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Random number - How it works

  • In the vast majority of courses, admission is based solely on examination results; places are offered to those applicants with the better results.
  • To compare results, points are awarded for different grades. The points awarded for Leaving Certificate results are shown here.
  • To determine who should be offered places in a course, the applicants for that course are placed in order of merit. In other words, the applicant with the highest points score (best set of results) is placed at the top of the list and the other applicants are placed in descending order, according to their points score.

    The applicant with the lowest points score goes to the bottom of the list.
  • The higher education institution will tell us to make a certain number of offers; for example, they may tell us that 200 offers are to be made in a particular course.
  • Who is entitled to the 200 offers? Obviously, the 200 applicants at the top of the list, i.e. those with the higher points.
  • Sometimes, however, a situation may arise where, for example, the 198th, 199th, 200th, 201st and 202nd applicants all have the same points score but there are only 3 places available between them.

    A decision has to be made about which 3 out of the 5 with equal points will be offered the final places. How is this decision made?
  • Each applicant is given a randomly generated number for each course that they enter prior to the order of merit lists being drawn up. The random number is exactly that; it is not associated with the CAO Application Number; it does not depend on when the applicant applied; it has no connection with anything. It is totally random, like lottery numbers.
  • The number only becomes relevant in the event of a tie on points, such as the five applicants competing for the last three places. In effect, the order among the five with the same points score is set by their random number; the applicant with the highest random number goes first, followed by the one with the next highest random number, etc, and the applicant with the lowest random number goes fifth. The three with the higher random numbers are offered the three places and the other two applicants are placed at the top of the waiting list.


List BEFORE bring re-ordered according to random number:
Applicant Position of applicants in points order
Random number (relevant only for last places)
1 600 ----
2 595 ----
3 590 ----
---- ---- ----
---- ---- ----
198 360 342
199 360 123
200 360 765
201 360 417
201 360 561
List AFTER bring re-ordered according to random number:
Applicant Position of applicants in points order AND THEN IN RANDOM NUMBER ORDER Random number (relevant only for last places)
1 600 ----
2 595 ----
3 590 ----
---- ---- ----
---- ---- ----
198 360 765
199 360 561
200 360 417
201 360 342
201 360 123

The three applicants with the higher random numbers are placed ahead of the two with the lower random numbers and those three are offered places.

Examination rechecks

  • The question sometimes arises as to what happens if an applicant has her results rechecked.
    She is upgraded so that she now has the minimum points which were required for admission to a particular course, but random selection had operated at her revised points level. What is the applicant's position?
  • It is simply a matter of looking at her random number which had been generated originally with all the other applicants for the course. What if her random number is higher than that of the last person who was offered a place?
    Obviously, if her revised results had been available at the time, she would have received an offer of a place because she would have been higher on the list than the last person who actually got an offer.
  • On the other hand, what if her random number is lower than that of the last person who was offered a place? Obviously, even if she had been in her revised position in the order of merit list for the course, she would not have been offered a place; her random number was too low.
    Naturally, her revised result does not now change her position because her random number is still too low.
  • Some courses are full at this time and unfortunately, HEIs can only offer a deferred place until the following year.
    The State Examinations Commission automatically notifies CAO of ALL changes in grades.
    These changes are then notified to the HEIs.