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Subject Choice

Leaving Certificate

Physics and Chemistry

Career Zone
NFQ Level
2 Years


This course combines parts of both Leaving Cert Physics and Leaving Cert Chemistry into a single course which is examined separately. It includes mandatory practical experiments which must be completed and written up, as well as a written examination on the theory and applications of both disciplines.

Why Study Physics & Chemistry

Physics contributes to a student’s future career in many ways. It helps, in conjunction with the other Leaving Certificate subjects, to provide a broad, balanced education for any student. Physics teaches students to think logically and enables them to express their thoughts in a concise manner. The skills and knowledge developed through their study of physics can be useful in a wide variety of situations.

What kind of Student would Physics and Chemistry suit

  • Anyone considering a career in a scientific discipline, such as physics, chemistry, environmental science, or medicine.
  • Students who have an interest in both physics and chemistry, but don't have enough time to commit to both subjects separately. Biology students may fall into this category.
This subject builds skills and knowledge that are particularly useful for careers in the following Career Sectors:

Grades Awarded

Marks Distribution 2019:

Listed below are the percentage distributions of marks from the 464 students who sat the Higher Level Physics and Chemistry exam in 2019.

Listed below are the percentage distributions of marks from the 74 students who sat the Ordinary Level Physics and Chemistry exam in 2019.


Explore Marks Distribution for all Subjects:

Course Overview

This remains a minority subject in terms of its popularity with less than 500 students sitting the exam at Higher Level and just 140 at Ordinary Level last year.

Due to large amounts of overlap, it is not possible to take this subject with either Physics or Chemistry.

Course Content

The syllabus consists of the following main topics:

  • Mechanics including velocity, acceleration, mass, work, and energy
  • Light - optics: the laws of reflection and refraction, mirrors and lenses
  • Light - wave theory; electromagnetic spectrum and photoemission
  • Introduction to Static and Current Electricity
  • Magnetism and Electromagnetism
  • Heat, Temperature and Kinetic Theory
  • Structure of the Atom and the Periodic Table
  • Radioactivity
  • Molecular Theory - structure and shape of simple molecules
  • Chemical Bonding - ionic, covalent and metallic bonds
  • Chemical Reactions and Chemical Equations (including relative atomic mass)
  • Introduction to Thermochemistry and the First Law of Thermodynamics
  • Chemical Reactions - acid-base theory; oxidation and reduction
  • Electrochemistry and the Activity Series
  • The Chemistry of Hydrogen, Oxygen and Chlorine
  • Introduction to Organic Chemistry

Physics and Chemistry is an experimental and practical subject and practical work by students is regarded as an integral part of the course. A list of suitable experiments to be undertaken by students is included in each section of the syllabus.

Exam Structure

Leaving Certificate Physics and Chemistry is examined at two levels - Ordinary and Higher level. Assessment is by terminal examination paper. Higher level candidates are expected to demonstrate a greater depth of understanding than are Ordinary level candidates. Records of practical work done by students are kept and made available for inspection.

Ordinary & Higher Papers

This is a 3-hour exam with six questions to be answered. Students can answer any three questions from Section I and any three questions from Section II. All the questions carry equal marks. However, in each section, one additional mark will be given to each of the first two questions for which the highest marks are obtained.

Career Possibilities

This subject is useful in related careers in a scientific discipline, such as physics, chemistry, environmental science, or medicine.

Career Guidance

Subject Group: Science

These subjects demonstrate how to explore nature using carefully planned methods, and teach the basic methods and findings of scientific investigation.

Required for 3rd Level?

This subject is not an essential requirement for any courses in the CAO system.


What subjects did you take in school and how have these influenced your career path?

Maria O'Neill, Civil Engineer

In hindsight, I am happy to say I wouldn't have done anything differently to date! In my Junior Cert I did 9 subjects ; Maths, Irish, English, History, Geography, Science, Business Studies, French and Tech Graphics. I liked Languages and history the least. I won't lie, Maths, Geography, and Tech Graphics were the ones I enjoyed the most.

When I was choosing for my leaving Cert I still hadn't decided what I would do when I was finished. I was thinking of Engineering, Teaching or Physiotherapy. I wanted to leave my options open. To do physio you need a language (to get in to UCD) and 2 science subjects. I decided to do Maths, Irish, English, French, Geography, Physics and Chemistry for my leaving. That left all the options open.

I was good at Business Studies, but after looking at courses in college, I discovered you don't usually need a business subject to get into a business course. This is not the case for Science based courses. In 6th year I took up Applied Maths. Since I was doing Physics and Maths I had a good background for the subject. Twenty classes and just homework, and I got an honour. If anyone was to ask me if they should do it, if you like maths, its a great subject!

... View Full Interview

Jason Ruane, Computer Programmer

In secondary school I took Physics and Chemistry since I loved science. I also took Business Organisation but that was for the life skills it teaches rather than an intrinsic desire. I would gladly have enjoyed doing all the science subjects, to the complete detriment of all others but in hind-sight I am glad I took a subject such as Biz. Org. as it gave a rounding aspect to my secondary schooling.

I would have liked to have done Technical Drawing possibly but had to make a choice. I was only mediocre in German and Irish but again am glad I did them for at least secondary school as it challenged me and I did not get too narrowly focused on the technical subjects (there was plenty of time for that in third-level). In hindsight I realise that Maths was more important than I imagined and the two science subjects stood me in good stead. The choices I made for the subject selection was made by my passion for the sciences. Luckily I was afforded this leeway as the points for my intended course were not particularly high at the time.

... View Full Interview

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