A level

Aim of the course 

Practical work is at the core of our approach, helping students develop dexterity, observation and interpretation skills. 

The study of chemistry develops many transferable and higher-order thinking skills. It refines students’ scientific enquiry skills, their confidence in selecting the right methods and in carrying out practical work.  

Students develop their ability to explain changes observed at macro and microscopic level and learn to interpret and critically assess others’ interpretations, such as those made in the media. 

The course is rigorous, academically stretching and well-respected, and develops students’ critical and lateral thinking skills. The content and assessment provide an excellent foundation for pupils who hope to study chemistry or a chemistry-related subject at university, while also accommodating the broad academic needs of pupils whose educational aspirations lie in other fields. 

Course outline  

Each class is taught by two teachers, one focusing on organic chemistry and related topics, the other on inorganic and physical chemistry topics. There is no coursework and the practical component is assessed internally. 

In the Lower Sixth, students build on their analytical and practical skills developed in earlier years. One side of the course moves from quantitative analysis into organic chemistry, starting with hydrocarbons and building up in functional group complexity. Pupils are introduced to functional groups not seen in previous years, including ketones and aldehydes, alongside the mechanisms by which functional groups are added or substituted on to molecules. 

On the other side of the course, the study of atomic structure is followed by analysis of bonding and structure, providing a foundation for studying the main group elements and their compounds and further opportunity for practical analysis. The energetics topic provides an opportunity for a wide range of qualitative and quantitative practical work. 

In the Upper Sixth, organic chemistry continues as the cornerstone of one side of the course. Topics include carboxylic acids, aromatic compounds, functional groups containing nitrogen, and organic synthesis. 

On the physical chemistry side of the course, students begin the year by exploring equilibrium concepts using both acid-base chemistry and electrochemistry as platforms with which to investigate chemical equilibria, both qualitatively and quantitatively.  

Be inspired  

Our Sixth Form chemistry extension club, the Norrish Society, is an excellent opportunity to ask questions and delve deeper into the subject. Each year pupils enter a variety of competitions to extend their knowledge, including the Chemistry Olympiad. In 2023, Perse pupils secured 8 Gold, 19 Silver and 27 Bronze awards in the Olympiad. 

We help Lower Sixth pupils secure summer placements. Pupils have been offered prestigious Nuffield Research Placements, while others have won Gold CREST awards for projects completed on placements. Pupils’ work has also been published in scientific journals. 

We encourage wide reading to stimulate intellectual curiosity and develop new interests, understanding and skills. Chemistry students are encouraged to consider delving into John Elmsley’s The Elements of Murder, Val McDermid’s Forensics – The Anatomy of Crime andAddy Prissy’s What is Life? How Chemistry Becomes Biology, as well as the Nobel Lectures. 

Assessment details 

Three written papers all taken at the end of the Upper Sixth along with a practical component, which is internally assessed. 

Examining board  



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