Chemistry is all around us and the GCSE course enables students to develop an understanding of the fundamentals of this fascinating subject. The students will cover a variety of topics from the structure of an atom, chemical reactions and how to measure and control them, to analysis and the environmental impacts to our society.
The A level course builds on these key concepts and allows students to further develop analytical, problem solving and practical skills that are widely valued by universities and employers.
The students start the GCSE course at the start of year 9, initially consolidating the learning of chemistry covered in Years 7 and 8 that is also covered in the GCSE syllabus. Practical skills and any misconceptions are addressed before building on their understanding. The following topics are then covered: the periodic table, atomic structure and then the fundamental concepts of bonding and structure and rates of reaction.
All of these topics are part of the separate chemistry and combined science courses. During the year, when choosing their options, students can then decide whether to study Chemistry as a separate GCSE or as part of the combined Science GCSE course (leading to two science GCSEs) from Year 10.
The students are following the AQA 9-1 GCSE syllabus that was first examined in 2018. The course fully prepares pupils for the new A level syllabus and is also an excellent foundation for many other A levels or apprenticeships, providing numerous opportunities for evaluation, problem solving and mathematical skills.
In year 10, the students will cover the metal reactivity series and the extraction of metals from ores, electrolysis, quantitative chemistry, acids and salts, energy in reactions and the Earth and its atmosphere.
In year 11 the curriculum includes reversible reactions and equilibria, chemical analysis and organic chemistry, from crude oil to polymers.
These topics will also be delivered in the combined science curriculum but will be studied in less depth than the separate science course. It is therefore recommended that those who may wish to study chemistry A level, elect to do separate sciences at GCSE.
Throughout both courses, the pupils will have many opportunities to develop their skills and consolidate their learning through practical activities. In addition, there are 8 required practical activities (6 for combined science) that are carried out during the course which could be assessed in the written examination papers.
Chemistry A level is well respected amongst universities and employers and enables students to demonstrate many transferable skills. We follow the OCR (A) course and the specification is divided into topics that cover the key concepts of chemistry, organic, physical and analytical. These are introduced in the first year and then studied at a deeper level in the second.
In year 12, the knowledge gained at GCSE is developed with foundation topics such as shapes of molecules, intermolecular forces and quantitative chemistry. Layers of understanding are then introduced to explain the chemical concepts including reaction kinetics, mechanisms and instrumental techniques for analysis.
Year 13 introduces more challenging topics such as aromatic chemistry and organic synthesis, enthalpy, entropy, buffer solutions, transition metals and a further analytic technique, NMR.
Throughout the course, practical skills are integrated with the theoretical topics and the students will keep a laboratory book to document and analyse all their practical tasks. Their practical skills will be teacher assessed throughout the two years and will lead towards a ‘practical endorsement’ to the A level qualification. Additionally Practical skills will be assessed in the written examination papers.
Support and Enrichment
Support for all students is available from their teacher or through regular support or revision sessions for each year group.
Enrichment opportunities for KS4 includes the RSC Top of the Bench Competition. In 2016/7 we entered for the first time and won the Bristol & district heat. We then participated in the final at Loughborough University.
At A level, the students enjoy the RSC Spectroscopy in a Suitcase run by Bath University (Yr12-13), and further challenge themselves with the Cambridge Challenge (Yr12) and the Chemistry Olympiad (Yr13).