Leaving Cert chemistry: Positive reaction to ‘lovely’ exam paper

Stronger students get chance to shine while ordinary paper had fair experimental section

Students have reacted positively to the higher-level chemistry paper. Photo: iStock

Students have reacted positively to the higher-level chemistry paper. Photo: iStock


Students have reacted positively to the higher-level chemistry paper, with teachers fizzing over the clarity of the exam and the range of questions asked.

Kenneth O’Dea, ASTI subject representative, said the paper struck a good balance between the different skills being tested.

“It was a thought-provoking paper which provided a good challenge to every level of student. There were three lovely experiment questions; one of these, on water titration, had been predicted to appear and got them off to a good start.”

Tara Lyons, a chemistry teacher at the Institute of Education in Dublin, said that the higher-level paper was straightforward with no surprises.

“The questions were broken down into very clear parts, requiring short but precise answers,” she said.

“Question four had the usual array of choices that covered the entire syllabus, and one of them asked about why the swimming pools in the 2016 Olympics turned green.”


The paper was not without challenges. “Question one was a straightforward volumetric analysis but it required knowledge of formula,” said Ms Lyons.

“Question six on fuels and heats of reaction required knowledge of the techniques used to improve the quality of petrol.”

Mr O’Dea agreed that the paper did contain chances for the stronger students to shine.

“Question ten on benzene required a good understanding of the benzene molecule as well as chemical bonding and there were other questions with little calculations to figure out.”

The ordinary level paper was just as varied as the higher level paper, said Ms Lyons. “Organic chemistry, atomic theory and volumetric analysis were all present on the paper. Question two, on volumetric analysis, was very nice.”

Mr O’Dea said that the ordinary level paper had a very fair experimental section and that students with good general chemical knowledge would have done well.

Around 9,438 students sat the chemistry paper, with 8,901 of them taking the higher-level exam.

Try this at home: Leaving Cert chemistry, higher level

(a) What was the purpose of Millikan’s ‘oil drop’ experiments of 1908 to 1913?

(b) State and give the reason for the trend in atomic radii across the second period of the periodic table.

(c) Write the electron configuration (s, p, etc) for an iron atom.

(d) Give two reasons why real gases deviate from ideal behaviour at high pressures and low temperatures