Unit 1: Semester 1 - How can the diversity of materials be explained?

Area of Study 1: How can knowledge of elements explain the properties of matter?
Students explore the nature of chemical elements, their atomic structure and their place in the Periodic Table. The periodic table is studied as a unifying framework allowing the patterns and trends of elements and their reactivity to be explored. The nature of metals and their properties is investigated. Using their understanding of electronic structure, students study how ionic compounds are formed and explore their structure and properties. Students are introduced to fundamental quantitative concepts of chemistry including the mole concept, relative atomic mass, percentage abundance and empirical formula.

Area of Study 2: How can the versatility of non-metals be explained?
Students explore a wide range of substances and materials made from non-metals including molecular substances, covalent lattices, carbon nanomaterials, organic compounds and polymers. They investigate the relationship between electronic configurations and the resultant structures and properties of a range of molecular substances and covalent lattices. Students are introduced to a variety of organic compounds, grouping them into families. They investigate useful materials and relate their properties and uses to their structures. They apply quantitative concepts to molecular compounds.

Area of Study 3: Research Investigation
Students apply and extend their knowledge and skills developed in Area of Study 1 and/or 2 to investigate a selected question related to materials. They apply critical and creative thinking skills, science inquiry and communication skills to conduct and present the findings of their investigation.

1. Coursework (investigations, class tests and practical work) (50%)
3. Examination (50%)


Unit 2: Semester 2 – What makes water such a unique chemical?

Area of Study 1: How do substances interact with water?
Students focus on the properties of water and the reactions that take place in water including acid-base, precipitation and redox reactions. They relate the properties of water to the water molecule’s structure, polarity and bonding. They explore the significance of water’s high specific heat capacity and latent heat of vaporisation for living things and water supplies. Students investigate issues associated with the solubility of substances in water. They compare acids with bases and learn to distinguish between acid strength and acid concentration. The pH scale is examined and students calculate the pH of strong acids and bases of known concentration.

Area of Study 2: How are substances in water measured and analysed?
Students focus on the use of analytical techniques to measure the solubility and concentrations of solutes in water, and to analyse water samples for various solutes including chemical contaminants. Students explore the relationship between solubility and temperature and learn to predict when a solute will dissolve or crystallise out of solution. They will apply the principles of stoichiometry to gravimetric and volumetric analyses of aqueous solutions and water samples. They will be introduced to a range of analytical techniques such as colorimetry, spectroscopy and chromatography.

Area of Study 3: Practical Investigation
Students use knowledge and skills developed in Area of Study 1 and/or Area of Study 2 to conduct an investigation through laboratory work and/or fieldwork. Students develop their own question and then plan and carry out an investigation in response to their question.

1. Coursework (class tests and practical work) (40%)
2. Practical Investigation (10%)
3. Examination (50%)

Unit 3: Semester 1 – How can chemical processes be designed to optimise efficiency?

Area of Study 1: What are the options for energy production?
Students focus on analysing and comparing a range of energy resources and technologies, including fossil fuels, biofuels, galvanic cells and fuel cells, with reference to the energy transformations and chemical reactions involved, energy efficiencies, environmental impacts and potential applications. Students explore theoretical aspects of, and also design and conduct practical investigations on, the use of the specific heat capacity of water and thermochemical equations to determine the enthalpy changes and quantities of reactants and products involved in the combustion reactions of a range of renewable and non-renewable fuels. Students explore theoretical aspects of, and also conduct practical investigations involving, redox reactions, including the design, construction and testing of galvanic cells, and account for differences between experimental findings and predictions made by using the electrochemical series. They compare the design features, operating principles and uses of galvanic cells and fuel cells, and summarise cell processes by writing balanced equations for half and overall cell processes.  

Area of Study 2: How can the yield of a chemical product be optimised?
Students investigate how the rate of a reaction can be controlled so that it occurs at the optimum rate while avoiding unwanted side reactions and by-products. They explain reactions with reference to the collision theory including reference to Maxwell-Boltzmann distribution curves. The progression of exothermic and endothermic reactions, including the use of a catalyst, is represented using energy profile diagrams. Students explore homogeneous equilibrium systems and apply the equilibrium law to calculate equilibrium constants and concentrations of reactants and products. They investigate Le Chatelier’s principle and the effect of different changes on an equilibrium system and make predictions about the optimum conditions for the production of chemicals, taking into account rate and yield considerations. Students represent the establishment of equilibrium and the effect of changes to an equilibrium system using concentration-time graphs. Students investigate a range of electrolytic cells with reference to their basic design features and purpose, their operating principles and the energy transformations that occur. They examine the discharging and recharging processes in rechargeable cells, and apply Faraday’s laws to calculate quantities in electrochemistry and to determine cell efficiencies.

Unit 4: Semester 2 – How are organic compounds categorised, analysed and used?

Area of Study 1: How can the diversity of carbon compounds be explained and categorised?
Students examine the structural features of members of several homologous series of compounds, including some of the simpler structural isomers, and learn how they are represented and named. Students investigate trends in the physical and chemical properties of various organic families of compounds. They study typical reactions of organic families and some of their reaction pathways, and write balanced chemical equations for organic syntheses. Students learn to deduce or confirm the structure and identity of organic compounds by interpreting data from mass spectrometry, infrared spectroscopy and proton and carbon-13 nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy.

Area of Study 2: What is the chemistry of food?
Students explore the importance of food from a chemical perspective. Students study the major components of food with reference to their structures, properties and functions. They examine the hydrolysis reactions in which foods are broken down, the condensation reactions in which new biomolecules are formed and the role of enzymes, assisted by coenzymes, in the metabolism of food. Students study the role of glucose in cellular respiration and investigate the principles of calorimetry and its application in determining enthalpy changes for reactions in solution. They explore applications of food chemistry by considering the differences in structures of natural and artificial sweeteners, the chemical significance of the glycaemic index of foods, the rancidity of fats and oils, and the use of the term ‘essential’ to describe some amino acids and fatty acids in the diet.

Area of Study 3: Practical investigation.
A student-designed or adapted practical investigation related to energy and/or food is undertaken in either Unit 3 or Unit 4, or across both Units 3 and 4. The investigation relates to knowledge and skills developed across Unit 3 and/or Unit 4.
The investigation requires the student to identify an aim, develop a question, formulate a hypothesis and plan a course of action to answer the question that complies with safety and ethical requirements. The student then undertakes an experiment that involves the collection of primary qualitative and/or quantitative data, analyses and evaluates the data, identifies limitations of data and methods, links experimental results to science ideas, reaches a conclusion in response to the question and suggests further investigations which may be undertaken. Findings are communicated in a scientific poster format. A practical logbook must be maintained by the student for record, authentication and assessment purposes.

1. Coursework – Unit 3 (16%)
2. Coursework – Unit 4 (24%)
3. Examination (60%)



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