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National Scientific Thinking Challenge

A banner for the NSTC with logos from all the universities that created and support the challenge.

National Scientific Thinking Challenge for Year 10

In 2021, a group of friends from 6 different university Chemistry Departments created a test for Year 10 students to try. It was the middle of the pandemic and learning had been horribly disrupted.

We work at Warwick, Southampton, Bristol, Newcastle, Manchester and Oxford Universities.

We wanted to encourage students and give them something positive and enjoyable to try at a difficult time.

Now, after more than 20,000 people have had a go, teachers and students have told us that they like the challenge and we looking forward to running it every year.

Nick Barker posed photo in a lab
Nick Barker

"From my experiences last year: the process was made as easy as possible with minimal extra work for my school, support was always immediate. The challenge itself was a great way to test and encourage deep thinking skills in STEM related contexts."

Jason Blake - Sherborne School for Girls

Here are the main things for you to know:

  • It is free of charge and will take place during the last week of April and first week of May.
  • We have 2 slots you can pick from : 22/04/24-26/04/24 and 29/04/24-03/05/24

  • We want this to be as inclusive as possible. Any type of school from anywhere in the UK is welcome to enter.
  • You can enter as many students as you wish from Year 10 only
  • Need to have groups doing the challenge at different times? see our FAQ
  • You have one week to complete the challenge during one science lesson. (The challenge takes 50 minutes to complete)
  • Your students will be allocated codes that only you will know (you have to allocate the codes to your students). Our software will identify students only by that code, not by name.
  • All of your students have to do the challenge at the same time (our software can prove that your students did not cheat)
  • You are sent a URL for the challenge that goes live at the start of “Challenge Week”.
  • The questions do not require recall of taught material. The students have to look at data, graphs and text and make deductions, spot trends, suggest hypotheses and identify anomalous results. You can try some for yourselves on this website.
  • The test is multiple choice and is taken online only. A laptop or PC is best but a tablet is fine and even a mobile phone can work.
  • We do not rank schools. That way, you can feel free to enter anyone who would like to have a go.
  • When all the schools have had a go, we rank the marks of all the students from all the schools in one population, we create a distribution curve for the marks and work out the mark thresholds for the top 10%, 25% and 40% of students who had a go.
  • You will get the marks back for your students and also you will be told the mark boundaries that mean a student is in the top 10%, 25% or 40% of entries. These are gold, silver and bronze, respectively.
  • You will also see a breakdown of the marks your students got for each question.
  • There are printable certificates for you to download if you would like to give them to your students.

2024 NSTC

Deadline for booking your school in is 5pm on Wednesday 7th April 2024.

Practice Test 2024

This is the complete 2023 NSTC test for you to practice

Practice Test 2024 Answers

Please find the answers for your and your pupils' 'enjoyment'


We have a FAQ pageLink opens in a new window with answers to as many questions as we've had so far

Past Papers

Here are some example questions taken from previous iterations of the Scientific Thinking Challenge.

The first document is a set of 8 demonstration questions with answers marked in red.

The second paper is a full set of questions with no answers marked.