“The RSC‘s annual schools’ chemistry competition fuels curiosity and excitement about chemistry!”

Top of the Bench is a national competition for KS3 and KS4 students designed to encourage and reward high achievement in school chemistry students.


This national competition is for 14 – 16 year old students studying chemistry.
If you are a teacher please encourage your students to take part.
If you are a student please ask your teacher to register your team!

About...
Enthusing and exciting children with chemistry and encouraging them to consider further education and careers with chemistry is key to our efforts of securing the next generation of talented chemical scientists. The Top of the Bench competition is one of our longest-standing activities for school children: the RSC and its members have been organising and running it for more than 20 years.

Each year, teams of four 13- to 16-year-old students compete for the Top of the Bench trophy. The competition starts with regional heats, which are organised by our Local Sections and usually take place in the autumn term. Each Local Section committee decides the format of the regional heat, and they take on various forms, including quizzes, presentations and practical experiments. The regional winners then have a chance to compete against each other in the UK final in spring.

Beyond UK boundaries

This year our Local Sections organised a total of 28 regional heats across the UK. In addition, the Belgium Local Section’s European regional event allowed students from schools in Belgium and Luxembourg to take part in the competition.

Preliminary Round...

The selection process for the Top of the Bench competition begins with a Preliminary Round.

In former years, schools applied for a factual knowledge written test, provided by the RSC Local Section for Birmingham & the West Midlands which was completed at the school under exam conditions. Typically 30 scripts were requested, most returned and from these the top 10 schools invited attend the Regional Heat.

From 2019 we will be enhancing the Preliminary Round by inviting schools that apply to attend either University of Birmingham or Coventry University for both a factual knowledge written test and experimental practical. This will take place on a Saturday towards the end of November (see other pages for further details).

The top ~10 schools will subsequently be invited to The Regional Final which takes place at the University of Birmingham on a Saturday in mid January to select a team to represent the Section in the UK final.

Regional Final...

The top ~10 schools from the Preliminary Round held in November are invited attend the Regional Heat. The Regional Final takes place at the University of Birmingham on a Saturday in mid January to select a team to represent the Section in the UK final.
The top three teams in the Regional Final are awarded book tokens.

The Regional Final stage tests factual knowledge as well as practical and problem-solving skills where teamwork is an essential factor.

The winners of the Regional Heat progress to the National Final.

National Final...
The National Final, organised by the RSC, includes:

A short test of factual chemical knowledge
A practical chemical problem-solving team exercise.

Details of the date and location will be posted as soon as the information becomes available but are typically held around March!

Top of the Bench

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Top of the Bench

Preliminary Round

Top of the Bench

Regional Final