What is the subject about? 

The Chemistry course deals with some topics introduced in the Junior cycle (acids, alkalis, chemical reactions, atomic structure) but in more depth. More advanced topics are also introduced such as radioactivity and analytical chemistry. 

The course includes 28 mandatory practical experiments which must be completed in the school laboratory. 

The Chemistry course is designed to encourage an appreciation of the scientific, social, economic, environmental, and technological aspects of chemistry and an understanding of the historical development of chemistry (e.g., how to periodic table was developed etc). It develops skills of observation, analysis, evaluation, communication, and problem solving. The syllabus consists of approximately 70% pure chemistry and the remaining 30% deals with the social and applied aspects of chemistry. 


Examples of topics covered include: 

Atomic structure – what makes up atoms, how they act, bond and the history of the atom. 

Volumetric analysis – Titrations and Redox reactions 

Organic chemistry – Deals with compounds made mostly of carbon. You will learn what makes an alcohol and alcohol, how to name compounds and how to draw them. 

Water chemistry – What makes water hard, how solutions containing water react etc. Acids and Bases, figuring out pH using calculations etc. 

Reaction mechanisms – How will these two things react and what will they make? 

– Gas laws and the mole 

– Radioactivity 


Higher Level covers more topics than Ordinary Level and requires more detailed knowledge of all topics. 

In addition to the required topics covered as part of the course, there are two optional topics that are also examined: 

Option 1: Industrial and atmospheric chemistry 

Option 2: Materials and electrochemistry 

These do not need to be covered – the examination can be completed without them. 


How is the subject assessed? 

The Leaving Certificate exam is examined with a single written exam three hours in duration. It includes questions on the mandatory experiments and the theory and applications of chemistry. 

– Each candidate must answer at least two questions from Section A (experimental section) and a maximum of six questions from Section B. 

– There are eleven questions in total on the exam paper, each carrying fifty marks. There is no element of continuous assessment, but experimental notebooks must be carefully maintained with records of the mandatory practical activities carried out. 


The Exam is structured as follows: 

There are 11 questions total. Each question is 50 marks. 8 questions must be attempted with at least 2 from section A. 

There is a good amount of choice on the examination paper. 

  • Section A 

Students must answer at least 2 of the 3 but you can choose to answer all 3 if preferred. 

Questions 1-3 

Based on the 28 mandatory practical activities carried out. 

  • Section B 

Students must answer at least 6 questions from this section. 

Question 4 

This has 11 short questions of which 8 must be answered. They can be taken from any part of the course. 

Question 5 

Long question requiring detailed answers. The topics asked here will be: 

  • • Atomic structure and periodic table 
  • • Chemical bonding, valency and formulas, shapes of molecules and intermolecular forces 
  • • Oxidation and reduction 

Question 6 

Long question requiring detailed answers. The topics asked here will be: 

  • • Organic chemistry – hydrocarbons 
  • • Fuels and thermochemistry 
  • • Rest of organic chemistry (alcohols, alkanes etc) 

Questions 7, 8 and 9 

Long questions requiring detailed answers. The topics asked here can vary. 

Questions 10 and 11 

Each of these questions contains a choice. Each one consists of 3 “half questions”, 2 of which must be answered. 

The optional topics are examined as part of these questions. 


Additional Comments 

– It is recommended that a student undertaking the course has a good understanding/interest of Junior Cycle Science 

– A reasonable competence in Maths is required, ordinary level is sufficient. 

– Each student should have an aptitude and interest for laboratory work 

– Recent observations from journalists writing about careers have suggested that the Irish Economy is experiencing a shortage of people with Chemistry skills. Yet points requirements to get into Applied Chemistry courses in Institutes of Technology are among the lowest. This is the case because the demand for these courses among school leavers is low. 

– For more information on the course, you can watch this sort video from the Career Portals YouTube channel 


Career Opportunities 

– Medicine or veterinary 

– Health/fitness 

– Business 

– Forensics/law 

– Biochemistry 

– Pharmaceutical 

– Toxicology/ hospital lab testing 

– Lab analyst (quality control) 

– Academic/ research 

– Cosmetics industry 

– Petroleum 

– Food 

– Commerce 

– Journalism 

– Education (secondary or university)