This page covers topics on exam format and topics.

Competition Overview

The tournament will consist of an individual round, a topics round, a team round, and a relay-style (“Breaking Bonds”) round. Every student will take the individual exam alone, work with a teammate as a pair on one of the three topic tests, and then work with all team members on the team round and Broken Bonds round.

Each exam round is 60 minutes long. The time will be projected and/or announced in the exam rooms. Necessary equations, constants, and a periodic table will be provided.

Teams and individual students will also be provided with identification numbers during check-in that must be bubbled and written on the top cover page of every exam to be graded. Failure to do so will lead to a score of zero since the grading team will be unable to identify who is part of what team. This is to ensure that the graders are not impartial in any way.

Please also review our the Cheating Policy, which is found in the Rules tab under Event info.

Individual Exam

Questions consist of multiple parts that must each be answered with numerical results or short answers. Only answers written in the given space, or clearly labelled answers on the back of the page, will be graded. Correct answers with reasonable supporting work will receive full credit, while correct answers without work will not receive full credit. If more than one answer is given when only one answer is asked for on the question, that question will be marked as completely incorrect.

While team members may be placed together in the same exam room, they are not permitted to communicate with other team members or their coach in any way during the individual rounds.

Topic Exams

The same rules for the individual exam apply to the topic tests. The main difference is that each team of six students will split themselves into three pairs of two students each. Each pair will work together on one of the three topic tests. There will be three topic tests, each focusing on a different application of chemistry. This year’s topics follow:

  • Chemistry of Cleaning
  • The topic exam centered around cleaning will focus on the incorporation of chemistry into daily and industrial cleaning agents with the end goal of educating students on how these ubiquitous objects work from a chemical perspective.
  • Chemistry of Art
  • Introductory chemical principles will be applied to various mediums of art. Prior knowledge of drawing, painting, sculpting, etc. will not be required to successfully complete this exam.
  • Chemistry of Oceans
  • This exam will test basic chemical principles as they relate to the chemistry of marine environments, including but not limited to its constituents, ecology, and climate change.

Team Exam

Team members are permitted and encouraged to work together on these questions. The team round will require answers that involve written explanations of students’ thought processes in addition to numerical answers. Only responses written in the provided spaces on the exam will be graded. Clearly labelled answers on the back of each page will also be accepted. Students are not permitted to communicate with their coach in any way during this time, but they are encouraged to collaborate among themselves to work through the problems.

Students will be provided at least 3 additional blank copies of their exam, however only the scored copy will be accepted. Please be certain that answers have been recorded in this scored copy (which will be clearly labeled), otherwise the team will lose all points for the questions not answered.

Breaking Bonds

Each team will choose a packet of 3 questions of a certain level of difficulty (easy, medium, hard) to answer at a time. Upon completion of the questions, the entire packet will be turned in and a new question set can be chosen, at any difficulty level. These questions will be drawn from a broad range of general chemistry topics.

The most points will be earned for correct responses to the hard packets (7 points per question) and medium packets (3 points per question) and the least points will be earned for the easy packet (1 point per question). Bonus points are available for completing an entire packet correctly. Scores and rankings for each team are shown live during this round, as well as the difficulty of packets being attempted.

Coaches and guardians are welcome to attend the Breaking Bonds round to cheer on and watch their teams compete live against others.

Exam Subjects

The concepts covered will be similar to those covered in the previous years’ exams. This year’s topics may include, but are not limited to:

  • Chemical and Physical Equilibrium
  • Acid-base models and reactions, relative strengths of acids and conjugate bases (Ka and Kb), Gibbs free energy, enthalpy, entropy, physical properties and their connection to bonding: enthalpies of vaporization, viscosity, boiling point and melting points, vapor pressure, Raoult’s Law, real liquids and ideal liquids, solubility of solids in liquids, Keq, Kc, and Kp.
  • Chemical Structures and Properties
  • Rules for electron filling, bonding models, Lewis structures, VSEPR, hybridization, periodic trends and the deviations, properties of gases, stoichiometry.
  • Kinetics, Electrochemistry and Thermodynamics
  • Arrhenius and Van’t Hoff equation, rate determining steps, concentration vs. time graphs, half-life concepts, zero order, first order, and second order correlations. Electrochemistry topics include Nernst Equations, galvanic (spontaneous) cells, electrolytic (non-spontaneous) cells, and salt bridges, effects of pH and size, and general diagrams. Thermodynamics topics include heat and work concepts, heat calorimeters (constant pressure) and bomb calorimetry (constant volume).

This is not a comprehensive list and is meant to guide preparation.

For information on scoring and appeals, refer to the Rules subsection. For information on awards and intermissions, refer to the General subsection.