to 520; civil engineering up to 512; electronic and computer engineering up to 532; electrical and electronic engineering up to 510; and engineering (undemoninated) up to 533.

In all, a total of 30 programmes experienced points increases and another 30 programmes experienced points decreases.

Maynooth University

Maynooth University shas welcomed a strong demand for its courses among 2023 CAO applicants. The University has noted high levels of interest across the entire range of its programmes of study, with over 4,000 Round 1 CAO offers across disciplines including science, education, business, law and the arts.

The expansion of places in primary education has allowed the university to make over 30 extra offers on the programme, helping to address the national shortage of primary teachers and in response to the Government’s initiative to increase places in high demand courses.

The new business with sport science degree has proved popular, and is the first in a suite of new programmes in sports and nutrition that the university will offer.

Robotics and intelligent devices has seen an increase of 45 per cent on 2022 offers, reflecting the growing interest and opportunities for careers in the robotics and AI industry. It follows a recent announcement of the creation of a state-of-the-art robotics lab at Maynooth University supported by a donation from Intel Ireland.

The university said demand for places continues to be strong across all disciplines at the University.


Why is there likely to be a points drop in some health courses?

It’s not a given, by any means, but there are two factors at play which are likely to lead to a reduction in points requirements for some health-related courses.

Additional college places – 415 in all – have been created in the health area this year on foot of a Government initiative to boost graduates.

Of these, 205 relate to nursing and midwifery while 60 are in medicine and 50 are across the disciplines of occupational therapy, physiotherapy and speech and language therapy.

This should ease some of the supply and demand pressure and may lead to fall in points in these areas..

In addition, there is a fall-off in demand for courses in the broader health area, according to the July 1st breakdown of course application trends.


Will CAO points for course go up or down?

It’s the question on the lips of applicants ahead of 2pm.

We won’t know for sure, of course, until individual offers issue. There are some clues, however.

CAO points requirements simply reflect the supply and demand of places – and the relative grades achieved by applicants.

Clue #1: Leaving Cert grades are inflated to the same level as last year, so it is likely that points on the whole will remain at high levels

Clue #2: Additional college places – 415 in all – have been created in the health area. Of these, 205 relate to nursing and midwifery while 60 are in medicine and 50 are across the disciplines of occupational therapy, physiotherapy and speech and language therapy. This should ease some of the supply and demand pressure and may lead to fall in points in these areas..

Clue #3: CAO course preference data as of the July 1st cut-off shows were demand is up and down relative to last year.

It shows a fall-off in demand for health and welfare courses, which raises the likelihood of a reduction in points.

By contrast, the number of college applications for courses where there is strong job growth – such as architecture, construction, business and engineering – has increased this year. This increases the chance of points rising in these areas.

You can see the year-on-year trends in level eight (honours degree) course preferences below.


Random selection: the cruelest way to lose out on a CAO place

Universities expect to use random selection, or a lottery, to select applicants in some high points courses this year.

Why? It’s due to inflated grades and the fact that so many are applicants are scoring top grades. This makes it difficult for colleges to differentiate between top candidates. A lottery, unfortunately, is the result.

We even saw a handful of courses on 625 points – the maximum possible – decided on random selection last year.

It is difficult to say how many courses will be affected this year, but higher education sources say it will be a feature of this afternoon’s offers.

Among those courses likely to be affected are high points ones such as medicine, dentistry, economics and finance, and management science.

If there is a positive, it’s that random selection has been trending downwards.

There were about 75 courses which used a lottery in 2021 and about 45 last year.

The fact that applications numbers have declined, slightly, for health courses gives some hope that we’ll see fewer again this year.


Welcome to our live coverage of CAO offers.

Thousands of college applicants will find out at 2pm online if they have secured their preferred courses.

So, what do we know so far?

About half of this year’s college applicants are expected to secure their top course preference when offers issue on Wednesday afternoon despite high CAO points this year, according to higher education sources.

A large majority of applicants – an estimated 80 per cent – will likely secure one of their top-three course preferences in this year’s CAO round one college offers.

Senior academics say a combination of steady year-on-year application numbers and a further year of inflated grades means trends from last year look likely to remain this year.

Last year, for example, 52 per cent secured their first CAO preference, while 82 per cent received one of their top-three choices.