Top of the Bench

Fuel your students’ curiosity and excitement with our annual schools’ chemistry competition for 14–16 year olds

With the help of our members, we’ve been organising and running this national competition for more than 20 years. As a result, hundreds of students have had the opportunity to put their practical and teamwork skills into action.

Who can take part?

The competition is open to secondary schools across the UK. Students must be aged 14–16 to take part, and teams should be composed as follows:

Country Team composition 
England and Wales 
  • Two students from Year 9
  • One student from Year 10
  • One student from Year 11
Scotland
  • One student from S2
  • Two students from S3
  • One student from S4
Northern Ireland
  • Two students from Year 10
  • One student from Year 11
  • One student from Year 12

How does the competition work?

Regional heats

Run from October to January, our regional heats are organised and funded by our  Local Sections .

The heats are open to all schools and are accessible to students with additional needs. We encourage teams that are broadly representative of their school’s gender balance.

The winning team from each heat will progress to a national final.

The final

The national final is held in the spring each year and takes place at a UK university.

Activities on the day include:

  • An individual test of factual chemical knowledge
  • A team practical exercise
  • An interactive lecture
  • A prize giving ceremony

There is also a session for teachers to explore resources and ideas for the classroom with one of our education coordinators.

First prize is awarded to the best overall school performance, with five further teams receiving runners up prizes. The Jacqui Clee Award is given to the student who has demonstrated an outstanding individual contribution to the day.

How to enter

To apply to take part, you'll need to get in touch with the RSC local section for your area.

If you teach in the UK, enter your school's postcode below to find your local section.

Your local section for PENDING is PENDING.

CONTACT

What are local sections?

RSC local sections are run by volunteers, and help to coordinate events and networks in a particular area. There are 35 local sections covering different parts of the UK and Ireland.

Could your institution host the final in 2024?

We're inviting UK universities and science centres to apply to host the 2024 Top of the Bench national final.

Start your application today to join previous hosts Imperial College London, Loughborough University and the University of Birmingham in helping students develop their love of chemistry.

Download the host application form

A close-up photograph of three glass containers with different coloured liquids, standing on a black and white periodic table

Top of the Bench past papers

Use these past papers and answers to practise working through real questions from the Top of the Bench competition.

Need help?

If you have any questions about the competition or our supporting resources, send us an email.