A Level Chemistry – An Overview
A Level Chemistry is notoriously known to be one of the most difficult subjects that students undertake in Junior College (JC) and this has caused a large number of students to opt for Chemistry Tuition. It is important that you make an informed decision on the level you take it at (H1/H2/H3), and also be as well prepared as possible on how to tackle it from the start of the 2-year course. This article acts as an essential preparation guide for JC Chemistry by Top A Level Tutors for all students intending to take the subject. We have specially compiled this essential guide with the information gathered by our top tutors teaching A Level Chemistry Tuition in Singapore.
Dubbed the “Central Science”, Chemistry forms the fundamental cornerstone on how things function, form and evolve, and even exist. Its study helps us learn and understand constituents and elements of essentially everything – the air we breathe, the food we eat, materials we use, etc. It branches out into multi-disciplinary areas of Science, helping us in virtually all aspects of our lives, from trying to find vaccines for viruses, creating energy sources, to developing new creative inventions.
It is a beautiful and complex subject, one that requires an inquisitive mind and keenness to find out more, in order to gain an appreciation of it. As compared to O Level Chemistry which covered content that was relatively introductory and off-the-surface, A Level Chemistry is a whole new ball game. The content to be explored is much deeper, on top of an extensive number of topics covered. A Level Chemistry also places a larger emphasis on experiments and lab work, aiming to test on more advanced understanding and application skills from our students. Below are some tips and information from JC Chemistry Tutors to help make your A Level Chemistry journey a more manageable and positive one.
H1 / H2 / H3 Chemistry?
In JC, students are given the option to choose their subject combination according to the Science or Arts (Humanities) stream. Students in the Science stream would take up Chemistry on top of either Physics or Biology (as mentioned, Chemistry is a Central Science!), and A Level Chemistry tutors advise that it is paramount that you choose the right level according to your academic goals and abilities.
A Level Chemistry is offered at H1/H2/H3 Levels, with H1 and H3 being the most basic and advanced respectively. While it is common that a large proportion of the JC student population takes up H2 Maths, the choice whether to take up H1/H2 Chemistry is very crucial to set an academic path desirable for you. H3 Chemistry is offered at the end of JC1, if students prove to be interested and capable enough to rise up to the challenge. H3 is taken on top of H2 Chemistry and individual JCs would shortlist these eligible student candidates, who would need to master the subject in only 10 months.
The H1 syllabus and H2 syllabus set by the SEAB has several key differences, and they are concisely summarised here on the Catholic Junior College (CJC) website. H1 Chemistry is a lot lighter than its H2 counterpart and there is no practical component involved. Not only are the number of topics less, some of the mutual topics also possess a smaller scope and are less in-depth. However, H1 Chemistry covers Polymer Chemistry and Nanomaterials – not seen in H2 Chemistry.
A key thing that A Level Chemistry tutors highlight is that the A Level Chemistry H1/H2 content is extremely heavy. O Level Chemistry is relatively easy to score with basic understanding and good concept memorisation, but at the A Levels, the Chemistry paper is all about application. An alarming discovery by JC students is that despite thinking you have all the content memorised, the chance to fail can still be very high without being equipped with the right application skills.
A common question asked: “I took combined Chemistry for O Levels. Is it advisable that I take H2 Chemistry?” Yes you may have missed out on some chapters as compared to Pure Chemistry students, but do not be disheartened as many of the H2 topics and concepts are new to Pure Chemistry students as well. Our A Level Chemistry tutors would advise that you follow your interests and seek to understand what your career goal is to help you decide. Many university courses like Medicine, Pharmacy, Dentistry and Engineering require H2 Chemistry as a prerequisite, so do your research to ensure that you do not miss out on this. Here is NTU’s A Level Subject Requirements based on its faculties.
Of course, another factor that MindFlex would like to highlight – do look at your O Level Combined Science grades as a realistic gauge on whether you would be able to handle the subject. In your subject combination selection process, JCs have included information on the recommended prerequisite scores for the various A level subjects; some examples: EJC, TJC, CJC, SAJC. These projections are publicised based on years of score improvement trend observations and final A Level scores of previous batches, so do take this advice seriously while deciding. To receive guidance in securing your foundation in your O Level Combined Science subjects, you can consider hiring a private O Level tutor with MindFlex!
Mastering the JC Chemistry Theory Components
H1 Chemistry consists of 2 parts to the examination – Paper 1 and 2. H2 Chemistry consists of 4 parts to the examination – Paper 1, 2, 3 and 4. A summary of the exam format can be found in the above H1 and H2 syllabus link by SEAB.
Paper 1 – Multiple Choice Questions (MCQ)
Paper 1 for both H1 and H2 Chemistry is the MCQ component of the A Level Chemistry examination. Before the revised syllabus in 2017, H2 Chemistry Paper 1 saw a then higher 20% weightage, with 40 questions to be completed in 1 Hour. JC Chemistry tutors have commented that the paper, now with more time allocated per question, is more difficult than before.
The MCQ paper is the component that stresses students a lot, due to the super tight time limit given to finish all the questions. Though some questions are relatively straight forward, others require lengthy and time-consuming calculations to arrive a numeral answer that matches any of the options. Thus, it is imperative that students work on speed, as well as master some smart tricks on how to tackle the MCQ paper. With A Level Chemistry tuition, your tutor can teach you some of these exam strategies, such as elimination, as well as logical estimation. These skills are very important to pick up on, in order for you to be able to afford time attempt all the questions in the paper.
Be sure to attempt on as many MCQ practice papers as possible (you can get other JCs’ papers from your JC Chemistry tutor), and ensure that they are TIMED. Only working under the pressure of limited time will you be able to eventually enhance your speed and accuracy in tackling Paper 1 well.
Paper 2 – Structured & Data-based Questions
Paper 2 for both H1 and H2 Chemistry encompasses Structured Questions as well as Data-based Questions. Data-based questions for the H2 syllabus now take up 20-25 marks, instead of the previously lower 15-20 marks before 2017.
This paper seeks to test higher-order critical thinking and application skills, and requires very strong content knowledge. Do make sure that you clarify all concept doubts with your personal A Level Chemistry Tutor, and ensure that your content foundation is strong. With that, half the battle is won. Next, do read the questions carefully and pick out critical keywords which tells you what the question requires from you. Students often score badly here as they often fail to integrate their knowledge correctly, and end up applying their concepts wrongly. After having your content memorised, the time during your JC Chemistry tuition lessons should be spent honing your skills on recognising the key words and learning how to answer the questions accurately. Keep doing past year papers from other JCs as well as your own, and this will give you as much exposure as possible to the various types of application questions that you should familiarise yourself with. You can request for these resources from your personal JC Chemistry tutor.
Paper 3 – Free Response Questions
Paper 3 only applies in the H2 Chemistry syllabus. These Free Response Questions also require a deep level of knowledge and understanding of the subject across all chapters. On top of this, JC Chemistry tutors have commented that these heavy-mark questions demand competent skills of question evaluation and high level application of the concepts from our JC students in their answers.
Previously before 2017, Paper 3 was only made up 1 section with 5 questions, and students needed to choose only 4 of them (20 Marks each) to attempt and complete. There was a risk there, as these multi-part questions often left some students stuck halfway through, and they may take a chance by cancelling out their work and attempting another question instead. This (as well as the time taken earlier to choose your selected 4 questions) causes massive time wastage, often resulting in insufficient time to complete all questions parts required. Fortunately, post 2017, they have narrowed the options to choose – between only 2 questions (in Section B), so to take your time to read through both questions and choose wisely!
As with Paper 2 questions, do consult your private JC Chemistry tutor to clear all your doubts, and diligently make use of all JCs’ past year papers to obtain as much practice and question exposure as you can possibly get. Make sure that your answers are well thought out, and presented in a clear format for the examiners to follow as well.
Get “Practical” with JC Chemistry
Last but not least, the Practical component makes up Paper 4 of the H2 Chemistry examination. The paper is a lengthy 2 Hours 30 Minutes long, and students tend to underestimate their preparation needed for this the heavily weighted (20%) component. On top of the usual questions that require experimental apparatus and equipment, students should expect Data Analysis questions (without the use of such equipment), as well as the fearful assessment of Planning.
Previously before 2017, the assessments of the Practical component in H2 Chemistry used to be spaced out – the first exam in JC1 Term 3, the second one in JC2 Term 2, and lastly, the written assessment of Planning situated in Paper 2. Planning had been taken out of Paper 2 and combined with the 2 Practical exam sessions, collectively making up this single new Paper 4, post 2017. Many A Level ChemistryTtutors think that this has made the Practical component more difficult, with all the weightage crammed into a single exam session.
Students need to recognise the heavy weightage of the Practical, yet also not panic because of the unforeseen circumstances in the lab that could affect their data, results and in turn, marks. Be well prepared – all that is tested would be based on the theoretical content base learnt, so do make sure that any problems with your concepts are ironed out well. Familiarise yourself with the different question types that could appear from the various topics, and revise on worksheets from previous practical sessions. Good experimental and handling skills would be needed to control the apparatus well and carry out successful investigations, through techniques like Titration, Gravimetric Analysis, Gas Collection, Thermochemistry, etc.
Also, in contrast to the theory papers above, no Data Booklet will be given. Students will only be allowed to refer to the Notes for Qualitative Analysis which will be given to you during the exam. Your JC Chemistry tutor will also advise you on what kind of common chemicals and reagents would be available for use in the exam.
Planning Questions are often what students fear, and it is important that you learn to tackle them well. JC Chemistry tutors would advise you to look (at the end of the question) for the aim of the experiment first, as well as identify the topic at hand. Then, proceed to explain your proposed method and make sure that you are able to substantiate the reason for its usage. Master your mole calculations (which would almost be needed in Planning Questions) and list all the apparatus used. Explain your results well with the aid of a table and graph, and state down any safety considerations and limitations to the reliability of your results to ensure a well-balanced experiment assessment. Physical and mental stamina is needed for this Practical component of the A Level Chemistry paper, so do ensure that you are well prepared for it!
Engage JC Chemistry Tuition for Extra Study Tips
Students are seldom able to catch everything fully during lectures in school, and there is certainly not enough time for much to be covered during tutorials as well. Revise thoroughly after each topic, and know which are the sections that you need clarification in. Engaging a Private A Level Chemistry Tutor after school hours can help you to explain concepts, clear any misconceptions before they snowball, and even provide you with some good study tips too! Your personal tutor would also be able to point out all the keywords required in your answers and the mark allocation these keywords come with, so that you can answer your Chemistry exam questions more correctly and accurately.
As the A Level Chemistry syllabus is extremely extensive, it is important that you are able to memorise concepts effectively. Numerous facts like elements and transition metals, how is one able to cram such vast amounts of content in? Your Personal Chemistry Tutor would be able to help you with the creation of customised topical notes, mind maps, and even give you good memorisation strategies, such as the use of clever acronyms! Also make use of drawings and visualisation software or YouTube, this will help you to better understand difficult concepts by a large extent, as well as recognise it later during the Practical component! Always remember that it is important to prepare early and set your foundation right, so seek help as early as possible if required.
H1/H2 Chemistry is certainly one of the more difficult subjects for the A Levels, and students must get used to this drastic change in pace of absorption and retention in the 2 years of preparation. Expect the exam questions in the new syllabus to be more analytical and deduction based, so do seek help from your tutor to ensure that you are equipped with the necessary skills to tackle them. Chemistry is the core and crux of all science fields, so once you are able to master it, it will eventually open up doors to more university course choices and career paths after JC.
To engage a good Private A Level Chemistry Tutor to get your Chemistry knowledge solid and polished, do not hesitate to reach out to us and we will be more than delighted to assist you!