How to get a H1 in the Leaving Cert DCG Exam

By Val Connell - 5 minute read

DCG teacher, Val, gives his top tips on getting a H1 in Leaving Certificate DCG.

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Welcome to your guide in achieving a H1 in DCG. This guide will teach you the layout of the course and the structure of the project along with useful tips on how to study for the exam.

Course breakdown

The project

The project is worth 40% (160 marks) and is a design-based project that involves an investigation of how an existing object is designed. The project allows you to modify or come up with a completely new design for the object in question. In addition, you create a computer model of the existing object and your new/modified object. The design brief is released by the State Examinations Committee (SEC) each year.


Here's an example of a design brief (2022):

Parts A and B

The project is divided into two parts (A and B). Part A is a design investigation into an existing object and is divided into the following format:

Part B is divided as follows:

If you want to get a H1, you need to follow this instruction in the design brief to the letter. At the end of the project, you must hand up a bound and printed portfolio with a USB enclosed in the portfolio that contains all your files, i.e. CAD files, along with a soft copy of your project.

Top tips

Some top tips for your project include:

  • Start the project immediately. It can be very overwhelming in November/December if you leave yourself with too much to do.

  • Pick a simple object to model in Solidworks as it will gain as many marks as an object with difficult geometry.

  • Keep all of your sketches fully defined from the beginning.

  • Use output 3 (your electronic model) to help you improve output 2 if needs be.

  • Get your hands on a physical example of the object you have picked to model in Part A. Don’t use pictures from the internet.


Keep regular backups of your project. Save it to a cloud server and regularly save your Solidworks modelling. Do not under any circumstances submit practice Solidworks material that was modelled outside of school as anything you submit must be completed in school.

The exam

The exam consists of three sections:

Section A

Section A is on core geometry, is worth 60 marks and consists of 4 short questions that test you on the core aspects of the course. You have 4 incomplete short questions and you must complete any 3 (these questions test your understanding and skills on a topic). Answer each question on the sheet. 

Section B

Section B consists of long questions on core geometry. This section is worth 90 marks and has 3 long questions that examine you on the core aspects of the course. The long questions are drawn by you from scratch on A2 paper and they test your in-depth knowledge of a topic. You must answer 2 questions.

Section C

This section is on applied geometry and is worth 90 marks. You are presented with 5 questions, all drawn from the following areas:

  • Geological geometry

  • Structural forms

  • Surface geometry

  • Dynamic mechanisms

  • Assemblies

These are long questions like in Section B and you must answer 1 question. This is answered on A2 paper with each question worth 45 marks (all questions are answered on A2 paper except for Q.C1 which is answered at the back of the section).

Study tips

Below are some of my top tips for preparing for the DCG exam:

  • Practice drawing exam questions because looking at online solutions will only help so much.

  • Master the basics of the subject, especially the 15 key principles and orthographic/auxiliary projection (in truth, the whole course is underpinned by orthographic projection).

  • Be able to draw at speed. If you can’t answer all the questions completely in the timeframe, you will lose marks so practice at home under a time limit.

  • If you have extra time, it would be better to answer additional questions rather than spend a large amount of time on just one.


Here's a recommended timing breakdown for the exam:

Reading questions 6 minutes
Section A 36 minutes (12 minutes per question)
Section B 66 minutes (33 minutes per question)
Section C 66 minutes (33 minutes per question)
Reading over your work 6 mintues


The above table represents a suggested time limit per question pre-Covid-19 exams (when there was no reduction in questions required to be answered).

Best of luck! You'll be great.

By Val Connell

Val is a DCG and Junior Cycle Graphics teacher at Newpark Comprehensive School in Dublin for the last 8 years. He has also taught Leaving cert construction studies in the past. 

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