More than 113,000 Leaving and Junior Certificate students began their exams this morning.

As usual both examinations began with English.

Students will also be tested on the new syllabus in Geography and in History. They have already completed 20% of their course.

For the first time, a small number of candidates are being examined in Hungarian, Latvian, Lithuanian and Slovakian.

These are newcomers on a growing list of European tongues that are not taught in Irish schools, but in which native speakers may sit an exam.

The Minister for Education, Mary Hanafin, has sent her best wishes to all the students.

While acknowledging that the State exams were an important educational milestone, the minister said she hoped students and parents would keep things in perspective.

52,000 students will sit this year's Leaving Certificate exam. A further 3,000 will sit the Leaving Cert Applied.

Students of Irish have the new option of answering questions on drama and film.