Jump to main content
Jump to site search
Access to RSC content Close the message box

Continue to access RSC content when you are not at your institution. Follow our step-by-step guide.

Issue 3, 2009
Previous Article Next Article

What's difficult about chemistry? An Irish perspective


This semi-longitudinal investigation identified the chemistry topics that the majority of Irish chemistry pupils/students find difficult, from Junior Certificate level (age 15/16 years) right the way through to University level (age 18+). Pupils/students completed a five point, Likert-type questionnaire listing the topics covered in the different chemistry courses, which asked them whether they found each topic difficult or easy. They were also asked to identify which five topics they found most difficult, ranked 1 to 5. This paper highlights the topics that Irish pupils/students find difficult in chemistry. Topics identified by Irish students are similar to results of studies carried out in the UK by Ratcliffe and in Scotland by Johnstone. This study indicates that a number of topics ranked high in terms of perceived difficulty in both the Leaving Certificate chemistry pupils and University chemistry students’ lists. These topics were Volumetric Analysis Calculations, Redox Reactions and Concentration of Solutions. The persistence of these topics being seen as difficult throughout the pupils’/students’ experience of chemistry indicates that problems associated with these topics have never truly been addressed. Other findings indicate that the mathematical ability of the pupils/students has an effect on the topics pupils/students chose as difficult or very difficult.

Back to tab navigation

Article information

Chem. Educ. Res. Pract., 2009,10, 204-218
Article type
Front/Back Matter

What's difficult about chemistry? An Irish perspective

P. E. Childs and M. Sheehan, Chem. Educ. Res. Pract., 2009, 10, 204
DOI: 10.1039/B914499B

Social activity

Search articles by author