o The Frog Blog: Exam Reaction 2011 - Leaving Certificate Chemistry

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Exam Reaction 2011 - Leaving Certificate Chemistry

This years leaving certificate higher level chemistry exam stayed true to form and again reflected the shift in focus also evident within the biology and physics exams. The exam was awash with topical references to current events and provided a stern test of the candidates' understanding of the practical applications of chemistry. The exam was long, with many of the questions requiring a thorough read before being attempted - which may have affected time management. Saying that, the paper would have suited those with ambitions of achieving a top grade.

Section A, which examines the pupils' understanding of the mandatory practicals, contained three decent questions. The often tipped sodium hypochloride - potassium iodide titration finally made an appearance along with questions on distillation and recrystallization of the impure benzoic acid. Pupils needed to attempt at least two of the questions within section A but many may well have attempted all of them. Section B provided a good mix of questions, of which the candidates' needed to answer at least six. There was a strong organic tinge to the questions, which probably would have been welcomed. Question 4, the short questions, were tricky yet I am sure most would have been able to find eight parts to attempt. Question 5 was a very straightforward question on the Periodic Table and atomic structure and shouldn't have caused too many problems. Question 6 was a very well conceived question on fuels and referenced the current unrest in Libya and Ireland's dependence on that country as a source of crude oil. The question shouldn't have caused too many problems. Acids and bases were examined within question 7 and question 8 looked at organic chemistry - both very doable. Question 9 was a challenging test on equilibrium yet was fairly doable. However, I was very surprised to see that half of the question was devoted to the reaction between crystalline cobalt (II) chloride and deionised water - cobalt (II) chloride was recently banned from use in schools and some students may not have had the chance to complete that practical. Question 10 requires two from three parts and was fair, focusing on rates of reactions and including brilliant questions on alcohol in the body and radiocarbon dating. The final question again had a wide choice within and included two questions on environmental chemistry, bonding and on Teflon.

Overall, another well constructed science paper from the State Examinations Commission. The final science exam is the agricultural science paper tomorrow. Last year's ag. science paper was universally condemned for going beyond the scope of the syllabus. Its unsuitability as an assessment tool was confirmed by the Chief Examiners report published recently. Pupils and teachers alike hope for a fairer exam, his time round ,which continues to assess pupils' understanding of the principles of agriculture and keeps up to date with current issues but without going beyond the syllabus.