What is A-Level Chemistry?

The main aim of A level Chemistry at d’Overbroeck’s is to help students develop a thorough understanding of Chemistry’s key principles and underlying patterns so that they can enjoy the logic that underpins the subject and make sense of the myriad experimental observations and real-life applications of chemistry and its related sciences.

From experience, we know that students will be far more engaged with the more demanding aspects of the A level course when they can relate them to exciting practicals and projects that demonstrate the power of chemistry. Previous experiments include: launching a balloon from Oxford to the Ozone Layer, launching rockets from Wolvercote Common, synthesising Aspirin and Paracetamol, producing Indigo dye, synthesizing Aerogel (a solid that is 99.98% air). In addition, each year students decide to plan, set up and run their own projects, with underwater fireworks and contact explosives being some recent examples. 

What you'll do

At d’Overbroeck’s all students follow the OCR Chemistry A course (H432).

First Year

The first year consists of three modules:

  • Foundations in Chemistry
  • The Periodic Table and Energy
  • Core Organic Chemistry

These modules help to develop a strong understanding of the fundamental principles that underpin the subject. The majority of the content will be familiar to students from GCSE/IGCSE, however, they will explore the concepts and ideas in much more detail.

Second Year

The second year consists of two modules:

  • Physical Chemistry and Transition Elements
  • Organic Chemistry and Analysis

These final two modules both extend and deepen students’ chemical knowledge and provide a wealth of examples of how society relies on chemists to help provide solutions and new ways of coping with the many issues that it is currently facing.

Students will carry out practical work almost every week, with the intention that they improve their competency in some key practical skills over the course of the two years. From acid-base titrations to complex organic syntheses, students will have plenty of time to practise planning and setting up experiments, analysing data, and will also be able to attempt more investigative practicals in the second year of the course. Core practical work will be assessed, and although no grade will be assigned to these practicals students will be tested on their practical skills in the three written papers sat at the end of the course.

Whom does this subject suit?

Chemistry is a concise subject that requires students to think. Studying chemistry would complement A levels which are essay-based or that have a particularly heavy reading load, and is clearly very useful for those wishing to study any form of science (chemistry, biology, physics, natural sciences, biochemistry, materials science) or engineering at university, as well as medical or veterinary science.

If you study A level Chemistry then you should be able to ask ‘Why?’ and get a good answer. Students will find the first year of chemistry explains chemical ideas mostly using words and some maths, while the second year of chemistry explains chemical ideas using maths and some words – don’t be daunted by the maths! As long as students have a solid understanding of GCSE maths then they will be fine.

What might the subject lead to?

Chemistry is used by students to go into a range of STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) degrees and careers. Chemistry is important for students wishing to study medicine, forensic science, engineering and pharmacy.