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Studying Chemistry at Leaving Certificate level in Secondary School will build on the knowledge and skills you developed during the Chemistry portion of Junior Cycle Science. It is a fascinating and popular subject covering a range of topics from the periodic table and radioactivity to oxidation and stoichiometry.

In this guide, we explain what the Leaving Cert Chemistry exam involves and what you can expect to see on the written paper. We’ll also offer some revision advice and introduce some great resources to help get you ready for the exam.

The Leaving Cert Chemistry exam

Leaving Cert Chemistry is studied at the Higher and Ordinary levels. There is only one paper for the exam, which is three hours in duration and worth 300 marks in total (a change from 400 marks in previous papers). The paper is split into two sections (Section A and Section B).

The exam will cover the Core topics from the syllabus. These are:

  • The periodic table and atomic structure

  • Chemical bonding

  • Stoichiometry, formulas and equations

  • Volumetric analysis

  • Fuels and heats of reaction

  • Rates of reaction

  • Organic chemistry

  • Organic equilibrium

  • Environmental chemistry: water

You can also study Options in Fifth Year, which are typically covered in Question 4(l) and Question 11(d) on the paper (more on this below). The Options are:

  • Option 1A: Additional industrial chemistry

  • Option 1B: Atmospheric chemistry

  • Option 2A: Materials

  • Option 2B: Additional electrochemistry and the extraction of metals

Ordinary level students can choose one of these Options. Higher level students can choose between these Options in their entirety (i.e., all of Option 1 or all of Option 2 but not just Option 1A, for example, as Ordinary level students can).

What to expect in Leaving Cert Chemistry exam papers

For the 2022 Chemistry paper, you will have to answer any six questions. This is a change from ‘any eight questions’ in previous papers. Another change is that you will not be required to answer at least two questions in Section A, which was a previous requirement. All questions carry 50 marks.

Section A

Section A is the ‘Mandatory Experiments’ part of the exam. The first experiment, Question 1, will be a titration. This could be determining the concentration or percentage of a substance (such as ethanoic acid) in a liquid (such as vinegar), or making an estimation (such as dissolved oxygen by redox titration).

Question 2 will be on organics. In the 2019 paper, this experiment focused on ethanoic acid, ethanal and ethanol. Question parts included describing a chemical test to show that ethanal can be easily oxidised, and identifying the catalyst used for a reaction based on an equation provided.

Question 3 is another experiment that is less predictable. This could be determining the relative molecular mass of a compound or testing for anions.

Section B

Section B contains general questions on the Chemistry syllabus.

The first question of Section B (Question 4) will be 12 short questions based on various topics from the syllabus. Question 5 will cover elements, atoms, the periodic table and molecules. Question 6 will focus on fuels like crude oil and heats of reaction, whereas Question 7 will look at acids and bases, including Brønsted‐Lowry and Arrhenius theory. Question 8 will cover organic chemistry and chemical equilibrium will be covered on Question 9. The final two questions are more changeable, and the different parts will be based on different topics on the syllabus.

For the 2022 paper, Question 4 will consist of 12 parts of which you must answer eight. The first 11 parts, 4(a) to 4(k), will be based on the Core syllabus. The final part, 4(l), will be based on the Options. Question 11 is similar—there will be four parts, of which two must be answered, and the final part will be based on the Options.

How to revise for Leaving Cert Chemistry exams

One of the best ways to revise for the Leaving Cert Chemistry exam is to practice with sample and past papers. Even though the format and marking scheme of the 2022 paper has changed slightly, this is still an effective method for practicing your timing and the level of detail you will have to go into for different questions. It will also help you identify which topics you are most confident in, so you can focus your studies on the ones you think need more development.

Likewise, it’s really important to practise your calculations and diagrams before the exam, as these will be key features on the paper. Key definitions and terms will be easy marks to pick up in the paper, so make sure you use whatever revision method you find the most effective for recalling short bites of information quickly. This might be simply highlighting key terms in your revision notes, or more detailed approaches such as flashcards for testing active recall.

You don’t just have to learn through textbooks—participating in class and going over the experiments will provide more memorable visual cues for recalling information in the exam.

Edco Chemistry exam papers

Edco provide exam papers for just Chemistry at the Higher and Ordinary levels, as well as combined Physics and Chemistry for Higher level students. These resources include a number of sample and past exam papers (including the 2021 paper), in addition to a guide to better grades, exam papers analysis charts and access to an online study hub.

Other resources for revising Leaving Cert Chemistry

Revise Wise – Leaving Cert Chemistry – Higher Level delivers content in a clear, easy-to-read format that incorporates sample exam questions and answers.

Essentials Unfolded – Leaving Cert Chemistry

Essentials Unfolded – Leaving Cert Chemistry covers the course content of both Higher and Ordinary levels, including the Options section of the course. It provides key definitions, clear diagrams and experiments to help get you ready for the exam. It is also available in Irish.

Less Stress More Success – Leaving Cert Chemistry

Less Stress More Success – Leaving Cert Chemistry presents course content in a condensed, organised and prioritised way. It is designed to help you remember facts long-term and stay on track for the exam by providing in-context questions to help you apply the knowledge you pick up as well as tips for maximising your marks.

Exam Edge: Chemistry – Higher Level

Exam Edge: Chemistry – Higher Level is an exam preparation guide that takes you through each type of question that appears on the Chemistry paper.