Exceptional Performances in UK Chemistry Olympiad

7th March 2023
BY Dr Jamie McManus, Head of Chemistry

The Olympiad

The UK Chemistry Olympiad Round 1 aims to select a UK team to compete in the International Chemistry Olympiad, which this year will take place in Switzerland.

Two rounds of examination occur. Round 1 is open to all, and this year there were 11,838 entries from across the country. Round 2 is by invitation only as it seeks to whittle the top candidates from Round 1 down to a squad of six. 2022 had been record-breaking year for Winchester College in the first round but the 2023 entrants have surpassed that performance.

 The Paper

71 College pupils sat the Round 1 paper, including 17 enthusiastic lower school pupils who chose not to be fazed by the prospect of two hours of examination at a level beyond A-level.

The question paper itself began by taking candidates to their limits with a question on the MASA Artemis and space rocket and SpaceX’s Raptor engine, before commemorating the work of 20th Century Chemist Linus Pauling as proposer of the concept of electronegativity.

Next, the candidate’s ability to think in 3-D was thoroughly tested by questions on the crystal structure of boron nitride and the isomerism shown by copper(II) glycinate – an everyday dietary supplement.

Contemporary issues were addressed with a question about vitamin E acetate a component of vaping liquids which breaks down into toxic products on heating, i.e. when vaping is occurring.

Finally, with this year’s International Olympiad venue in mind, the paper asked questions about the process of cheese making and the chemistry that leads to the holes so common in many Swiss cheeses – a great way to round off a feast of challenging Chemistry.


Winchester’s strong top year Chemists lead the way with four pupils scoring over 70%. There was a record haul of medals overall for Winchester with 18 Gold, 24 Silver and 26 Bronze awards. Those with scores in the top 0.28% out of the 11,838 candidates have been invited to take part in Round 2, which means that A-level pupils Christopher and Vinson still have plenty of even tougher questions ahead of them.

Related Stories