Chemistry – Sixth Form

What do you most enjoy teaching?

Dr Atkins:  I love teaching the Acids and Bases topic in Year 13. It is a topic that really brings together all the Chemistry skills learned right from the start of Year 7. It is always really pleasing to watch students skillfully applying their incredible chemistry knowledge during this topic. As you would expect, there is also plenty of opportunity to carry out practical work. At A Level, you become more responsible for your practical work, and will have the opportunity to both design, and carry out experiments independently.

Mrs Harrison: So far this year I have been teaching two main topics: 1) carbonyl chemistry.  These are compounds that contain the C=O (carbonyl) group which occur in a range of organic compounds, including aldehydes, ketones, esters, acyl chlorides and acid anhydrides. 2) aromatic chemistry.   This is the study of compounds containing the benzene ring.  They have a distinctive smell – hence the name. They are also used to make explosives, such as TNT. I enjoy teaching organic chemistry, as there are so many interesting reactions, which we study using reaction mechanisms.

Mr Bishton: I really enjoy teaching A-Level Chemistry, it is always one of the highlights of my week. I particularly like the way that concepts already familiar to students from their GCSE study is built upon and expanded to incorporate more detailed information and more complex ideas. This year I have taught the bonding topic where we recap ionic, covalent, and metallic bonding and intermolecular forces from GCSE before moving on to look at more novel forms of bonding, how and why intermolecular forces arise between molecules, and why molecules assume the shapes that they do. I have also taught the atomic structure topic which again builds on knowledge gained through GCSE and looks at how the electrons in atoms are arranged, how this influences their properties, and how we can use analytical evidence to provide the information.

What are the differences between Chemistry at GCSE and A Level ?

There is a big jump from GCSE to A Level. GCSE Chemistry gives you a mere flavor of the chemical universe. Everything you have learned at GCSE will give you a solid foundation for all the A Level content. I often hear students stating, “everything in GCSE is wrong…”This is not true! Everything you have learned in GCSE is a simplified version of the real picture – and you will spend the majority of the 2 years evolving your knowledge and gaining a more in-depth understanding of Chemistry. You will also be expected to work more independently – you must compliment your in-class study with out of lesson work, often directed by yourself rather than the teacher.

Can you give us a quick summary of each of the units of work you do?

The A-Level content can be split into 3 broad topics

Physical Chemistry – the study of the physical interactions between atoms and molecules. In Chemistry we are most interested in the behavior of electrons. This branch of Chemistry is most closely related to concepts you have studied in GCSE Physics and Maths

Organic Chemistry – the study of carbon-rich compounds. Carbon is such a versatile element. It has a special ability to form a huge range of molecules. It is also one of the most abundant elements on earth. Life as we know it only exists because of the behavior of these molecules and so their study forms its own branch of chemistry. This topic is most closely linked to the content you have studied in GCSE Biology

Inorganic Chemistry – The study of molecules not exclusively linked to life. Non carbon molecules and organometallic molecules (metals bonded to carbon) will be studied. The work you have done around using the periodic table will be particularly prominent here.

Do you have examples of what previous students have gone on to do in your subject?

Chemistry is a required subject for anybody wanting to go on and study subjects like medicine, dentistry, pharmacology and veterinary science at University.

Chemistry is a highly-prized A level, and having it will make you extremely desirable to any university/post-18 provider/employer. It can be a pathway to careers in the medical industry, engineering, technology and research, journalism to name a few. Some interesting careers information can easily be found online at

Some links to click on:

The specification

An example exam

A YouTube playlist talking through some early concept you would learn about in year 12