Five-decade exam challenge is set on-line for UK pupils

27 May 2008

The Royal Society of Chemistry invited schools to nominate pupils for a unique on-line exam challenge, with questions set from GCSE and O-level papers from the last five decades. With over 400 schools now entered to take part, registration is now closed.

The original press release for this competition, along with further information, can be found below.


14May 2008

The Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) is to run a unique on-line examination next month to see how ready today's 16-year-olds are to address the science-based issues facing the world of their future, which will place increased priority on energy provision, the environment, health, food, water and materials. 

The innovative feature of this competitive exam is that its questions will be drawn from the hundreds of GCSE and O-level papers in chemistry from the last five decades.

Announcing the competition today Richard Pike, chief executive of the RSC, said:

"In the past, there was a strong analytical or logical element in the examination of science, with less on the overall context. Today, by contrast, the emphasis is on a wide range of topical issues, with limited demands for complex problem-solving."

"Employers in industry, academia and the wider business community tell us they want the best of both worlds. They, too, no doubt will be interested in the outcome of the competition, which should be an exciting challenge for young scientists."

First prize will be a cheque for 1,000, and the next nine students will receive 500. Similar sums will go to the chemistry departments of the schools of these winners. Certificates will also be awarded to the top ten students.

Almost 5000 secondary schools in the UK have been contacted, and asked to nominate students to sit a two-hour examination from their classrooms on Friday, 27 June.

Dr Pike added: "I have no doubt that the best candidates will be very successful. Our reason for running this competition is to draw attention to the fact that, in an increasingly complex world, the rigour of analytical thinking, combined with breadth of knowledge, becomes even more important.'

"Without the sound analytical basis of science, big policy decisions can lead to big mistakes. Conversely, the right grounding will provide great opportunities for individuals and companies in a highly competitive world.

"Prospective changes in UK science education must address these skills needs."

Example Questions


The diagram shows a simple apparatus that can be used to show that plants in sunlight take in carbon dioxide and give out oxygen.

diagram of a plant in a flask full of water

Suggest one way of doing each of the following:

(a) saturating the water with carbon dioxide,

(b) proving that sunlight is necessary,

(c) proving that the gas given out is oxygen,

(d) showing that some of the carbon dioxide in the water has been used up in the experiment.



Petrol is a mixture of hydrocarbons such as octane, C8H18. When petrol is burned in a car engine, a large amount of carbon dioxide is produced.


This car uses 114g of petrol to travel one mile.

Calculate the mass of carbon dioxide produced when this car travels one mile.

Assume that petrol is octane and that combustion is complete. (Relative atomic masses: H = 1; C = 12; O = 16)

The combustion of octane can be represented by this equation:

C8H18 + 12 O2right arrow 8CO2 + 9H2O

Contact and Further Information

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