Leaving Cert chemistry: Heavy emphasis on atomic theory

150-year anniversary of periodic table acknowledged in exam

The 150-year anniversary of periodic table was acknowledged in the Leaving Cert chemistry exam. Photo: iStock

The 150-year anniversary of periodic table was acknowledged in the Leaving Cert chemistry exam. Photo: iStock


The higher level chemistry paper was straightforward and made more use of graphs than usual, according to Tara Lyons, chemistry teacher at the Institute of Education in Dublin.

“There was a bit more emphasis this year on atomic theory than in previous years, but nothing too challenging,” she said.

“It was nice to see the 150-year anniversary of the periodic table acknowledged in question five, with a nice, straight-forward question on the topic. One standout feature is that there were three questions involving graphs, whereas usually there would just be one.”

Ms Lyons said that students who practiced with past papers will be happy with the exam.

“Questions on radioactive decay in bananas and calculating the amount of painkiller in doses of ibuprofen in children were particularly nice. Question seven examined acids and bases: Part B involved drawing a graph and using the graph to predict the value of Kw, and then using this to calculate pH. This part of the question would have been challenging to students.”

Mary Mullaghy, ASTI representative and a teacher at Eureka Secondary School in Eureka, Kells, said that the paper rewarded students who had covered the whole course.


“This is getting more difficult with the introduction of one-hour classes in schools as 20 mins are being lost every week for two years of Senior Cycle.

“As the current syllabus has been around since 2002, the SEC is coming up with novel ways of asking questions, which might be off-putting to some students, as they may not fully comprehend what is being asked of them, even though they actually know and understand the content knowledge.”

The ordinary level paper followed a similar format to previous years and there were no real surprises there, Ms Mullaghy said.

“The gap between the Junior Cycle and Senior Cycle Science science subjects has become a chasm, as the new Junior Cycle science does not prepare students for Senior Cycle chemistry,” she warned.


Leaving Cert chemistry, higher level (a) What are cathode rays? (b) Bananas contain small quantities of potassium?40, a radioactive isotope. What is the daughter nucleus when K?40 emits an electron in beta decay? (c) State Avogadro’s law.