The Chemistry Olympiad is the leading chemistry competition for students in UK secondary education; designed to stretch and challenge students and is set by a team of teachers and university chemists. The exam paper takes students significantly beyond the A level syllabus and encourages them to think about science in the way they would at university.
Dr. Robotham of our Chemistry department has entered teams into the Olympiad since it was launched in 2011 and has had students succeed in receiving certificates, awarded only to the top 25% of entries, a remarkable 7 times in a row, a winning streak which is unparalleled in the Olympiad’s history.
In June 2018 NMSC entered 16 students into the Olympiad and they produced a stellar performance, as all ranked in the top 25% of 7966 entries in the UK.
Our breakdown is as follows:
- 4 x students were entered a year early – 1 x gold, 2 x silver, and 1 x copper certificates
- 3 x students in the top 15%
- 6 x students in the top 8%
- 4 x students have the remarkable achievement of being in the top 0.7%.
Ranking them in the top 50 in the UK!
We asked our remarkable 4 Roentgenium winners about their experience of the Chemistry Olympiad:
What was your experience of the Chemistry Olympiad?
Student 1– I enjoyed solving the Olympiad problems; trying to work out the solutions step-by-step, patiently and successfully, and the sense of satisfaction when I reached the correct answer was the best bit for me.
Student 2 – It was a thrilling experience to sit a paper uniquely written for the more able students. The questions have a slightly different flavor to those of A level Chemistry, in that they are less standardised and require more scientific intuition.
Student 3 – The C3L6 was a very challenging but rewarding experience. The delight of solving demanding problems by breaking them down into a simpler set of problems was a particularly useful skill that sitting the Olympiad has helped me to develop. One of the most enjoyable aspects was the organic synthesis question whereby, through a fundamental understanding of reaction mechanisms and lateral thinking, one could arrive at the final structure of the compound.
Student 4 – The chemistry Olympiad is very challenging. To be honest, the questions in it were the most difficult questions I’ve ever come across.
How has the Olympiad helped you?
Student 1 – It certainly helped my UCAS application as it is strong evidence to support my abilities in Chemistry. Personally, I think the Olympiad is a good chance to discover your own potential- you will never know what that is until you reach it.
Student 2 – Well, the certificate certainly helps to differentiate you from other candidates in the eyes of university admission officers! However, the more important benefit is being invited to a Summer Camp at Cambridge and getting to meet some of the brightest students in the UK, some of whom I keep in touch with regularly and we support each other both
academically and in life in general.
Student 3 – The Olympiad has helped fine-tune my problem-solving abilities and has enabled me to fulfill my intellectual curiosity. In terms of my A-level studies, I believe that the Olympiad has had a profound impact on deepening my understanding of Chemistry from both a physical and organic perspective. It was also useful to include as part of the UCAS application as universities really value students who go above and beyond the curriculum to challenge their understanding academically.
Would you encourage other students to take part?
Student 1: Definitely! Have a go, seeking the satisfaction that solving problems brings you.
Student 4: I like to do the challenging questions; the Chemistry Olympiad stimulated my interest in Chemistry and of course I’d encourage others to participate it.
Student 2: Definitely. No matter how it goes, seeing some of the more difficult questions beyond the scope of A levels provides a deeper insight into degree level Chemistry, which can help you to make decisions regarding Uni choices. On top of that, it’s likely that you’re better than you think at Chemistry! So just have a go!
Student 3: For individuals who are naturally inquisitive about chemistry, then sitting the C3L6 is a great opportunity to explore their intellectual curiosity further, alongside developing problem-solving skills. I would also encourage other students to have Olympiad ‘buddies’ to create a sense of friendly competition allowing them to support each other whilst preparing for the challenge. Another big incentive is the fact that if you qualify in the top 0.7% or top 50 of all applicants then you get invited to a 4-day residential camp at St. Catherine’s College and Corpus Christi College in Cambridge.
This is a highly-coveted opportunity to experience what it’s like to be lectured and taught by fellows who are well-renowned in Chemistry globally, as well as experiencing formals in the colleges’ traditional dining halls.
Think you have what it takes to be entered into the Olympiad? Take a look at the interactive tutorials on the Royal Society of Chemistry: Learn Chemistry website.