Subject Choice: A Resource for Guidance Counsellors

The Student Resource Sheet, which is designed as a brief guide to students who are in the process of opting for subjects in the Junior Cycle, accompanies this resource page for Guidance Counsellors. A Parents Resource Sheet, based on that for students, is also available.

Clearly, the range of subjects, both compulsory and optional, will depend on the resources of the school and on the requirements of the Department of Education and Skills. Similarly, the timing of students’ decision making in relation to subjects is largely a matter for schools.

The choice of optional subjects prior to first year is discouraged. While schools have different systems in place to enable students’ subject choices, it is assumed here that students will have had an opportunity to study the optional subjects during first year in order that they may make informed choices following careful consideration. Ideally, this will be with your collaboration and with that of their parents or guardians. It is also assumed that optional subjects are chosen prior to the end of first year.

In the longer term, the development of the Framework for Junior Cycle and of the Junior Cycle Profile of Assessment will have a bearing on the subjects and short courses provided by a school. Further information on this is available on the Department website at

Part of your role, as guidance counsellor, is to provide information to students, in both group settings and on an individual basis. Your role may also be to collaborate with and to inform your colleagues and school management about the implications of the choices made by students and of the processes in place to facilitate those choices. You may find the resource 'Understanding Your Interests', available for download below, useful. This resource can be used to support student learning regarding their interests and aptitudes. The resource can be applied in a classroom setting by presenting to students for completion, followed by discussion of their choces in small groups. 

The resource 'Understanding Your Interests' can be accessed HERE.


Students are encouraged to consult parents and important others, such as the guidance counsellor in considering their options.

In brief, it is proposed that, at the level of the Junior Cycle, the primary consideration in choosing a subject is a student’s liking for that subject.

It is also proposed that, in addition to Irish, English and Mathematics, the ‘safe range’ of subjects in Junior Cycle includes an additional language and Science.

For the Senior Cycle, it is proposed that, in addition to liking a subject, students need to consider the entry requirements for their chosen career or course. It is obvious that such consideration takes time for most students and that much information is required. The NCCA website at is an essential resource for this purpose.

Qualifax  and CareersPortal are also very useful in identifying course entry requirements.

NCGE acknowledges the contribution of Colum Layton in the development of this resource page.


Thursday, August 9, 2018
Date for Review: 
Thursday, August 9, 2018

NCGE and Colum Layton

Practice Area: