UK Chemistry Olympiad

Designed to challenge and inspire, the UK Chemistry Olympiad is the leading chemistry competition for students in secondary education across the British Isles. This enriching experience is a unique opportunity for students to push themselves further and excel in the chemistry field. 

Budding chemists will develop critical problem-solving skills, learn to think more creatively and get a chance to test their knowledge in new, real-world situations. They could even find themselves flying off to represent the UK at the prestigious International Chemistry Olympiad.

COVID-19 Update

In light of COVID-19 Round two onwards of the the UK Chemistry Olympiad has been held remotely this year. The UK team are currently preparing for the international final which will also be held remotely.



Who can enter the Olympiad?

The UK Chemistry Olympiad is open to all secondary schools and colleges in the British Isles. However, the questions are aimed at students in their last year of study before higher education so we recommend that entrants should be at least 16.

The competition is designed to challenge, so will not be easy. Students should see it as an opportunity to develop their thinking and problem solving skills, and to test their existing knowledge of chemistry in real-world situations.

If you'd like to find out more about the Olympiad, why not listen to the Chemistry Olympiad webinar? The webinar was presented by Dr Penny Robotham, Chair of the Olympiad working group, in November 2019. Listen to the webinar.

How the Olympiad works

Run annually, the competition is made up of three stages that start with a written test and end with four students representing the UK at the prestigious International Chemistry Olympiad.


13 September 2019 – 12 January 2020

The first thing to do is register your school or college. Schools and colleges don’t need the names of the students taking part in order to register. Students wanting to register must do so through their school or college (see the FAQs section for more details).

Poster to encourage students to participate in the 2020 Chemistry Olympiad

Download our new student poster as an A4 or A3 pdf.

Round one: written test

20–30 January 2020

The first challenge for students is designed to test chemical knowledge through a written test with real-world chemistry problems. This round takes place at your school and can be taken in two halves to suit your timetable. We’ll email the test to teachers at the beginning of the test period with the mark scheme following later.

This stage often stimulates a lot of debate and conversation around what chemistry is all about, so it’s a great opportunity for your students to develop and showcase some of the skills they’ll need at university and beyond. It’s open to every institution teaching students aged 16–19 years in the British Isles.

Round two: residential weekend

26–29 March 2020

Round two is a stimulating long weekend hosted by the University of Cambridge. Up to 30 of the highest-scoring students from round one will take part in lessons and demonstrations on new topics from respected academics, teachers and technicians, followed by theoretical and practical tests. Read our guide to round two.

Four students from round two will be chosen to represent the United Kingdom at the International Chemistry Olympiad.

Round one: marking

31 January–12 February

We’ll release the mark scheme to schools on 30 January. Teachers mark all papers in school and have until 12 February to submit the scores to us. We ask that you post us physical copies of all papers that scored 40 out of 86 or above. We recommend making copies of any papers you post and keeping all papers until you have received the results as we may ask for others in spot-checks.

After receiving all your scores and papers, the exam moderators meet to spot-check the top marks and select 25–30 students from all entries to move on to round two.

UK training camp and the International Olympiad

Training weekend in May and July 2020 | Finals in July

After an intensive training camp to prepare our competitors, we will fly out to attend the International Chemistry Olympiad 2020 – and hopefully come back with gold!

What teachers and students say about the Olympiad

'This really enhances a love for the subject and I have several students now seriously considering a career and degree in chemistry, which would not be the case without this competition.'

Teacher, 2018 Olympiad

'Not only was it a great experience, I feel like it will be a huge asset to my UCAS application'

Student, 2018 Olympiad

'It is an enjoyable challenge to my chemistry knowledge.'

Student, 2018 Olympiad

"It can help make difficult A-level questions easier, as you get used to different, harder ways of asking questions, and so would be good preparation for the chemistry A-level exam."

Student, 2018 Olympiad


We’ve put together a range of resources for teachers and students to make sure everyone involved in the Olympiad feels well prepared and ready to take on the challenge.

Preparation for Round 2 onwards

Why not try the Baltic Chemistry Competition (BCC)? In the past, people who have performed well in the BCC have also done well in the International Chemistry Olympiad.

Have a look at the instructions and competition page to get going.

Baltic Chemistry competition logo

Case studies

Read about teachers' experiences with the Olympiad – and get their top tips for success.

Frequently asked questions

Q: I missed the deadline to register my school – will it still be possible to enter?

A: Unfortunately not. We have to move on to processing entries as soon as the deadline passes, so it’s not possible for us to accept late registrations.

Q: Do I need to have the names of my students ready before I register?

A: No, we won’t ask for the complete list until you upload your scores. All you need in order to register is the name of your school.

Q: Can I register as an individual student?

A: If you would like to take part in the Chemistry Olympiad, you must let your school or college know so that they can register on your behalf. We can’t accept registrations from students directly.

Q: May I register a school from outside the UK?

A: The competition is free to schools in the British Isles. International schools in China can also enter, and should register through ASDAN China. Accredited British international schools overseas are aligible to enter and for these schools a fee is payable. Please email us if you think you are eligible to enter.

Q: Are younger pupils allowed to enter?

A: Yes, however please bear in mind that the questions focus on topics typically covered in a student’s final year of study. Because of this, Year 12s who are confident in their knowledge could take part, but GCSE students may find the subject matter too advanced.

Q:Is a professional invigilator required?

A: No – the class teacher or other member of staff can invigilate the exam.

Contact us

If you have any questions, send us an email.