Leaving Cert chemistry: A ‘fair’ paper with plenty of choice and few surprises

Students familiar with past papers should feel confident in their performance,

Photograph: Alan Betson

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The higher-level chemistry paper was fair, offering students wide choice in an exam with few surprises, teachers have said.

“Questions remained true to form,” said Enda Dowd, a chemistry teacher at the Institute of Education in Dublin.

“Students familiar with past papers should feel confident in their performance, as the language of the paper was more approachable than previous years. If well-prepared, they should have had little issue with answering eight good questions with eleven to choose from.

“The exam covered a wide range of topics from the course, giving students ample choice.”


Mary Mullaghy, ASTI subject representative and a teacher at Eureka Secondary School, Kells, Co Meath, said that the wide range of topics should allow students who had put in the hard work to shine.

“It was a good test of the students’ knowledge, understanding and analytical skills. There were plenty of questions based on laboratory practical work with particular emphasis on observational skills and analytical skills. The fundamentals of chemistry were well examined, and the everyday applications of chemistry were covered throughout the paper.”

Mr Dowd said there were one or two surprises, but nothing unfair.

“Students may have been expecting questions on the steam distillation of clove oil and on the oxidation of phenylmethanol but they didn’t appear and they may have been surprised by questions that did arise on the recrystallisation of benzoic acid, given similar questions were asked in 2022,” he said.

“It emphasises the importance of students having a broad grasp of all of the experiments and not trying to guess what might come up, as they may get caught out.”

He said that question eight, on organic chemistry, is usually a challenging question.

“But this year’s addition was more friendly, with the description of the free radical substitution mechanism being asked.

“Students not hugely confident with their maths may have found some parts of question nine challenging as it required them to calculate changes in pH and concentrations of monobasic acids, and so might have avoided it,” he said.

Mr Dowd and Ms Mullaghy both said that it was good to see the examination papers follow the pattern of previous years in structure and style of questions.

“There were references to the work of Laurence Bragg, Dorothy Hodgkin and Marie and Pierre Curie,” said Ms Mullaghy.

“As always there was very good coverage of organic chemistry which is the basis of our pharmachemical industry and important for the Irish economy.”


Ms Mullaghy said that the ordinary level paper seemed more challenging than usual.

“There were some unseen terms such as ‘multistriatin’ which apparently is an organic compound released by the female elm bark beetle when she has found a good source of food. However, there was probably sufficient choice on the paper for those who had covered the course.”

Ms Mullaghy, who sits on the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) development group for chemistry, said that she hoped to see progress in the specification for the new chemistry specification.

“We hope that the NCCA will provide a list of mandatory experiments for the new

Chemistry specification/ syllabus as requested by 97 per cent  of teachers surveyed by the Irish Science Teachers’ Association (ISTA),” she said.

“Vagueness in specifications can lead to the ruination of a subject, as is evidenced by the decrease in numbers of students taking the revised agricultural science subject.”

Try this one at home:

Leaving Cert chemistry, higher level, q11(c)

-Water hardness is caused by certain dissolved metal ions.

(i) Write the chemical formulae for the two metal ions that most commonly cause hardness when dissolved in water.

(ii) Identify an anion which is commonly dissolved in water with these metal ions when temporary hardness is involved.

(iii) Identify an anion which is commonly dissolved in water with these metal ions when permanent hardness is involved