What is this subject about?
Chemistry is the study of how the elements and their compounds behave.
It overlaps with Physics and Biology as chemical principles underpin both the physical environment in which we live and all biological systems. You will develop essential knowledge and understanding of fundamental chemical concepts, as well as the application of these in a variety of areas of chemistry. You will also develop a deeper appreciation of how Chemistry plays a major role in providing the comfortable modern lifestyle we appreciate and how it contributes to the success of the economy and to society more broadly.
What will I study in the first year?
In the first year, you begin by studying chemical concepts and theories that bridge your knowledge between GCSE and A Level before developing this knowledge and understanding further. You will develop and improve your skills in planning, implementing, analysing and evaluating data. You will also develop important quantitative techniques involved in measuring masses and using volumetric apparatus to measure volumes of gases and solutions.
In addition you will apply your knowledge to develop the ideas that underpin the study of inorganic and physical chemistry including periodic trends, and consideration of energy and yield in improving sustainability. During this year you will also be introduced to organic chemistry and its important applications within everyday life, including current environmental concerns associated with sustainability. You will be given opportunity to develop important organic practical skills, including use of Quick Fit apparatus for distillation, heating under reflux and purification of organic liquids. You will also learn to appreciate the need to consider responsible use of organic chemicals in the environment in order to reduce demand for hydrocarbon fuels and avoid the use of ozone depleting chemicals.
What will I study in the second year?
The second year builds on your knowledge and understanding of topics studied in the first year. You will develop a strong appreciation of the skills, knowledge and understanding of scientific methods. You will also understand how society makes decisions about scientific issues and how the sciences contribute to the success of the economy and society. There is a particular focus on how amino acids are the building blocks of polypeptides and proteins, on the preparation of synthetic condensation polymers, on the importance of synthetic organic chemistry (for example in the design and development of drugs in the pharmaceutical industry), and on the chemistry of fuel cells and renewable resources.
How is the course assessed?
100% written examinations with multiple choice, structured and extended response questions covering theory and practical skills.
What skills will I need and develop in this course?
Numerical, problem solving and communication skills are central to the course. Chemistry is a practical subject and the development of practical skills is also fundamental.
The course will give many opportunities to develop the skills needed to plan, collect and analyse empirical data. You will also develop your research and critical skills – i.e. how to find relevant scientific information and how to interpret and evaluate scientific data.
What can the course lead to in terms of higher education and future careers?
This course is an excellent foundation (and indeed essential) for further study of chemistry, chemical engineering, medicine, veterinary science, dentistry, and related subjects such as pharmacy, pharmacology and biomedical sciences. It is highly recommended for other sciences as well.
The course also provides a valuable education if you take chemistry no further but wish to pursue a career in, for example, finance, publishing or patent law.
Are there alternative routes forward in Science?
To succeed with A Level Chemistry you need to be good at learning and remembering a large body of scientific theory and knowledge, and at applying it under exam conditions to solve problems you will not have seen before. This is why a minimum of B grades in the relevant GCSEs and a strong track record of exam success in GCSEs are needed.
If your GCSE track record is not in line with this but you wish to take your involvement in science to a higher level with us, our BTEC National Subsidiary Diploma in Applied Science is the course you should look at. This is assessed predominantly by coursework and you can check your thinking with your teachers as you go along. It is equivalent to one A Level and is taken as part of a more varied programme alongside other courses. This would give a sufficient base to enable progression to degrees in fields where science has a supporting role – fields such as Sports Science, Sports Therapy, Paramedics, Nursing, Radiography, and Equine Science – as well as to a range of scientifically orientated Foundation degrees. It is also an interesting course in its own right!
However if you want to be able to go on to a wider range of more intensely scientific careers and degrees, you would need to take BTEC National Diploma in Applied Science. This is equivalent to two A Levels and enables you to have a programme that is more devoted to science. We are considering introducing this starting in September 2017 and will clarify this on our website in the course of the academic year 2016-17.
For further details read the subject information on BTEC Applied Science.
Why should I consider taking an A level in Chemistry?
It will enable you to develop a wide range of transferable skills. It will also help develop your interest and enthusiasm for chemistry, including developing your interest in further study and careers involving it. It will help you appreciate how society makes decisions about scientific issues and how the sciences contribute to the success of the economy and society. Chemistry has a great capacity to solve many of the global challenges that society faces in the 21st Century, including energy, food, climate change and health care. A new generation of chemists and other scientists will be involved in tackling these global challenges. If you want to enhance your understanding and be in a position to make a difference, then Chemistry is for you.
What are the formal entry requirements for this course?
A Level Chemistry is a strongly theory based course that is assessed by exams and builds directly on GCSE work in Chemistry and Maths. National evidence suggests it is difficult to succeed unless you have an appropriate base of knowledge and a good track-record of success in exam based courses at GCSE. In addition to the College’s general entry criteria, you will need to achieve a minimum of BB in GCSE Science and Additional Science (or B in GCSE Chemistry with other sciences at C grade or better) together with a grade 5 in GCSE Maths (Higher Level). Applied Science or Additional Applied Science or non-GCSE science qualifications are not suitable as preparation for A Level study.
Subject combination advice
Subject combination advice:
We strongly advise you to take Maths and another science subject (Biology if you are considering medicine), as many science degree courses related to Chemistry require Maths and two sciences at the top universities.