A level Chemistry

Chemistry is a very popular subject at Ashbourne and is often studied in conjunction with other sciences. Our class sizes are kept small so that everyone can keep pace and receive the attention needed to reach their full potential. We provide plenty of opportunity for students to put theory into practice – give or take atom smashing – to deepen their understanding of Chemistry and prepare them for their final examination and hopefully a career in the field. The course we run has a huge breadth of topics from investigating the structure, properties and behaviour of atoms to debating pressing global issues such as bio-fuels, pharmaceuticals, climate change and space research.

 

 

Why study Chemistry?

Chemistry is not all about blowing things up, although that is included. It is about how matter and energy, in and all around us, behave and interact with each other: from molecular changes in the eye responding to light that allow you to see to fabricating and testing compounds to produce lifesaving drugs. Learning about chemistry not only allows you to safely sort through your hazardous chemical cupboard but offers a powerful lens through which to discover how the world works. It will also offer you the opportunity to enter a field that is responsible for amazing advances in genetics, pharmacy, forensic science, renewable energy capture and storage, and innovative materials.

Which syllabus do we follow?

Ashbourne follows the Edexcel specification for Chemistry A level and AS level

What is covered in the course?

This course covers nineteen topics relating to inorganic, organic and physical chemistry. In very simplistic terms inorganic chemistry examines the characteristics of the elements, except carbon, and their compounds; organic chemistry explores the chemical reactions in living organisms and what can be derived from them, for example petrochemicals, shampoos, paper, drugs, synthetic fibres; and physical chemistry works at a molecular and atomic level and investigates how chemical reactions occur.

Within these three areas – inorganic, organic and physical chemistry – AS level students cover topics 1–10 and A level students cover all topics listed in the tables below. A level students will sit a third exam paper General and Practical Principles in Chemistry, also described in the table below.

There will also be a series of internally assessed practicals throughout the course to help students develop and demonstrate their understanding and competence.

AS level

Core Inorganic and Physical ChemistryOrganic and Physical Chemistry
Core Inorganic and Physical Chemistry

● Topic 1: Atomic Structure and the Periodic Table
● Topic 2: Bonding and Structure
● Topic 3: Redox I
● Topic 4: Inorganic Chemistry and the Periodic Table
● Topic 5: Formulae, Equations and Amounts of Substance

AS level written exam: 1 hr 30, 80 marks, 30% of overall result.
The paper may include multiple-choice, short open, open-response, calculations and extended writing questions.

Organic and Physical Chemistry

● Topic 2: Bonding and Structure
● Topic 5: Formulae, Equations and Amounts of Substance
● Topic 6: Organic Chemistry I
● Topic 7: Modern Analytical Techniques I
● Topic 8: Energetics I
● Topic 9: Kinetics I
● Topic 10: Equilibrium I

AS level written exam: 1 hr 30, 80 marks, 30% of overall result.
The paper may include multiple-choice, short open, open-response, calculations and extended writing questions.

A level

Core Inorganic and Physical ChemistryOrganic and Physical ChemistryGeneral and Practical Principles in Chemistry

● Topic 1: Atomic Structure and the Periodic Table
● Topic 2: Bonding and Structure
● Topic 3: Redox I
● Topic 4: Inorganic Chemistry and the Periodic Table
● Topic 5: Formulae, Equations and Amounts of Substance
● Topic 8: Energetics I
● Topic 10: Equilibrium I
● Topic 11: Equilibrium II
● Topic 12: Acid-base Equilibria
● Topic 13: Energetics II
● Topic 14: Redox II
● Topic 15: Transition Metals

A level written exam: 1 hr 45 mins, 90 marks, 30% of overall result.
The paper may include multiple-choice, short open, open-response, calculations and extended writing questions.

● Topic 2: Bonding and Structure
● Topic 3: Redox I
● Topic 5: Formulae, Equations and Amounts of Substance
● Topic 6: Organic Chemistry I
● Topic 7: Modern Analytical Techniques I
● Topic 9: Kinetics I
● Topic 16: Kinetics II
● Topic 17: Organic Chemistry II
● Topic 18: Organic Chemistry III
● Topic 19: Modern Analytical Techniques II

A level written exam: 1 hr 45 mins, 90 marks, 30% of overall result.
The paper may include multiple-choice, short open, open-response, calculations and extended writing questions.

Practical work is central to chemistry. Learning how to be a confident and competent chemist is not only vital for passing the final exam and getting a job but also to avoid poisoning anyone, blowing up the lab or setting yourself on fire. Therefore students are offered plenty of opportunities to put their theoretical knowledge into practice.

There are a least 16 core practicals that students must plan and conduct to investigate things such as how certain elements react with water, heating nitrates or carbonates; how flame colours of s-block elements such as potassium, magnesium and sodium differ; how to prepare iodine from seaweed; how to extract limonene from orange peel; how to set up electrochemical cells; and how to use chromotography (separating components) to identify metals in a ‘silver’ coin or amino acids in a protein. From these practicals students will learn to accurately collect data, analyse and interpret their findings, extrapolate ideas and identify areas for further enquiry.

During these practicals students will also need to think about ethical issues such as sustainability of resources (deciding how much ‘rare’ material to use in an experiment), safe waste disposal (finding a better place than down the sink to pour toxic compounds) and safety in the lab (avoiding accidental fumigation).

Students will be examined on all aspects of the practicals they have conducted, as described above, and also asked to apply what they have learned to other practical scenarios. This includes analysing outcomes, drawing valid conclusions and considering methods and data.

Students will also be asked to talk about how new discoveries, theories or methodologies may be validated (or not) by the scientific community and how they may go on to affect decision making and policy for society.

A level written exam: 2 hrs 30 mins, 120 marks, 40% of overall result.
The paper may include multiple-choice, short open, open-response, calculations and extended writing questions. Some questions will assess conceptual and theoretical understanding of experimental methods.

Who teaches this course?

Chris Todd

BSc Hons Chemical Sciences (East Anglia); PGCE Chemistry (Roehampton); HoD Biology

After graduating Chris worked as a research chemist in the field of semi conductors, then in investment banking before taking his PGCE to become a teacher. He has been at Ashbourne for many years.

Amjad Shah

BSc (Hons) Physiotherpy (UEL); BSc (Hons) Physiology, Sports Science and Nutrition (with Chemistry) (Glasgow); MSc Learning and Teaching (Oxford); PGCE Chemistry (Oxford)

Amjad worked for various NHS trusts in London as a chartered physiotherapist before embarking on a new career as a teacher. He trained for his PGCE at Green Templeton College, Oxford, before completing his masters in Learning and Teaching at Jesus College, Oxford. Amjad joined Ashbourne in 2010 and now combines GCSE Science teaching with A Level Chemistry and Lower Sixth Form Personal Tutoring.

Beyond A level Chemistry

Chemistry remains one of the most vigorous and demanding of A levels especially suited to those students also studying other sciences such as Maths, Physics and Biology. It is an essential choice for those wishing to pursue careers in medicine, dentistry, veterinary science and related subjects. Your career options do not stop here however. There are endless pathways you could choose after studying chemistry such as concocting gastronomic delights like Michelin star chef Heston Blumenthal or creating groundbreaking new textiles for the fashion and medical industry, exploring the ecosystems that lie beneath the oceans, predicting climate change or restoring master artworks to their former glory.

Suggested reading and resources

BooksPrint and onlineOrganisations
The Canon – The Beautiful Basics of Science by Natalie Angier.
Erudite and amusing guide to becoming science literate. From stem cell research to global warming, writer and New York Times science journalist Natalie Angier draws on her enlightening conversations with many of the world’s leading scientists and brings science to the masses.

A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson
Award winning writer Bill Bryson takes us on a rollocking journey from the Big Bang to civilisation as we know it in his quest to find out everything! Barely a scientific stone is left unturned on his travels through space and time as he offers his entertaining view of the world.

Uncle Tungsten: Memories of a Chemical Boyhood by Oliver Sachs.
A witty and wonderful personal journey of a lifetime of scientific discovery and enlightenment.

The Periodic Table by Primo Levi.
Primo Levi’s collection of short stories draws philosophical parallels from chemistry with his own personal experience of atrocity in Fascist Italy and Auschwitz. The Royal Institution named this modern classic as ‘the best science book ever written’.

New Scientist
Online and print publication about all things science related.

Phys.org
Web-based news provider covering a wide range of science, research and technology topics.

The Royal Institution
The Royal Institution has been at the heart of scientific research and education from more than two hundred years. Ten elements on the periodic table where discovered at the Institution by scientists such as Humphry Davy, William Ramsay and William Crookes.

The Institution runs a wide range of science courses for all levels. It also produces the popular UK flagship science series called the Christmas Lectures, originally founded by Michael Faraday, which is broadcast annually and includes topics like how to survive in space, life fantastic, growing up in the universe and the language of animals.

The Royal Society
This is one of the oldest scientific academies in the world. It runs a variety of programmes to highlight and support science in education, industry, international partnership and government. It also publishes a wide range of science journals.

Royal Society of Chemistry
This long-established organisation brings together chemical scientist from around the world. It is a professional body that supports and represents its members. It also publishes a wide range of journals and books.

Textbooks

Title – Edexcel AS/A level Chemistry

Authors – Curtis, Scott and Murgatroyd

Weblink – Edexcel AS/A level Chemistry

Title – Edexcel A level Chemistry book 2

Authors – Curtis, Scott and Murgatroyd

Weblink – Edexcel A level Chemistry book 2