The Junior Certificate is an Irish
state examination taken by school
pupils in their third year of secondary school. Student
s can be aged anywhere from 14 to 16 when they take this exam, after which they may legally leave school and enter the workplace, if they wish.
However, as the affluence and expectations of the Irish people have increased over the past decades, so too have the aspirations of schoolchildren, and most students now regard the Junior Cert as simply preparation for the much more important Leaving Cert in 2 or 3 years' time. Of course, no one tells them this until after they've finished the exam, and so a sizeable proportion still put their little hearts into it.
For those who do leave after this exam, the certificate allows them to still have some qualification, without having officially finished secondary school. The exam used to be called the Intermediate Certificate (or Inter Cert), and the Junior Cert today is largely a relic from a time when children were lucky if they even went to secondary school (in Ireland, a mere 40 years ago).
The Junior Cert differs from the Leaving in that many more subjects are taken (typically around 11 or 12), there is no points system, and grades awarded are from A - F (without any A1, A2, etc).
By far the most interesting aspect of the Junior Certificate has to be the social uproar caused when the results come out (typically in September), a night known as Junior Cert results night.