How to study for VCE Chemistry?

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VCE chemistry is a challenging subject, which involves a delicate blend of mathematics and also science. It is not a subject which memory is vital, but rather requires a deep understanding and appreciation of the concepts. VCE chemistry is a highly competitive subject, which requires dedication, hard work and practice.

VCE chemistry incorporates a fine balance of maths and science. Therefore as a VCE chemistry student you need to have a good understanding of Year 10 maths, in particular knowing how to transpose equations, how to work with large/small numbers – by converting them into scientific notation, and some concepts involving logarithms. It is not necessary to study Methods, in order to excel in Chemistry because the mathematics required is not as advanced.

Learning Chemistry breaks down into three major parts.

(1) Understanding the concept – especially the details.

(2) Knowing how it ties into the bigger picture

(3) Practicing easy, medium and challenging questions

Normally students learn the concepts and attempt a few chemistry questions from the textbook, and they believe that they are adequately prepared for the exams. It may feel like the student understands everything they know about the topic but this is flawed and quite often the results indicate that the student really wasn’t that well prepared. Why? Because the questions in the exams/tests are often much more challenging then the questions found in the textbook.

Textbook questions simply cover the basics and what you should know about the topic – however they do not progress the student through analysis based questions. Analysis based questions are normally longer than simple textbook questions and require a much deeper understanding of the topic. This is why it is important to explore the concepts with detail.

Tackling challenging questions is an excellent way to prepare for the exams. Often the questions should be a few degrees harder than the VCAA questions – at Academy Plus we create questions that progress students through three levels, easy, moderate and challenging. This is to ensure that the students build a very solid understanding of VCE chemistry. The questions are constructed in such a way that each worksheet set given for the topic progressively builds up.

Another important aspect of chemistry is the speed taken to complete calculations. Many students are confident completing questions when time is unlimited. Unfortunately in a test situation, time is limited and therefore it is very important to be able to quickly recite all the formulas needed in order to answer the question. Chemistry questions, after practice, become very similar – the approach and related formulas can be decided during reading time. If you find that you do not know how to approach a question once you read it, it is a sign that you are not yet sufficiently prepared. The top-achieving students that I have taught in the past, knew instantly after reading the question exactly what it required. This cleared their mind from thinking, “how should I tackle this?” and put them into a mindset of, “am I setting out my work in a 50/50 way?”. Once you are in this state of zero hesitation – you will find that you can tackle questions at a much faster rate, with accuracy. Remember, if you hesitate during questions – you need to practice more!

Chemistry is a very tedious subject, the way you set out your work is very important. Many students that I have taught in the past did not initially understand the importance of setting out their work. Their work did not flow logically, and was hard to follow – especially the presentation. Examiners like to see neat chemistry calculations that include states, units and a logical flow. If you are able to know the specific format of answering questions and the key-words that are necessary to include in your SAC’s and exams, you will be very likely to succeed in Chemistry. At Academy Plus we focus strongly on what VCAA examiners want to see in the answers – and we make it our personal mission to teach it to our students.