What laboratory skills do students think they possess at the start of University?
To be able to design a laboratory course it is important to know what laboratory skills students possess before the course starts. This way the course can focus on developing skills in areas that are lacking. Despite the extensive literature on laboratory education, there are few studies on what laboratory skills students have at this stage of their education. In this work, we aimed to address this by surveying students’ percieved knowledge, experience and confidence of a range of laboratory competencies at the start of a chemistry degree. Our key findings were that students percieved to have knowledge, experience and confidence of performing lower-order competencies such as practical techniques, but lacked the knowledge, experience and confidence to perform higher-order competencies such as designing experiments. From our results, we propose that instructors should be aware that experiments focussing on certain practical skills may not teach students how to perform that technique but are providing more experience and confidence. We also propose instructors should use laboratory courses to teach higher-order skills such as experimental design and problem-solving where these skills are more evidently lacking.