Chemistry

“If it moves, it’s Biology.

  If it smells, it’s Chemistry.

  If it doesn’t work, it’s Physics.

  If it’s going to save the World, then it’s ……

  ……very probably Chemistry.

Professor Paul Walton, University of York, December 2012.

Chemistry is the branch of physical science that studies the composition, structure, properties and change of matter. Chemistry is sometimes called the central science because it bridges other natural sciences including physics, biology and geology. Studying Chemistry enables you to understand the environment around you. It helps make sense of the world. From the start of your son’s time at the RGS, he will study Chemistry as a separate subject.

The aims of the RGS Chemistry Department are:

  • to encourage students to develop an enthusiasm for enquiry and learning
  • to recognise that individuals learn in different ways and to therefore employ a variety of teaching styles to stimulate and both sustain and develop an interest in Chemistry
  • to encourage an awareness of the significance of the Chemistry and its contribution to the needs of society
  • to provide a suitable foundation for those who intend to study Chemistry to a higher level and a useful educational function to those who do not to develop an understanding of the scientific method
  • to encourage respect for the environment and recognition of the consequences of chemical production and use, on the environment

These aims are fulfilled by teaching with enthusiasm and interest and using varied teaching techniques. Practical work is very much encouraged, supported by appropriate written records. Considerable emphasis is placed on understanding and analysis rather than simple regurgitation of facts. It is hoped that each lesson is a positive experience for the student. Participation in competitions such as the Chemistry Olympiad, Top of the Bench, RSC Year 10 quiz, IChemE essay competition and the Cambridge Chemistry Challenge is encouraged; one of our Sixth Formers achieved the highest award in the latter in 2015. Trips are sometimes organised, chiefly to one day conferences such as Chemistry in Action.

 

Key Stage 3 Chemistry

Years 7 and 8 are taught in a laboratory on the ground floor of the Science Block and teaching includes a large amount of practical work, for which boys are expected to have a lab coat and safety glasses. Key Stage 3 Chemistry is studied during Years 7 and 8, covering topics such as particle theory, separation techniques, the differences between elements, mixtures and compounds techniques, acids and alkalis, reactivity series, fuels and environmental Chemistry. The theory learnt and skills acquired in the first two years provide a good basis for GCSE. The department runs a Science Club for lower school boys in collaboration with Physics and Biology, where experiments and challenges beyond the curriculum are offered.

GCSE Chemistry

Chemistry is a core subject at GCSE. Years 9, 10 and 11 are devoted to the GCSE course. The specification is changing and the new one has not been accredited at the time of writing (January 2016). The following information therefore applies to the course being studied by Years 10 and 11 only. The Chemistry GCSE course is the Edexcel (Pearson) GCSE Chemistry Course. Three exams are taken:

C1 – 1 hour (25%) – Science

Topics: The Earth’s Sea & Atmosphere, Materials from the Earth, Acids, Obtaining & using Metals, Fuels.

C2 – 1 hour (25%) – Additional Science

Topics: Atomic Structure & the Periodic Table, Ionic Compounds & Analysis, Covalent Compounds & Separation Techniques, Chemical Reactions, Quantitative Chemistry.

C3 – 1 hour (25%) – Chemistry

Topics: Qualitative Analysis, Quantitative Analysis, Electrolytic Processes, Reversible Reactions & Ammonia, Organic Chemistry.

A Chemistry Controlled Assessment (CCA) is also carried out and this accounts for the remaining 25% of the GCSE mark.

A-Level Chemistry

Chemistry is a very popular A Level subject; it is also a very challenging one. The course covers aspects of Chemistry which are often in the media and affect everyone’s lives. It is important that students have the necessary knowledge and understanding to explain many aspects of contemporary chemistry such as climate change, green chemistry, pharmaceuticals and research.

You need an ‘A’ grade in GCSE Chemistry to do A Level.  If you are joining the RGS in the Sixth form and have done Additional Science GCSE, you need to contact the school to find out the entry requirements. The A-level course involves a lot of practical work closely integrated with theory.  It is not for those who prefer others to do the hard work.

The specification followed is Edexcel (Pearson) A-level Chemistry (2015). We do not offer AS-level at the end of Year 12 and the A-level course is now linear, with all examination-based assessment at the end of Year 13. The examinations are as follows:

Paper 1: Advanced Inorganic and Physical Chemistry

Externally assessed. 30% of the total qualification.

This paper will examine the following topics:

  • Atomic Structure and the Periodic Table
  • Bonding and Structure
  • Redox
  • Inorganic Chemistry and the Periodic Table
  • Formulae, Equations and Amounts of Substance
  • Energetics
  • Equilibrium, including acid-base.
  • Transition Metals

Assessment is 1 hour 45 minutes. The paper consists of 90 marks. The paper may include multiple-choice, short open, open-response, calculations and extended writing questions.

Paper 2: Advanced Organic and Physical Chemistry

Externally assessed. 30% of the total qualification.

This paper will examine the following topics:

  • Bonding and Structure
  • Redox
  • Formulae, Equations and Amounts of Substance
  • Organic Chemistry – alkanes, alkenes, alcohols, halogenoalkanes, carbonyl compounds, arenes, amines, amides, polymers
  • Modern Analytical Techniques – mass spectroscopy, infra-red spectroscopy, nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy
  • Kinetics

Assessment is 1 hour 45 minutes. The paper consists of 90 marks. The paper may include multiple-choice, short open, open-response, calculations and extended writing questions.

Paper 3: General and Practical Principles in Chemistry

Externally assessed. 40% of the total qualification.

Questions in this paper may draw on any of the topics in this specification. The paper will include synoptic questions that may draw on two or more different topics listed. The paper will include questions that assess conceptual and theoretical understanding of experimental methods (indirect practical skills) that will draw on students’ experiences of the core practicals.

Assessment is 2 hours 30 minutes. The paper consists of 120 marks. The paper may include multiple-choice, short open, open-response, calculations and extended writing questions.

Science Practical Endorsement

This component of the qualification will give students opportunities to use relevant apparatus and techniques to develop and demonstrate specific practical skills. These skills must be assessed through a minimum of 12 identified practical activities within each qualification. The assessment outcomes will be reported separately on students’ certificates alongside the overall grade for the qualification. To achieve a pass, students must demonstrate that they are competent in all of the practical skills listed in the subject content requirements for chemistry, as published by the Department for Education. Students must show practical competency by completing a number of core practical experiments throughout the course. Overview of assessment Performance will be assessed by teachers against common assessment criteria that will be consistent across exam boards.

Beyond A-level

Chemistry is useful when applying for a very wide range of subjects at university. Its greatest value for those not intending to pursue a scientific discipline lies in the problem-solving skills that it allows students to develop.

For those not yet committed to either a specific career path, Chemistry in combination with Mathematics, Physics, Geography or Biology keeps open a very wide set of options.

An understanding of Chemistry is necessary for a wide range of careers: Pharmacy, Agriculture, Horticulture, Geochemistry, Geology, Industrial Chemistry, Medicine, Veterinary Science, Environmental Science, Materials Science, Chemical Engineering, Metallurgy, General Engineering, Microbiology, Biotechnology and Biochemistry. There are now courses at several universities where chemistry is taken along with a Foreign Language and one year of the course is spent in a European university.  There are also courses available where students spend a year of their study at an American, European or Australian university.   

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