Leaving Cert Chemistry: An Overview

In order to do a science degree in university, you need to take two science courses. Chemistry is a popular subject and it requires some memorisation, understanding of concepts like how to balance equations, and some maths. The exam itself is straightforward, only consisting of one paper.

The Chemistry exam is on the afternoon of the second Tuesday of the exam period. You will have three hours to sit the exam. You have already completed the practical section of chemistry

What’s on the exam?

In both Higher and Ordinary level, the exam is worth 400 marks and you must answer 8 questions, each worth 50 marks. There are two sections of questions. In section A, you answer any two of the three questions. In section B, you answer any six of the remaining eight questions. You must answer every part of the question (except for questions 10 & 11 where you have a choice between which parts of the question you want to answer).

On the front page, you are given some information necessary for calculations like relative atomic masses, Avogadro’s constant, molar volume at s.t.p., and universal gas constant, so don’t worry about memorising those. You are also given a Formulae and Tables booklet that comes with a Periodic Table, ionisation energies, electronegativity values, and other quantities.

Some concepts you might be tested on are definitions of terms, titrations, calculations (how many moles, concentration), diagrams of experiments, rates of reaction, oxidation, electron configurations, periodic table questions like atomic radii and why it is arranged the way it is, organic chemistry, and chemical equilibrium.

Tips for Success:

  • Take a few minutes at the beginning to read through the paper and decide which questions you will answer.
  • There is not much variation from year to year. The concepts remain the same so if you know them, you will do well.
  • The more marks a question is worth, the more time and detail you need to put into answering the question.
  • Spend about an equal amount of time on each of the 8 questions. A good guideline is if you take 10 minutes at the start and end to look over the paper, you’ll have 160 minutes left to answer everything, divide that equally by 8 and that means you should spend about 20 minutes per question.
  • You will know the concepts better when you practise with old questions.
  • Don’t answer any extra questions since it won’t be of much benefit.
  • Think about what experiments you did.
  • Show your work when you do calculations.
  • Don’t forget the units. If you forget the units, you will get points taken off. Using the correct units are a good way to self-check for formulas.
  • Take some time to double check everything at the end.

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