Leaving Cert chemistry: Demanding paper with plenty of choice, say teachers

Few surprises although some questions may have caused difficulty

A Leaving Cert student  at Sutton Park School, Sutton, Dublin. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

A Leaving Cert student at Sutton Park School, Sutton, Dublin. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill


The core areas of the Leaving Cert chemistry syllabus made up a substantial part of a straightforward but tasking exam, teachers have said.

Tara Lyons, a chemistry teacher at the Institute of Education in Dublin, said the higher level paper gave students the best shot at doing as well as they possibly could.

“The layout was exactly as most years, with no changes and no surprises,” Ms Lyons said.

“The core areas of the Leaving Cert chemistry syllabus- organic chemistry, atomic theory and volumetric analysis- made up a substantial part of this paper. This ensured that students who had struggled to complete the entire syllabus still had plenty of choice.”

Alan Boal, Studyclix.ie expert and chemistry teacher at Royal and Prior Comprehensive School in Raphoe, Co Donegal, said the paper was “tasking” but that students had extra choice, answering any six questions on the paper instead of the usual eight.

“I felt the short questions were difficult also and contained a lot of parts from the electronic structure of the atom,” Mr Boal said.

“Any student that didn’t cover this topic will have had difficulty answering this question.”


Redox titration appeared as expected, but Mr Boal said that question three - which focused on a test for anions - may have caused difficulty.

“It contained an experiment containing oxidation, something many teachers would have avoided teaching in general, never mind during the pandemic,” said Mr Boal.

“This I felt was slightly unfair to the students given the circumstances.I think many would have avoided this question despite the initial excitement of seeing the test for anions.

“Question five focused on the electronic structure of atoms and students would have been doubly penalised if they failed to cover this topic in class. For those that did cover the topic, the question would have been quite doable with a lot of the parts testing their knowledge of ionisation energies.”

Ms Lyons, however, said that most of the questions were straightforward and many were expected.

Mr Boal said that the ordinary level paper was very fair.

“The paper offered plenty of options for students to work through and most should have been able to get six questions answered. There were definitely a few testing parts but there was enough there for the students to get through the paper.”

Try this at home:
- Leaving Cert chemistry (higher level)

More ethene is produced industrially than any other manufactured organic chemical.

(i) Give one major use for ethene.
(ii) Draw a labelled diagram of an arrangement of apparatus used to prepare and collect a small quantity of ethene in the school laboratory to examine its properties.
(iii) Draw the structure of an organic product of the reaction of ethene in a solution of bromine.