Chemistry (H): A straightforward higher level paper, with plenty of choice

Reaction to Leaving Cert 2021 Chemistry (Higher Level) by Tara Lyons, Chemistry teacher at The Institute of Education.

This was a very straightforward higher level paper, with plenty of choice. The layout was exactly as most years, with no changes and no surprises.

The core areas of the Leaving Cert chemistry syllabus- organic chemistry, atomic theory and volumetric analysis-  made up a substantial part of this paper. This ensured that students who had struggled to complete the entire syllabus still had plenty of choice.

As is the case every year, students would need to have been short and precise when answering all the questions.

Section A:

As expected, question 1 was a very nice question on volumetric analysis. This year it was on bleach, which was last asked in 2011. The question contained the usual mix of general practical procedures, calculations and questions that were uniquely specific to that experiment.

Question 2 is always an organic experiment. This year it was on preparing soap. The only unusual thing was that they used a different organic reagent to those used in previous questions on this topic. This should not have made a difference to students’ understanding of the experiment however.

Question 3, which is also experiment based, was a mix of flame tests and tests anions, which last appeared in this question in 2009. Part C was on the electrochemical series, something that has not appeared in question 3 before.

SECTION B:  

Question 4 (short questions)
This year students had to answer 8 out of 12 short questions. Normally they answer 8 out of 11.
The usual mix of questions and topics that cover the entire syllabus appeared in the short questions.

Question 5 was on atomic theory and involved the history of the periodic table and atomic radius, which then led into ionisation energies. This was a very straightforward question.

Question 6 was on fuels, as expected, and focused on a bio-LPG. The last part of the question was the Hess’ Law calculation, an old faithful that students would have been expecting.

Question 7 was a manageable question on acids, bases and Ph’s, with a mix of theory and calculations involving those topics.

Question 8 was the expected general organic chemistry question. Students were given a reaction scheme and had to determine the varying types of organic reactions that were occurring and identify the missing molecule.

In the last part, they introduced a question involving the concentration of alcohol in a hand sanitiser.

Question 9 was a full question on chemical equilibrium. Students had to extrapolate information from a graph. This was a nice question and students had to think for themselves. This was followed up by a calculation of Kc using a reaction that had unequal moles on either side of the equation. This is a regular type of calculation in this area, so students should not have had too much difficulty with it.

Question 10 had the usual three parts and students had to answer two. The topics were bonding, rates of reaction and stoichiometry. Again, these were expected topics and the layout of the questions was the same as previous years.

Due to covid, in question 11 students had to pick two out of four questions, Normally they would pick two from three.
The core topics of organic chemistry and atomic theory appeared here, along with water and the option.