A-level Chemistry Examination Paper, Vintage 1981

I don’t know how many followers of this blog are interested in Chemistry, but I thought I’d continue my irregular series of postings of old examination papers with my Chemistry A-level. This particular Paper was Paper 1 of 2 (although I did also take the “special” Paper 3). As you can see Paper 1 was of multiple-choice format, with 40 questions to answer in 75 minutes, which seems a bit stiff! Looking over the exam just now I can’t believe that there was a time when I actually knew this stuff. Nowadays I can only really do the first few questions – because they’re really physics – and I don’t even remember what most of the words mean in the other questions!

Anyway, as usual, ¬†any comments from people who’ve done A-level Chemistry more recently would be very welcome through the Comments Box, e.g. is there anything¬† in this paper that you wouldn’t expect to see nowadays? Is it easier, harder, or about the same as current A-level Chemistry papers?

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21 Responses to “A-level Chemistry Examination Paper, Vintage 1981”

  1. Crikey. Looks eerily familiar – even the same board whose papers we did, if memory serves. Can’t help with the ‘has it changed since’ question, though, as I took the corresponding three papers two years earlier, in 1979.

  2. Bryn Jones Says:

    The “physics” questions surprise me. I don’t remember anything like that in the Chemistry A-level papers I sat (which were from the Welsh Joint Education Committee).

    There are many graphs in that paper too.

    • telescoper Says:

      Didn’t you have graphs in your chemistry exam? I recall we were always plotting graphs in chemistry lessons…

    • Bryn Jones Says:

      I think we had some graphs, but not many. My memory is a bit hazy.

      We certainly did not have multiple-choice questions.

      I recall nearly all of one chemical falling into a liquid during the chemistry practical exam. I had to retrieve some of the powder from the test tube using a pencil to allow me to answer other parts of that question.

    • Bryn Jones Says:

      We used to have lots of benzene rings. I made a stencil out of cardboard to draw them. One lesson had 66 of them, if I remember correctly.

      And during one organic chemistry lesson, the classroom was struck by a tornado.

  3. Same as DrAust except mine was in 1966 and the format was quite different.

    The range of topics seemed roughly the same.

  4. Delighted to see the tea cup mark on page 1. I was starting to wonder how you could possibly have kept all these exam papers in such mint condition for over 30 years.

    • telescoper Says:

      Yes, the coffee cup mark is of a more recent provenance than the examination itself. About a week ago, in fact.

  5. Anton Garrett Says:

    Organic chemistry was a lot easier before they made the electrons move via curly arrows.

    • telescoper Says:

      I rather liked the curly arrows, actually, although I was a bit perturbed later on to discover that they are not accounted for by the Dirac equation…

  6. Reblogged this on peyami.

  7. Errmmm…

    Shouldn’t Q3 be “Which one of the following diagrams correctly represents the way in which the distribution of molecular *speeds* varies with temperature?”

    Each component of the velocity distribution is Gaussian with a mean of zero. The M-B distribution describes speeds, not velocities.

  8. I wouldn’t be able to answer some of these questions, and I’ve just finished a four-year degree in Medicinal Chemistry. Admittedly some missed answers may be due to poor memory on my part, and we didn’t do a lot of physical chemistry, but I definitely haven’t ever seen anything like question 3 before.

  9. John Peacock Says:

    I haven’t seen recent A-level Chemistry papers, but my son did Advanced Highers in Chemistry and Physics a few years ago. The Advanced Higher is a little more ambitious than A-level (a fact sadly not appreciated by many admissions tutors in English universities), but in any case this allows a relative statement about changes in different subjects, comparing his 2004 Advanced Higher papers with my 1974 A levels. My overall impression from this was that Chemistry has not suffered as great a dumbing-down as we have seen in Physics. This may be in part that the old Chemistry papers were less mathematical, and so had less to lose when maths content was reduced. But I don’t think it’s just that: the questions seemed more challenging in style, with less of the hand-holding we see in Physics questions these days. You might see this as a deliberate attempt to keep standards up, risking a hit of declining university admissions, but although some departments did close, Chemistry numbers seem to be holding up as well as Physics.

    • telescoper Says:

      There are many more chemistry departments than physics, of course, since more of the “new universities” have the former than the latter. One strategy adopted by some institutions is to incorporate such departments in Forensic Science instead of Chemistry, but I don’t know how successful this has been.

  10. Monica Grady Says:

    Great – an A-level paper I can complete, without too much problem. Probably a good thing, since i’m teaching inorganic chemistry to second year undergrads this year…
    m
    x

  11. telescoper Says:

    The consensus on this seems to be that it’s not much different in standard from current papers. I will post the long questions Paper (Paper 2) in due course when I get round to scanning it.

  12. […] A few days ago I posted Paper 1 of the Chemistry A-level examination I took way back in 1981. Judging by the blog stats, that seemed to attract a bit of interest so I thought I’d follow it up with Paper 2 which, in contrast to the multiple-choice style of Paper 1, consists of longer questions and perhaps gives a better idea of whether anything has changed with current L […]

  13. Having just finished A Level Chemistry this year, I was surprised by how much I reckon I could complete of this paper, and that it was multiple choice (so many people seem to think it’s a modern exam invention!) I had no multiple choice. This paper is definitely more difficult but not as dramatically different as, say, Physics papers are over time.
    There are certainly questions I have seen pretty much identically on current A level papers, and whilst it is more mathematical than would be expected now, it’s not a massive difference. Mean multiple choice though.

    • telescoper Says:

      I think the toughest thing about this paper is having to answer 40 questions in 75 minutes, which is less than 2 minutes each. I must have done OK, however, as I got an A..

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