More than 120,000 students began their Leaving and Junior Certificate exams this morning.

Both Junior and Leaving Certificate candidates sat English papers this morning, while Leaving Cert Applied students began with English and Communications.

This year, almost 900 Leaving Cert students in 41 pilot schools will also sit an exam in a new subject, Politics and Society.

More than 55,000 students began their Leaving Cert exams today, while 66,000 started their Junior Cert, and a further 2,700 students were examined as part of the Leaving Certificate Applied programme.

This year sees some changes and the exam papers are being published online while the exams are still going on for the first time.

This is because last year saw some papers published on social media as teachers or others removed them early from the centres.

Morning papers were published on examinations.ie before midday and the afternoon papers were due to be available at 4pm.

Minister for Education and Skills Richard Bruton, meanwhile, has said he would encourage people to join the teaching profession in areas such as home economics.

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, Mr Bruton said the number of secondary school pupils is rising very rapidly.

He wished exam students well today and reminded them that there are plenty of other career opportunities beside the Leaving Cert, including apprenticeships.