Extra bonus points in honour Leaving Certificate maths have only benefited 3,000 students seeking a college place, it has emerged.
Almost 50,000 third-level applicants will receive offers of university courses on Monday, with record numbers of students and the 25-point bonus scheme pushing points up in science and technology. Points for the country's main arts courses have not been affected.
Joseph O'Grady, operations manager with the Central Applications Office, warned that the higher level maths result has to be in the applicant's top six subjects to count. He said that while 13,000 applicants presented higher level maths - 11,000 from this summer and 2,000 from previous years - just 3,000 will benefit.
"It's really important that applicants and their parents or advisers understand this because it might not actually lead to any net benefit to applicants at all," he told RTE radio. To calculate points if you got higher D3 or better you add 25 points to your score for maths, and then you find your best six subjects, best six scores, and add them together."
Mr O'Grady said higher maths was a requirement for a number of courses, meaning all applicants accepted got the same benefit.
The Institute of Guidance Counsellors said it was concerned about the distorted effect the bonus points awarded for higher level maths has had on other courses where a high level of mathematical competence is not a core requirement.
"As an institute, we do not think offering bonus points for honours maths is the most appropriate solution to increase the uptake of science, technology and engineering courses," it said. "If bonus points are to be offered, they should be targeted at courses where a high standard of mathematical ability is required."
The CAO revealed that more then 21,000 pupils had accepted their first place online by 5pm. "Today, 49,862 applicants received an offer in the first round," said Mr O'Grady. "The volume of top preference choices is high. The site was very busy this morning with a record number of acceptances in the early morning.
"By 9am, 9,186 applicants had accepted a place in college, up from 8,406 during the same time last year. Almost 21,639 online acceptances were recorded by 5pm. In 2011, there were 21,000 acceptances by the end of the first day."
Applicants have until next Monday to accept their offer, which can be accepted either online or by post.