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Separate the impurity? What impurity?

Everything that happened before today’s chemistry exam, it seemed, was, well, less than ideal.  I spent most of yesterday going through past papers and cramming redox couples and chemical colours (the cramming took about ten minutes) and by the time had finished, it was twenty past ten.  For some reason sleep wouldn’t come my way until almost midnight, despite going to bed one-and-a-quarter hours earlier, and when I woke up at quarter past seven the next morning, I was sleepy; the kind of sleepy you get when you don’t get enough sleep.  When I arrived at the hall, I discovered that I was in E8: a downstairs classroom that faces the quad; not an ideal classroom at all.

The exam itself, though, was fine.  I wasn’t pushed for time like I was in the other exams, and I only had to rack my brain once.  That one time was at the end of the organic chemistry paper.  Now, it never occured to me that the reaction between hydrochloric acid and a tertiary alcohol produced more than one product at all, so I had no idea how to separate them.  I sort of guessed, using eeny-meeny-miny-mo, that distillation might be used.  One in three chance, therefore, ninety per cent chance of being wrong.  (The reflux apparatus doesn’t count, so one-in-three, not one-in-four.)  I still haven’t managed to find out what the impure product is.

The first question in the aqueous solutions paper amused me.  I haven’t seen particle diagrams since third form, so to get to answer a question about them now was quite fun.  The “find the mistake” questions in the oxidation-reduction paper were a nice change from the tedious questions that normally inhabit NCEA papers; a sign, perhaps, that examiners are gaining experience in setting NCEA-style questions.  Those two papers were, I found, quite straightforward.  The particles and thermochemical principles paper, being a new standard, was arguably a slight mystery with regard to its format.  If you ask me, there was too much particles and not enough thermochemical principles (that is, too much of the writing questions).

With one less standard, the length of the exam was a bit shorter; in fact, if you added up the recommended times for each paper, they only totaled to two hours and forty-five minutes.  None of the papers required rushing; in fact, aqueous solutions was considerably shorter than forty-five minutes’ worth, though by the time I had finished oxidation-reduction and organic chemistry, and had one hour forty-five to do the remaining two forty-five minute papers, I had started to relax with timing.  I finished with just under ten minutes to spare, in a remarkable contrast to the level three physics exam (where I rushed the entire exam and barely made it).

For once, the three words I have so often used to describe exams in this period need not be used here.  So even if I started the NCEA exams with a low, I walk out of NCEA exams after my only decent attempt at one.  Only one exam remains: scholarship physics, before which I have a three-day break.  I run a risk of being too nonchalant with such a long timeframe, but it’ll make a nice contrast to six exams in eight days (including weekends), and with that, I become slightly more relaxed.

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