Local chemistry Olympiad exam more difficult than anticipated by students

By Colin Haroutunian, Intern

Junior Teddy Pappas and four other North students attempted the local 2018 Chemistry Olympiad exam on March 22nd at the University of Michigan campus in Dearborn. None of the five participants would proceed to the national-level competition.

According to ACS, the Chemistry Olympiad has multiple levels, including local and national competitions. While all high school students can participate in the local competition, chemistry teacher Steven Kosmas noted that much of the exam’s featured topics were covered in AP Chemistry.

“The foundation is developed by taking rigorous science classes (e.g. Honors Chemistry, AP Chemistry, and Organic Chemistry),” he said via email. “The exam is very challenging, so students are expected to study the practice exams outside of class time.”

In previous years, student advancements have been slim as well. Kosmas said that over the past decade, only three students have advanced to the next level of the Olympiad. He also said some students are unbothered by not reaching the national exam, due to its five hour long process, which includes multiple choice and free response questions, as well as lab practicals.

Despite the effort, Pappas said he was left confused by some of the advanced terminology within the test. Even with his knowledge of past exams, Pappas said that he believes he did not do enough to study, and should have used more time practicing. He added that, for him, the hardest part of the exam was being unaware of the definitions of some of the terms.

“I thought I did alright. I think I got all the questions that I knew what they were saying correct, and I totally got none of my guesses right,” Pappas said.

Viewing prior exams was also a suggestion which Kosmas had given the team’s participants, especially with the exam’s intensity. And while the students did not advance to the national exam, he understands that the competition in the Olympiad is fierce nonetheless.

“I expect my students to apply a growth mindset and learn as much chemistry as possible.  My expectation is that our best students attend academic competitions to push to the next level,” Kosmas said via email.  “As a result, I see everyone as having met my expectations.”

Although the participants were unable to advance to the upper level competitions of the Olympiad, Pappas remains optimistic for his future involvement.

“I was hoping to do good enough to move on,” he said. “But, there’s always next year.”