There has been a significant increase in the number of Leaving and Junior Certificate students whose fees for taking the exams have been waived.

Those sitting the State exams are required to pay a fee of more than €100.

Exemptions are granted for candidates whose families are in financial hardship. Anyone whose family has a full medical card does not have to pay.

Between 2008 and 2012, the number of Leaving Cert students falling into this category rose by 60%, from almost 11,000 candidates in 2008 to 17,500 in 2012.

Just 21% of Leaving Cert candidates were exempt from paying the charge five years ago, but by last year that had grown to one third.

The rise is similar among Junior Certificate students, with 27% exempt five years ago compared to almost 40% now.

Meanwhile, the examination branch at the Department of Education has confirmed that exam papers have been delivered to schools across the country.

The papers left the Department of Education in Athlone yesterday and were sent to distribution centres.

Over 4,800 superintendents involved in supervising the written examinations took possession of the boxes containing the three million examination papers.

The superintendents delivered them to the individual schools around the country.

More than 116,000 students will start their examinations tomorrow, which will run until Thursday 20 June for Junior Certificate subjects.

The Leaving Certificate continues until Friday 21 June.