O2 and N2 have been named elements in IMAT 2023!

Hey guys;
Today’s IMAT gave us a very bad question, because they have defined O2 and N2 as elements - which are not.

Let’s look at some reliable source:


It is important to highlight that a diatomic element is “an element which is found as two bonded atoms in its most natural occurring form”. It is not a definition of O2 and N2 as elements, because the latter is wrong. Rather a definition of the molecular formula of that element.

If any of you find an academic article which directly point out that O2 and N2, or for this sake any other multiatomic elements can be in their molecular form called just “elements”, I will be really surprised, since I have in my whole career of biomedical science never heard or read in any seminar or academic journal that O2, N2, O3, S8, P5, … someone says " O2 elements, N2 elements, O3 elements …". They are made of elements, but they are not elements, but molecules - which have different chemical and physical properties.

This discussion requires knowledge on how to search in academic journals and which sources academic journals really are.


Could they change their markscheme by any chance? and if so, would that impact final gradings for people who have put these down as elements? from what I experienced, other exams would award marks but not take away.

I think, If they accept and acknowledge their mistake, They will with very high possibility give the 1.5 points to every body or maybe only to those who have answered either “1 atom, 4 molecules” or “3 atoms, 2 molecules”. I don’t know.


Let’s make an analogy about the quote I have written above:


. . . . never heard or read in any seminar or academic journal that O2, N2, O3, S8, P5, … someone says " O2 elements, N2 elements, O3 elements …". They are made of elements, but they are not elements, but molecules - which have different chemical and physical properties.


The analogy will be:

Proteins are made of amino acids, like molecular oxygen has been made of atomic oxygens. Does it mean that our protein molecule can be called amino acid(s), even if we fantasize that it has been built by the same amino acid blocks. No, because amino acids have other chemical and physical properties than a protein they build.

I will later come with further reasoning which I have in my mind, but I gotta catch a flight now back home from IMAT 2023.


(In the past, there have been mistakes in the TOLC questions, which can be canceled from scoring IF students make a official demand and the test administrators approve it)

Maybe there has been some sort of language barrier issue.
Maybe the italian school system has a slightly different definition of elements and molecules.
I found this ressource on the Napoli Federico II website:
Most elements exist in nature as single atoms, some exist in molecular form (oxygen, nitrogen, hydrogen).
source: L'atomo. La tavola periodica, Valeria Costantino « Chimica Generale ed Inorganica (Farmacia) « Farmacia « Federica e-Learning)%20uniche.


So do these people change? How can students appeal?

I’m not sure who to contact now that cambridge no longer runs the exam, i think we can ask for information here:

Also one question isn’t going to do much difference, we don’t know yet what the minimum score for EU and non-EU will be until the results drop.
Try taking your mind off of the exam and enjoy your rest now that it’s finally over!

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don’t think they change once the results are out. If someone’s gotta act it’s b4 31/10.

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@Reza_Tamaddoni is correct, O2 and N2 are in fact diatomic molecules.

We must appeal this question/answer in order to have it revised.

@Reza_Tamaddoni I am happy to work with you to find a contact at Cineca that we could correspond with; @AriHoresh, are you aware of a virtual contact address?

I will also do some digging and update this thread once I have an update.

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I think we can report that here



@Marwan_Sakr Thank you. As much as I remember, they give us a time lapse to appeal that after they announce the rankings. But it would be a good idea to contact them before. Good you intend to put some effort in it. :pray:

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@Juliette Thank you. This source would also help a lot because it is from their own. :slightly_smiling_face:

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I have gone ahead and sent the below message to the two links sent by @Juliette and @Sophie :

“To whom it may concern,

I hope this note finds you well.

I am writing on behalf of a group of students who, including myself, sat for the IMAT exam yesterday. After reviewing the paper and answers that were released, several students noticed an error in the Chemistry Test question concerning the chemical constituents of air.

In the correct answer given, O2 and N2 are considered as elements, when they are in fact (diatomic) molecules. Though they are each made up of one type of element, the species contain 2, not 1, atoms and are therefore considered to be molecules.

Argon, which exists as single atoms in air, is the only species in the question that can be defined as an element in this context.

The other two choices differ from O2 and N2 in that they contain more than one type of element, which makes them molecular compounds. However, all 4 species contain more than 1 atom, and are therefore defined as molecules.

Consequently, the correct answer should be:

Atoms = 1, Molecules = 4.

Please revise the answer to this question or exclude it from the scoring as was done in years past in the TOLC-MED examination, when the phrasing or given answer to a question was deemed to contain an error.

Thanks very much for your help and let me know if you require further information.


I recommend that a few of us reach out with a similar/the same message (you can use the above if you find it useful) in order to make sure that the communication is received. It is better to act quickly as I am not sure when the grading process begins.

Let me know if you think we should/can take any further action regarding this question.



A very good claim with proper arguments.
Just the paragraph:

Consequently, the correct answer should be:
Atoms = 1, Molecules = 4
Must have been corrected to:
Consequently, the correct answer should be:
Elements = 1 . Molecules= 4

This was the most important part which needed a revise/review :innocent:

But I write to them tomorrow too, because I am sitting in the train now back from Poland/IMAT after a flight. No energy left in the head :ghost: :slightly_smiling_face:

Thanks for updating and the step you have initiated.


Thanks, I have amended this and clarified this point to both recipients in a follow up communication.


I’m sorry but there’s nothing wrong with the question. I think you’ve got the wrong definition of an element. The picture below is IB chemistry textbook. So, elements = 3 (O2, N2, Ar) is correct.
O2 - contains only oxygen
N2 - contains only nitrogen
Ar - contains only argon


I understand your point.

The question in this case asks specifically about the chemical formulas O2 and N2, which occur naturally in air as molecules. If the question intended to have the candidate discern between species made up of one vs multiple elements, it should have asked about elements and compounds, not elements and molecules.


CISIA has gotten back to me and confirmed that they only write the TOLC-MED and did not write the IMAT exam this year.

Does anyone have an idea of the institution that was responsible for writing the questions?

CINECA is the administrator of the IMAT under the rules of MUR. Minnerva is the test preparator/author based on guidelines and requests from the CINECA. Test centers are just the organizers in each country/region.

MUR > CINECA > Minnerva > Test centers

I have posted the following in the “IMAT 2024 - EU Only” Whats App group today:

:red_circle: Hello everybody,
I hope you have been through the recent IMAT with success.

Yesterday, I made a thread at imat.entermedschool.com regarding the appeal to MUR (Ministero dell’università e della Ricerca) because of a wrong question in the chemistry section of the IMAT 2023. The thread has the title: “O2 and N2 have been named elements in IMAT 2023”.
You find the thread here: O2 and N2 have been named elements in IMAT 2023! - #4 by Reza_Tamaddoni

You can interact there with the rest of us who intend to send an appeal. The thread has been made to create a specific space for this topic in order to have its own discussion space and not getting mixed by so many other conversations like here.

It is my opinion, that it would have an impact on MUR if and only if EVERY single candidate who believes that the question in discerning elements from molecules has been wrong, SEND HER/HIS OWN OFFICIAL APPEAL/PROTEST TO MUR. The reason for an individual appeal is, we will not be capable of collecting signatures from every protestor under one single common appeal. It is a time-consuming process, time which we do not have enough of, since our answers are already under computer-reading process at the moment and rankings in the CINECA’s internal system will be made very soon.

According to the MUR’s website:

:red_circle::red_circle::red_circle::red_circle: THE DEADLINE FOR APPEALING YOUR ISSUES FOR IMAT 2023 IS OCTOBER 22nd :red_circle::red_circle::red_circle::red_circle:
(source for the dealine announcement: Accesso Programmato)

When sending your appeal, remember to :red_circle:write from or inform the e-mail address you are registered with at your universitaly.it profile​:red_circle:, otherwise MUR cannot recognize you as the participated candidate.

I recommend to support your reasoning by referring via hyperlinks to recognized academic websites and not to discussion forums, companies, private institutions and so on. You can discuss the credibility of your links at the abovementioned thread.

How to write to MUR:
:red_circle::red_circle::red_circle::red_circle: You find the contact form here: Accesso Programmato :red_circle::red_circle::red_circle::red_circle:

:red_circle: I will urge those of you who do not agree with us, not to interfere this process by commenting subjective interpretations or referrals to websites that do not counter-prove the issue academically. Speaking academically, we are talking ABOVE high-school or IB level. Speaking academically, you must have adequate knowledge of searching internationally recognized peer-reviewing scientific journals, databases and texts, or know top academic organizations like universities recognized by CIMEA (https://www.cimea.it/). Otherwise, yes, wind, water, soil and fire are also elements in some communities around the world.

We will update the thread together at imat.entermedschool.com.

Thank you for your cooperation and solidarity.

Reza Tamaddoni
MSc Biomedicine