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Why Study Chemistry?

Chemistry happens all around us, it governs who we are. As you understand it more, you can appreciate how much every bit of our lives depends on simple chemical processes - from the crude oil we use to make plastics to the composition of the air we inhale to keep alive.




Course Format

Chemistry can either be taken as a standalone GCSE or as part of a GCSE in Science - the latter often counts as the equivalent of two qualifications, with the course being made up of one third of each of Biology, Chemistry and Physics. The Chemistry GCSE aims to give students a basic background into the main principles of chemistry - acid/base reactions, calculations, industrial processes, chemical tests, hydrocarbons and chemistry in the environment. Topics included depend much upon the course and syllabus followed. Many GCSE courses involve a practical assessment which can often be a simple problem regarding, for example, a simple reaction. Here, the student may have to plan an experiment to find the concentration of a reagent, using basic lab equipment. After doing the experiment, they must calculate the answer from the data, draw conclusions and evaluate the reliability of the experiment.

Study Help

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A Level

Course Structure

There are several major specifications (or syllabuses) that are taught for Chemistry A Level. For all specifications, the first three units or modules (depending on how the specification labels them) incorporates the whole of the AS; the last three of the six comprise the A2.


Unit 1: Foundation Chemistry

  • Atomic Structure
  • Amount of Substance
  • Bonding
  • Periodicity
  • Introduction to Organic Chemistry
  • Alkanes

Unit 2: Chemistry in Action

  • Energetics
  • Kinetics
  • Equilibria
  • Redox Reactions
  • Group 7(17), the Halogens
  • Group 2, the Alkaline Earth Metals
  • Extraction of Metals
  • Haloalkanes
  • Alkenes
  • Alcohols
  • Analytical Techniques

Unit 3: Investigative and Practical Skills in AS Chemistry

Unit 4: Kinetics, Equilibria and Organic Chemistry

  • Kinetics
  • Equilibria
  • Acids and Bases
  • Nomenclature and Isomerism in Organic Chemistry
  • Compounds Containing the Carbonyl Group
  • Aromatic Chemistry
  • Amines
  • Amino Acids
  • Polymers
  • Organic Synthesis and Analysis
  • Structure Determination

Unit 5: Energetics, Redox and Inorganic Chemistry

  • Thermodynamics
  • Periodicity
  • Redox Equilibria
  • Transition Metals
  • Reactions of Inorganic Compounds in Aqueous Solution

Unit 6: Investigative and Practical Skills in A2 Chemistry


AS 1: Basic Concepts in Physical and Inorganic Chemistry

  • Formulae, equations and amounts of a substance
  • Atomic structure
  • Bonding and structure
  • Shapes of molecules and ions
  • Intermolecular forces
  • Redox
  • The Periodic Table
  • Group VII (flouride, chlorine, bromine and iodine)
  • Titrations

AS 2: Further Physical and Inorganic Chemistry and Introduction to Organic Chemistry

  • Formulae and amounts of a substance
  • Nomenclature and isomerism in organic compounds
  • Hydrocarbons – alkanes
  • Hydrocarbons – alkenes
  • Halogenoalkanes
  • Alcohols
  • Infra-red spectroscopy
  • Energetics
  • Equilibrium
  • Kinetics
  • Group II elements and their compounds (Mg to Ba)
  • Qualitative analysis

AS 3: Internal Assessment (Practical Paper/Skills)

  • Content of AS 1 and AS 2

A2 1: Periodic Trends and Further Organic, Physical and Inorganic Chemistry

  • Lattice Enthalpy
  • Enthalpy, entropy and free energy
  • Kinetics
  • Equilibrium (including principles from Unit 2)
  • Acid-base equilibria
  • Isomerism (incorporates examples from Unit 2)
  • Aldehydes and ketones
  • Carboxylic acids
  • Esters, fats and oils
  • Periodic trends
  • Environmental chemistry

A2 2: Analytical, Transition Metals, Electrochemistry and Further Organic Chemistry

  • Mass spectrometry
  • Nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy
  • Volumetric analysis
  • Colorimetry
  • Chromatography
  • General properties
  • Complexes
  • Oxidation states
  • Catalytic behaviour
  • Applications of transition metal complexes
  • Electrode potentials
  • Arenes
  • Amines
  • Amides
  • Amino acids
  • Polymer chemistry

A2 3: Internal Assessment (Practical Paper/Skills)

  • Content of all modules


Unit 1: Structure, bonding and main group chemistry

  • Atomic Structure
  • Formulae, Equations and Moles
  • Structure and Bonding
  • Periodic Table I
  • Introduction to Oxidation and Reduction
  • Group 1 and Group 2
  • Group 7

Unit 2: Introductory organic chemistry, energetics, kinetics and equilibrium and applications

  • Energetics I
  • Organic Chemistry I (introduction, alkanes, alkenes, halogenoalkanes and alcohols)
  • Kinetics I
  • Chemical Equilibria I
  • Industrial Inorganic Chemistry

Unit 3: Laboratory chemistry

Unit 4: Periodicity, quantitative equilibra and functional group chemistry

  • Energetics II
  • Periodic Table II (Period 3 and Group 4)
  • Chemical Equilibria II
  • Acid – Base Equilibria
  • Organic Chemistry II (acids, esters, carbonyl compounds, acid chlorides, nitrogen compounds and further halogeno compounds)

Unit 5: Transition metals, quantitative kinetics and applied organic chemistry

  • Redox Equilibria
  • Transition Metal Chemistry
  • Organic Chemistry III (reaction mechanisms and aromatic compounds)
  • Chemical Kinetics II
  • Organic Chemistry IV (analysis, synthesis and applications)
  • Unit 6: Laboratory chemistry & Synoptic

Edexcel (Nuffield)


'OCR' (Legacy Syllabus as of year starting 2009)

Unit 1: Foundation Chemistry

  • Atomic Structure
  • Formulae, Equations and Moles
  • Structure and Bonding
  • Introduction to Oxidation and Reduction
  • Group 1 and Group 2
  • Group 7

Unit 2: Chains and Rings

  • Alkanes and their reactions
  • Alkenes and their reactions
  • Alcohols and their reactions
  • Halogenoalkanes and their reactions
  • Fuels

Unit 3: How Far, How Fast?

  • Hess' Law
  • Le Chatelier's Principle
  • Calculations
  • Relevant definitions

Unit 4: Chains, Rings and Spectroscopy

  • Arenes
  • Carbonyl compounds
  • Nitrogen compounds (including dyes)
  • Polymerisation
  • Spectroscopy

Unit 5: Trends and Patterns

  • Periodicity, specifically on period 3
  • Ligands (a little)
  • Period 3 compounds and their reactions
  • Borne-Haber cycles & lattic enthalpy
  • Optional unit - either Transition Elements, Biochemistry or Methods of Analysis

-Transition Elements

  • Transition metals and their properties
  • Ligands in the context of the above
  • Colours of compounds
  • Isomerism in ligands


-Methods of Analysis

Unit 6: Unifying Concepts

  • Kinetics
  • Equilibria
  • pH
  • Buffers
  • Practical exam - includes plan and practical paper

OCR (Salters)

The Salters approach divides the A-level up into small teaching modules within the assessed units, setting them into specific contexts.

The current specification for 3887/7887 started from June 2004 / January 2005. The reason for the very peculiar order of unit codes in the specification stems from that reform (for most OCR A-level specifications from Curriculum 2000, the 4-digit unit codes have the final number 0, 1, 2; 3, 4, 5).

The previous specification had a different Unit 2 for AS, labelled 2851 - Minerals to Medicines, and included the WM teaching module as part of the AS. This was removed from 2851, and the properties of alcohols was moved to teaching module PR, to make 2848 - Chemistry of Natural Resources. The Unit 3 coursework for AS and Unit 6 coursework for A2 also had its marking descriptors modified, but no unit codes were changed.

The previous specification also had a different Unit 4 for A2, labelled 2853 - Polymers, Proteins and Steel, which lacked the WM teaching module, but included the effect of complexing on redox reactions in teaching module SS. The former was inserted (except for the work on alcohols' properties) and that piece of the latter was removed to form 2849 - Chemistry of Materials. There were also changes to 2854 - Chemistry by Design (removing the stuff on soils, the structure of silicates and clays and ion exchange equilibria from AA; shifting the factors of ionic size from AA to O), but that did not affect the unit codes.

2850(old spec) F331 (new): Chemistry for Life

  • The Elements of Life (EL)
  • Developing Fuels (DF)

2848 (old) F332 (new): Chemistry of Natural Resources

  • From Minerals to Elements (M)
  • The Atmosphere (A)
  • The Polymer Revolution (PR)

2852 (old) F333 (new): Skills for Chemistry

  • Open-Book Paper
  • Experimental Skills

2849 (old) F334 (new): Chemistry of Materials

  • What's in a Medicine? (WM)
  • Designer Polymers (DP)
  • Engineering Proteins (EP)
  • The Steel Story (SS)

2854 (old) F335 (new): Chemistry by Design

  • Agriculture in industry (AI)
  • Colour by Design (CD)
  • The Oceans (O)
  • Medicines by Design (MD)
  • Visiting the Chemical Industry (VCI)

2855 (old) F336 (new): Individual Investigation (Salters Chemistry)



Study Help

Revision Notes


International Baccalaureate

Scottish Standard Grade

Standard grade chemistry is a 2 year course attempted by pupils in S3 and S4. Practical aspects of the course are assessed internally while knowledge and understanding as well as problem solving are assessed externally by means of a national external examination overseen by the Scottish Qualifications Authority.

The course is divided into the 15 topics:

Chemical Reactions , Speed of Reaction, Atoms and the Periodic Table, How Atoms Combine, Fuels, Structures and Reactions of Hydrocarbons, Properties of Substances, Acids and Alkalis, Reactions of Acids, Making Electricity, Metals, Corrosion, Plastics and Synthetic Fibres,Fertilisers, and Carbohydrates.

There is usually a test after every 2 topics until topic 11. You need to complete a few pratical assessments in class and then sit the final examination :)

Scottish Higher

This is a one year course which covers 3 main topics:

Unit 1 – Energy Matters • Reaction Rates • Enthalpy • Patterns in the Periodic Table • Bonding, Structure and Properties • The Mole Unit 2 – The World Of Carbon • Fuels • Nomenclature and Structural Formulae • Reactions of Carbon Compounds • Uses of Carbon Compounds • Polymers • Natural Products Unit 3 – Chemical Reactions • The Chemical Industry • Hess’s Law • Equilibrium • Acids and Bases • Redox Reactions • Nuclear Chemistry

Each topic is assessed internally using National Assessment Bank tests. A preliminary examiation is normally held in January with a shorter exam held in late March or early April. The final national SQA examination, is held late May/early June and is marked externally.

Higher grade chemistry students regularly access the Scholar programme. This is an on-line learning resource which has been developed by Edinburgh's Heriot Watt University.


The Course

See Chemistry Degree [1]


A-level Chemistry (or it's equivalent) is a requirement. Another science (maths included) is also often required or at least highly recommended/preferred. A few departments (e.g. Imperial, Oxford, Durham) also specify mathematics as a requirement but most other courses cover the mathematical elements needed for the course in the first year.

Personal Statements

A list of Chemistry Personal Statements can be found HERE, If you need help with your personal statement then remember you can always pop into the PS helper forum and get advice there.

Study Help

Revision notes

SWOT Revison - A good website covering AS-Level Chemistry, also has AS-Level Physics.

Other Info


Also See

Here are all the chemistry articles:

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