Record numbers will sit this year's Leaving Certificate and Junior Cycle exams, which got under way this morning.

More than 63,000 candidates have registered for the Leaving Certificate exams, while more than 71,000 are expected to sit Junior Cycle papers.

The rise represents a 3% increase from last year and reflects demographic growth.

The exams are taking place in more than 800 post-primary schools and other venues across the country.

The most significant increase has occurred in numbers registering for the Leaving Certificate Applied (LCA) programme.

There has been a 20% rise in candidates intending to sit LCA exams compared to last year, from 3,173 candidates to 3,812.

Compared to the traditional Leaving Certificate, the LCA is more orientated toward developing practical skills and it has a stronger continuous assessment component.

The main Leaving Certificate programme has seen a small dip in numbers, with 59,727 sitting the established Leaving Certificate, compared to 60,210 last year.

Leaving Cert Applied: The alternative pathway to college

There has been a 5% increase in candidates intending to sit Junior Cycle papers, a direct reflection of demographic increases, bringing numbers this year to 71,494.

The Leaving Certificate exams began with English papers for both programmes.

The English Paper 1 examination began at 9.30am, while LCA students began their English and Communication exam at 9.45am.

The Leaving Certificate exams run until 27 June

This year again sees adjustments made to assessment arrangements in an attempt to address additional challenges, including loss of learning, experienced by the class of 2023 over the course of the pandemic.

The adjustments were agreed between the Department of Education, the State Examinations Commission (SEC), the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment and key education stakeholders.

While the overall structure of students' examination papers is similar to previous years, the changes include additional choice in terms of questions.

Minister for Education Norma Foley has also promised students that there will be no "cliff-edge" this year in terms of bringing overall grades outcomes back eventually to pre-pandemic levels.

The SEC will again this year implement a post-marking adjustment following the completion of marking and grading in order to give effect to this.

Leaving Certificate candidates who are unavoidably absent from their exams over coming weeks, due to a close family bereavement or on certain medical grounds, will be given the opportunity to participate in a deferred sitting of the exams, which begins on 29 June.

This year for the first time this option will also be open to students who experience an extreme medical emergency during an examination.

Leaving Certificate results are due to be issued on 25 August.

The SEC said this follows "extensive work to improve the timeline to the greatest possible degree", and takes into account a number of factors including the requirement to adjust marks after normal marking has taken place, in order to meet the minister’s "no cliff-edge" commitment.

A shortage of teachers making themselves available to mark exam papers also contributed to delays last year in publishing results.

The SEC has said a revitalised recruitment campaign, coupled with enhanced rates of payment and "very active support" from teacher unions, school leadership and management bodies means the number of written examiners is at higher level now than at this time last year.

This year, the SEC will also pilot the provision of digital versions of examination papers to Leaving Cert candidates who are visually impaired.

The commission said it will evaluate the pilot scheme following the examinations.

The Leaving Certificate exams run until 27 June, while the LCA finishes on 15 June and Junior Cycle exams run until 19 June.

Minister Foley wished all those sitting exams "the very best of luck".

She described today as a milestone day for them and said the exams were an "opportunity to showcase the hard work and time you have dedicated to your studies and the wide range of knowledge you have acquired".