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O Level Syllabus Content

(Adapted from Singapore Examinations and Assessment Board)


This syllabus is designed to place less emphasis on factual materials and greater emphasis on the understanding and application of scientific concepts and principles. This approach has been adapted in recognition of the need for students to develop skills that will be of long term value in an increasingly technological world rather than focusing on large quantities of factual materials, which may have only short term relevance.

It is important that, throughout the course, attention should be drawn to:
(i) the finite life of the world’s resources and hence the need for recycling and conservation
(ii) economic considerations in the chemical industry, such as the availability and cost of raw materials and energy
(iii) the social, environmental, health and safety issues relating to the chemical industry
(iv) the importance of chemicals in industry and in everyday life.

It is envisaged that teaching and learning programmes based on this syllabus will feature a wide variety of learning experiences designed to promote acquisition of expertise and understanding. Teachers are encouraged to use a combination of appropriate strategies including developing appropriate practical work for their students to facilitate a greater understanding of the subject.


These are not listed in order of priority.

The aims are to:
1. provide, through well-designed studies of experimental and practical chemistry, a worthwhile educational experience for all students, whether or not they go on to study science beyond this level and, in particular, to enable them to acquire sufficient understanding and knowledge to
    1.1 become confident citizens in a technological world, able to take or develop an informed interest in matters of scientific importance
    1.2 recognise the usefulness, and limitations, of scientific methods and models and to appreciate their applicability in other disciplines and in everyday life
    1.3 be suitably prepared for studies beyond Ordinary Level in chemistry, in applied sciences or in science-related courses.

2. develop abilities and skills that
    2.1 are relevant to the study and practice of science
    2.2 are useful in everyday life
    2.3 encourage efficient and safe practice
    2.4 encourage effective communication.

3. develop attitudes relevant to science such as
    3.1 accuracy and precision
    3.2 objectivity
    3.3 integrity
    3.4 inquiry
    3.5 initiative
    3.6 inventiveness.

4. stimulate interest in and care for the local and global environment.

5. promote an awareness that
    5.1 the study and practice of science are co-operative and cumulative activities, and are subject to social, economic, technological, ethical and cultural influences and limitations
    5.2 the applications of science may be both beneficial and detrimental to the individual, the community and the environment
    5.3 science transcends national boundaries and that the language of science, correctly and rigorously applied, is universal
    5.4 the use of information technology is important for communications, as an aid to experiments and as a tool for interpretation of experimental and theoretical results.

Assessment Objectives

(A) Knowledge with Understanding

Candidates should be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding in relation to:
1. scientific phenomena, facts, laws, definitions, concepts, theories
2. scientific vocabulary, terminology, conventions (including symbols, quantities and units contained in ‘Signs, Symbols and Systematics 16–19’, Association for Science Education, 2000)
3. scientific instruments and apparatus, including techniques of operation and aspects of safety
4. scientific quantities and their determination
5. scientific and technological applications with their social, economic and environmental implications.

The subject content defines the factual knowledge that candidates may be required to recall and explain.
Questions testing those objectives will often begin with one of the following words: define, state, describe, explain or outline (see the Glossary of Terms). 

(B) Handling Information and Solving Problems

Candidates should be able (in words or by using symbolic, graphical and numerical forms of presentation) to:
1. locate, select, organise and present information from a variety of sources
2. translate information from one form to another
3. manipulate numerical and other data
4. use information to identify patterns, report trends and draw inferences
5. present reasoned explanations for phenomena, patterns and relationships
6. make predictions and propose hypotheses
7. solve problems.

These assessment objectives cannot be precisely specified in the subject content because questions testing these objectives may be based on information which is unfamiliar to the candidates. In answering such questions, candidates are required to use principles and concepts that are within the syllabus and apply them in a logical, reasoned or deductive manner to a novel situation. Questions testing these objectives will often begin with one of the following words: predict, deduce, suggest, calculate or determine (see the Glossary of Terms).

(C) Experimental Skills and Investigations

Candidates should be able to:
1. follow a sequence of instructions
2. use techniques, apparatus and materials
3. make and record observations, measurements and estimates
4. interpret and evaluate observations and experimental results
5. plan investigations, select techniques, apparatus and materials
6. evaluate methods and suggest possible improvements.

Weighting of Assessment Objectives
Theory Papers (Papers 1 and 2)
(A) Knowledge with Understanding, approximately 45% of the marks with approximately 15% allocated to recall.
(B) Handling Information and Solving Problems, approximately 55% of the marks.

Practical Assessment (Paper 3)
Paper 3 will assess appropriate aspects of assessment objectives C1 to C6 in the following skill areas:
• Planning (P)
• Manipulation, measurement and observation (MMO)
• Presentation of data and observations (PDO)
• Analysis, conclusions and evaluation (ACE)

The assessment of Planning (P) will have a weighting of 15%. The assessment of skill areas MMO, PDO and
ACE will have a weighting of 85%.

Scheme of Assessment

O Level Chemistry - Scheme of assessment

Theory Papers

Paper 1 (1 h, 40 marks)
This paper consists of 40 compulsory multiple choice items.
A copy of the Periodic Table of Elements will be printed as part of this Paper.

Paper 2 (1 h 45 min, 80 marks)
This paper consists of two sections.

Section A will carry 50 marks and consists of a variable number of compulsory structured questions.

Section B will carry 30 marks and consists of three questions. The first two questions are compulsory questions, one of which will be a data-based question requiring candidates to interpret, evaluate or solve problems using a stem of information. This question will carry 8–12 marks.

The last question will be presented in an either/or form and will carry 10 marks.
A copy of the Periodic Table of Elements will be printed as part of this Paper.

Practical Assessment

Paper 3 (1h 50 min, 40 marks)

This paper consists of a variable number of compulsory practical questions.

One, or more, of the questions may incorporate assessment of Planning (P) and require candidates to apply and integrate knowledge and understanding from different sections of the syllabus. The assessment of PDO and ACE may include questions on data-analysis which do not require practical equipment and apparatus.

Candidates are not allowed to refer to notebooks, textbooks or any other information during the assessment.
A copy of the Notes for Qualitative Analysis will be printed as part of this Paper.

Content Structure

O Level Chemistry - Content structure

Subject Content


O Level Chemistry - Experimental Chemistry

1. Experimental Chemistry

1.1 Experimental design
1.2 Methods of purification and analysis
1.3 Identification of ions and gases

Learning Outcomes
Candidates should be able to:
1.1 Experimental design
      (a) name appropriate apparatus for the measurement of time, temperature, mass and volume, including burettes, pipettes, measuring cylinders and gas syringes
      (b) suggest suitable apparatus, given relevant information, for a variety of simple experiments, including collection of gases and measurement of rates of reaction.

1.2 Methods of purification and analysis
(a) describe methods of separation and purification for the components of mixtures, to include:
     (i) use of a suitable solvent, filtration and crystallisation or evaporation
     (ii) sublimation
     (iii) distillation and fractional distillation (see also 11.1(b))
     (iv) use of a separating funnel
     (v) paper chromatography

(b) suggest suitable separation and purification methods, given information about the substances involved in the following types of mixtures:
(i) solid-solid
(ii) solid-liquid
(iii) liquid-liquid (miscible and immiscible)

(c) interpret paper chromatograms including comparison with ‘known’ samples and the use of Rf values

(d) explain the need to use locating agents in the chromatography of colourless compounds (knowledge of specific locating agents is not required)

(e) deduce from given melting point and boiling point data the identities of substances and their purity

(f) explain that the measurement of purity in substances used in everyday life, e.g. foodstuffs and drugs, is important.

1.3 Identification of ions and gases
(a) describe the use of aqueous sodium hydroxide and aqueous ammonia to identify the following aqueous cations: aluminium, ammonium, calcium, copper(II), iron(II), iron(III), lead(II) and zinc (formulae of complex ions are not required) 

(b) describe tests to identify the following anions: carbonate (by the addition of dilute acid and subsequent use of limewater); chloride (by reaction of an aqueous solution with nitric acid and aqueous silver nitrate); iodide (by reaction of an aqueous solution with nitric acid and aqueous silver nitrate); nitrate (by reduction with aluminium in aqueous sodium hydroxide to ammonia and subsequent use of litmus paper) and sulfate (by reaction of an aqueous solution with nitric acid and aqueous barium nitrate)

(c) describe tests to identify the following gases: ammonia (using damp red litmus paper); carbon dioxide (using limewater); chlorine (using damp litmus paper); hydrogen (using a burning splint); oxygen (using a glowing splint) and sulfur dioxide (using acidified potassium manganate(VII)).


2. The Particulate Nature of Matter 

2.1 Kinetic particle theory
2.2 Atomic structure
2.3 Structure and properties of materials
2.4 Ionic bonding
2.5 Covalent bonding
2.6 Metallic bonding

Learning Outcomes

Candidates should be able to:
2.1 Kinetic particle theory
(a) describe the solid, liquid and gaseous states of matter and explain their interconversion in terms of the kinetic particle theory and of the energy changes involved
(b) describe and explain evidence for the movement of particles in liquids and gases (the treatment of Brownian motion is not required)
(c) explain everyday effects of diffusion in terms of particles, e.g. the spread of perfumes and cooking aromas; tea and coffee grains in water
(d) state qualitatively the effect of molecular mass on the rate of diffusion and explain the dependence of rate of diffusion on temperature.

2.2 Atomic structure
(a) state the relative charges and approximate relative masses of a proton, a neutron and an electron
(b) describe, with the aid of diagrams, the structure of an atom as containing protons and neutrons (nucleons) in the nucleus and electrons arranged in shells (energy levels) (knowledge of s, p, d and f classification is not required; a copy of the Periodic Table will be
available in Papers 1 and 2)
(c) define proton (atomic) number and nucleon (mass) number
(d) interpret and use symbols such as 12C6
(e) define the term isotopes
(f) deduce the numbers of protons, neutrons and electrons in atoms and ions given proton and nucleon numbers.

2.3 Structure and properties of materials
(a) describe the differences between elements, compounds and mixtures
(b) compare the structure of simple molecular substances, e.g. methane; iodine, with those of giant molecular substances, e.g. poly(ethene); sand (silicon dioxide); diamond; graphite in order to deduce their properties
(c) compare the bonding and structures of diamond and graphite in order to deduce their properties such as electrical conductivity, lubricating or cutting action (candidates will not be required to draw the structures)
(d) deduce the physical and chemical properties of substances from their structures and bonding and vice versa.

2.4 Ionic bonding
(a) describe the formation of ions by electron loss/gain in order to obtain the electronic configuration of a noble gas
(b) describe the formation of ionic bonds between metals and non-metals, e.g. NaCl; MgCl2 (c) state that ionic materials contain a giant lattice in which the ions are held by electrostatic attraction, e.g. NaCl (candidates will not be required to draw diagrams of ionic lattices)
(d) deduce the formulae of other ionic compounds from diagrams of their lattice structures, limited to binary compounds
(e) relate the physical properties (including electrical property) of ionic compounds to their lattice structure.

2.5 Covalent bonding
(a) describe the formation of a covalent bond by the sharing of a pair of electrons in order to gain the electronic configuration of a noble gas
(b) describe, using ‘dot-and-cross’ diagrams, the formation of covalent bonds between non-metallic elements, e.g. H2; O2; H2O; CH4; CO2
(c) deduce the arrangement of electrons in other covalent molecules
(d) relate the physical properties (including electrical property) of covalent substances to their structure and bonding.

2.6 Metallic bonding
(a) describe metals as a lattice of positive ions in a ‘sea of electrons’
(b) relate the electrical conductivity of metals to the mobility of the electrons in the structure (see also 9.1(a)). 

3. Formulae, Stoichiometry and the Mole Concept

Learning Outcomes

Candidates should be able to:
(a) state the symbols of the elements and formulae of the compounds mentioned in the syllabus
(b) deduce the formulae of simple compounds from the relative numbers of atoms present and vice versa
(c) deduce the formulae of ionic compounds from the charges on the ions present and vice versa
(d) interpret chemical equations with state symbols
(e) construct chemical equations, with state symbols, including ionic equations
(f) define relative atomic mass, Ar
(g) define relative molecular mass, Mr, and calculate relative molecular mass (and relative formula mass) as the sum of relative atomic masses
(h) calculate the percentage mass of an element in a compound when given appropriate information
(i) calculate empirical and molecular formulae from relevant data
(j) calculate stoichiometric reacting masses and volumes of gases (one mole of gas occupies 24 dm3 at room temperature and pressure); calculations involving the idea of limiting reactants may be set
(Knowledge of the gas laws and the calculations of gaseous volumes at different temperatures and pressures are not required.)
(k) apply the concept of solution concentration (in mol / dm3 or g / dm3) to process the results of volumetric experiments and to solve simple problems (Appropriate guidance will be provided where unfamiliar reactions are involved.)
(l) calculate % yield and % purity.


O Level Chemistry - Chemistry of reactions

4. Electrolysis

Learning Outcomes

Candidates should be able to:
(a) describe electrolysis as the conduction of electricity by an ionic compound (an electrolyte), when molten or dissolved in water, leading to the decomposition of the electrolyte
(b) describe electrolysis as evidence for the existence of ions which are held in a lattice when solid but which are free to move when molten or in solution
(c) describe, in terms of the mobility of ions present and the electrode products, the electrolysis of molten sodium chloride, using inert electrodes
(d) predict the likely products of the electrolysis of a molten binary compound
(e) apply the idea of selective discharge based on
(i) cations: linked to the reactivity series (see also 9.2)
(ii) anions: halides, hydroxides and sulfates (e.g. aqueous copper(II) sulfate and dilute sodium chloride solution (as essentially the electrolysis of water))
(iii) concentration effects (as in the electrolysis of concentrated and dilute aqueous sodium chloride) (In all cases above, inert electrodes are used.)
(f) predict the likely products of the electrolysis of an aqueous electrolyte, given relevant information
(g) construct ionic equations for the reactions occurring at the electrodes during the electrolysis, given relevant information
(h) describe the electrolysis of aqueous copper(II) sulfate with copper electrodes as a means of purifying copper (no technical details are required)
(i) describe the electroplating of metals, e.g. copper plating, and state one use of electroplating
(j) describe the production of electrical energy from simple cells (i.e. two electrodes in an electrolyte) linked to the reactivity series (see also 9.2) and redox reactions (in terms of electron transfer).

5. Energy from Chemicals

Learning Outcomes

Candidates should be able to:
(a) describe the meaning of enthalpy change in terms of exothermic (ΔH negative) and endothermic (ΔH positive) reactions
(b) represent energy changes by energy profile diagrams, including reaction enthalpy changes and activation energies (see also 6.1(c),6.1(d))
(c) describe bond breaking as an endothermic process and bond making as an exothermic process
(d) explain overall enthalpy changes in terms of the energy changes associated with the breaking and making of covalent bonds
(e) describe hydrogen, derived from water or hydrocarbons, as a potential fuel, reacting with oxygen to generate electricity directly in a fuel cell (details of the construction and operation of a fuel cell are not required).

6. Chemical Reactions


6.1 Speed of reaction
6.2 Redox

Learning Outcomes
Candidates should be able to:
6.1 Speed of reaction
(a) describe the effect of concentration, pressure, particle size and temperature on the speeds of reactions and explain these effects in terms of collisions between reacting particles
(b) define the term catalyst and describe the effect of catalysts (including enzymes) on the speeds of reactions
(c) explain how pathways with lower activation energies account for the increase in speeds of reactions (see also 5(b))
(d) state that some compounds act as catalysts in a range of industrial processes and that enzymes are biological catalysts (see also 5(b), 6.1(c), 8.3(b) and 10(d))
(e) suggest a suitable method for investigating the effect of a given variable on the speed of a reaction
(f) interpret data obtained from experiments concerned with speed of reaction.

6.2 Redox
(a) define oxidation and reduction (redox) in terms of oxygen/hydrogen gain/loss
(b) define redox in terms of electron transfer and changes in oxidation state
(c) identify redox reactions in terms of oxygen/hydrogen gain/loss, electron gain/loss and changes in oxidation state
(d) describe the use of aqueous potassium iodide and acidified potassium manganate(VII) in testing for oxidising and reducing agents from the resulting colour changes.

7. Acids, Bases and Salts

7.1 Acids and bases
7.2 Salts
7.3 Ammonia

Learning Outcomes
Candidates should be able to:

7.1 Acids and bases
(a) describe the meanings of the terms acid and alkali in terms of the ions they produce in aqueous solution and their effects on Universal Indicator
(b) describe how to test hydrogen ion concentration and hence relative acidity using Universal Indicator and the pH scale
(c) describe qualitatively the difference between strong and weak acids in terms of the extent of ionisation
(d) describe the characteristic properties of acids as in reactions with metals, bases and carbonates
(e) state the uses of sulfuric acid in the manufacture of detergents and fertilisers; and as a battery acid
(f) describe the reaction between hydrogen ions and hydroxide ions to produce water, H+ + OH– → H2O, as neutralisation
(g) describe the importance of controlling the pH in soils and how excess acidity can be treated using calcium hydroxide
(h) describe the characteristic properties of bases in reactions with acids and with ammonium salts
(i) classify oxides as acidic, basic, amphoteric or neutral based on metallic/non-metallic character.

7.2 Salts
(a) describe the techniques used in the preparation, separation and purification of salts as examples of some of the techniques specified in Section 1.2(a) (methods for preparation should include precipitation and titration together with reactions of acids with metals, insoluble bases and insoluble carbonates)
(b) describe the general rules of solubility for common salts to include nitrates, chlorides (including silver and lead), sulfates (including barium, calcium and lead), carbonates, hydroxides, salts of Group I cations and ammonium salts
(c) suggest a method of preparing a given salt from suitable starting materials, given appropriate information.

7.3 Ammonia
(a) describe the use of nitrogen, from air, and hydrogen, from the cracking of crude oil, in the manufacture of ammonia
(b) state that some chemical reactions are reversible, e.g. manufacture of ammonia
(c) describe the essential conditions for the manufacture of ammonia by the Haber process
(d) describe the displacement of ammonia from its salts.


O Level Chemistry - Periodicity

8. The Periodic Table


8.1 Periodic trends
8.2 Group properties
8.3 Transition elements

Learning Outcomes
Candidates should be able to:

8.1 Periodic trends
(a) describe the Periodic Table as an arrangement of the elements in the order of increasing proton (atomic) number
(b) describe how the position of an element in the Periodic Table is related to proton number and electronic structure
(c) describe the relationship between group number and the ionic charge of an ion of an element 
(d) explain the similarities between the elements in the same group of the Periodic Table in terms of their electronic structure
(e) describe the change from metallic to non-metallic character from left to right across a period of the Period Table
(f) describe the relationship between group number, number of valency electrons and metallic/ non-metallic character
(g) predict the properties of elements in Group I and Group VII using the Periodic Table.

8.2 Group properties
(a) describe lithium, sodium and potassium in Group I (the alkali metals) as a collection of relatively soft, low-density metals showing a trend in melting point and in their reaction with water
(b) describe chlorine, bromine and iodine in Group VII (the halogens) as a collection of diatomic, nonmetals showing a trend in colour, state and their displacement reactions with solutions of other halide ions
(c) describe the elements in Group 0 (the noble gases) as a collection of monatomic elements that are chemically unreactive and hence important in providing an inert atmosphere, e.g. argon and neon in light bulbs; helium in balloons; argon in the manufacture of steel
(d) describe the lack of reactivity of the noble gases in terms of their electronic structures. 

8.3 Transition elements
(a) describe typical transition elements as metals having high melting point, high density, variable oxidation state and forming coloured compounds
(b) state that the elements and/or their compounds are often able to act as catalysts (see also 6.1(d)). 

9. Metals

9.1 Properties of metals
9.2 Reactivity series
9.3 Extraction of metals
9.4 Recycling of metals
9.5 Iron

Learning Outcomes
Candidates should be able to:

9.1 Properties of metals
(a) describe the general physical properties of metals as solids having high melting and boiling points, malleable, good conductors of heat and electricity in terms of their structure (see also 2.6(b))
(b) describe alloys as a mixture of a metal with another element, e.g. brass; stainless steel
(c) identify representations of metals and alloys from diagrams of structures
(d) explain why alloys have different physical properties to their constituent elements.

9.2 Reactivity series
(a) place in order of reactivity calcium, copper, (hydrogen), iron, lead, magnesium, potassium, silver, sodium and zinc by reference to
(i) the reactions, if any, of the metals with water, steam and dilute hydrochloric acid,
(ii) the reduction, if any, of their oxides by carbon and/or by hydrogen

(b) describe the reactivity series as related to the tendency of a metal to form its positive ion, illustrated by its reaction with
(i) the aqueous ions of the other listed metals
(ii) the oxides of the other listed metals

(c) deduce the order of reactivity from a given set of experimental results
(d) describe the action of heat on the carbonates of the listed metals and relate thermal stability to the reactivity series.

9.3 Extraction of metals
(a) describe the ease of obtaining metals from their ores by relating the elements to their positions in the reactivity series.

9.4 Recycling of metals
(a) describe metal ores as a finite resource and hence the need to recycle metals, e.g. recycling of iron
(b) discuss the social, economic and environmental issues of recycling metals.

9.5 Iron
(a) describe and explain the essential reactions in the extraction of iron using haematite, limestone and coke in the blast furnace
(b) describe steels as alloys which are a mixture of iron with carbon or other metals and how controlled use of these additives changes the properties of the iron, e.g. high carbon steels are strong but brittle whereas low carbon steels are softer and more easily shaped
(c) state the uses of mild steel, e.g. car bodies; machinery, and stainless steel, e.g. chemical plants; cutlery; surgical instruments
(d) describe the essential conditions for the corrosion (rusting) of iron as the presence of oxygen and water; prevention of rusting can be achieved by placing a barrier around the metal, e.g. painting; greasing; plastic coating; galvanising
(e) describe the sacrificial protection of iron by a more reactive metal in terms of the reactivity series where the more reactive metal corrodes preferentially, e.g. underwater pipes have a piece of magnesium attached to them.



O Level Chemistry - Atmosphere

10. Air

Learning Outcomes
Candidates should be able to:
(a) describe the volume composition of gases present in dry air as being approximately 78% nitrogen, 21% oxygen and the remainder being noble gases (with argon as the main constituent) and carbon dioxide
(b) name some common atmospheric pollutants, e.g. carbon monoxide; methane; nitrogen oxides (NO and NO2); ozone; sulfur dioxide; unburned hydrocarbons
(c) state the sources of these pollutants as
(i) carbon monoxide from incomplete combustion of carbon-containing substances
(ii) nitrogen oxides from lightning activity and internal combustion engines
(iii) sulfur dioxide from volcanoes and combustion of fossil fuels
(d) describe the reactions used in possible solutions to the problems arising from some of the pollutants named in (b)
(i) the redox reactions in catalytic converters to remove combustion pollutants (see also 6.1(d))
(ii) the use of calcium carbonate to reduce the effect of ‘acid rain’ and in flue gas desulfurisation
(e) discuss some of the effects of these pollutants on health and on the environment
(i) the poisonous nature of carbon monoxide
(ii) the role of nitrogen dioxide and sulfur dioxide in the formation of ‘acid rain’ and its effects on respiration and buildings
(f) discuss the importance of the ozone layer and the problems involved with the depletion of ozone by reaction with chlorine-containing compounds, chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs)
(g) describe the carbon cycle in simple terms, to include
(i) the processes of combustion, respiration and photosynthesis
(ii) how the carbon cycle regulates the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere
(h) state that carbon dioxide and methane are greenhouse gases and may contribute to global warming, give the sources of these gases and discuss the possible consequences of an increase in global warming.



O Level Chemistry - Organic Chemistry

11 Organic Chemistry


11.1 Fuels and crude oil
11.2 Alkanes
11.3 Alkenes
11.4 Alcohols
11.5 Carboxylic acids
11.6 Macromolecules

Learning Outcomes
Candidates should be able to:

11.1 Fuels and crude oil
(a) name natural gas, mainly methane, and petroleum as sources of energy
(b) describe petroleum as a mixture of hydrocarbons and its separation into useful fractions by fractional distillation (see also 1.2(a))
(c) name the following fractions and state their uses
(i) petrol (gasoline) as a fuel in cars
(ii) naphtha as the feedstock and main source of hydrocarbons used for the production of a wide range of organic compounds in the petrochemical industry (see also 11.1(d))
(iii) paraffin (kerosene) as a fuel for heating and cooking and for aircraft engines
(iv) diesel as a fuel for diesel engines
(v) lubricating oils as lubricants and as a source of polishes and waxes
(vi) bitumen for making road surfaces
(d) describe the issues relating to the competing uses of oil as an energy source and as a chemical feedstock (see also 11.1(c)(ii)).

11.2 Alkanes
(a) describe a homologous series as a group of compounds with a general formula, similar chemical properties and showing a gradation in physical properties as a result of increase in the size and mass of the molecules, e.g. melting and boiling points; viscosity; flammability
(b) describe the alkanes as a homologous series of saturated hydrocarbons with the general formula CnH2n+2
(c) draw the structures of branched and unbranched alkanes, C1 to C4, and name the unbranched alkanes methane to butane
(d) define isomerism and identify isomers
(e) describe the properties of alkanes (exemplified by methane) as being generally unreactive except in terms of combustion and substitution by chlorine.

11.3 Alkenes
(a) describe the alkenes as a homologous series of unsaturated hydrocarbons with the general formula CnH2n
(b) draw the structures of branched and unbranched alkenes, C2 to C4, and name the unbranched alkenes ethene to butene
(c) describe the manufacture of alkenes and hydrogen by cracking hydrocarbons and recognise that cracking is essential to match the demand for fractions containing smaller molecules from the refinery process
(d) describe the difference between saturated and unsaturated hydrocarbons from their molecular structures and by using aqueous bromine
(e) describe the properties of alkenes (exemplified by ethene) in terms of combustion, polymerisation and the addition reactions with bromine, steam and hydrogen
(f) state the meaning of polyunsaturated when applied to food products
(g) describe the manufacture of margarine by the addition of hydrogen to unsaturated vegetable oils to form a solid product.

11.4 Alcohols
(a) describe the alcohols as a homologous series containing the –OH group
(b) draw the structures of alcohols, C1 to C4, and name the unbranched alcohols methanol to butanol
(c) describe the properties of alcohols in terms of combustion and oxidation to carboxylic acids
(d) describe the formation of ethanol by the catalysed addition of steam to ethene and by fermentation of glucose
(e) state some uses of ethanol, e.g. as a solvent; as a fuel; as a constituent of alcoholic beverages.

11.5 Carboxylic acids
(a) describe the carboxylic acids as a homologous series containing the –CO2H group
(b) draw the structures of carboxylic acids, methanoic acid to butanoic acid, and name the unbranched acids, methanoic acid to butanoic acid
(c) describe the carboxylic acids as weak acids, reacting with carbonates, bases and some metals
(d) describe the formation of ethanoic acid by the oxidation of ethanol by atmospheric oxygen or acidified potassium manganate(VII)
(e) describe the reaction of a carboxylic acid with an alcohol to form an ester, e.g. ethyl ethanoate
(f) state some commercial uses of esters, e.g. perfumes; flavourings; solvents.

11.6 Macromolecules
(a) describe macromolecules as large molecules built up from small units, different macromolecules having different units and/or different linkages
(b) describe the formation of poly(ethene) as an example of addition polymerisation of ethene as the monomer
(c) state some uses of poly(ethene) as a typical plastic, e.g. plastic bags; clingfilm
(d) deduce the structure of the polymer product from a given monomer and vice versa
(e) describe nylon, a polyamide, and Terylene, a polyester, as condensation polymers, the partial structure of nylon being represented as


O Level Chemistry Diagram

(f) state some typical uses of man-made fibres such as nylon and Terylene, e.g. clothing; curtain materials; fishing line; parachutes; sleeping bags
(g) describe the pollution problems caused by the disposal of non-biodegradable plastics.

Summary of Key Quantities, Symbols and Units

The list below is intended as a guide to the more important quantities which might be encountered in teaching and used in question papers. The list is not exhaustive.

O Level Chemistry - Key Quantities, Symbols and Units

Practical Assessment

Scientific subjects are, by their nature, experimental. It is therefore important that an assessment of a candidate's knowledge and understanding of science should include a component relating to practical work and experimental skills.

This assessment is provided in Paper 3 as a formal practical test and is outlined in the Scheme of Assessment.

Paper 3 Practical
This paper is designed to assess a candidate's competence in those practical skills which can realistically be assessed within the context of a formal practical assessment.

Candidates will be assessed in the following skill areas:

(a) Planning (P)
Candidates should be able to:
• identify key variables for a given question/problem
• outline an experimental procedure to investigate the question/problem
• describe how the data should be used in order to reach a conclusion
• identify the risks of the experiment and state precautions that should be taken to keep risks to a minimum

(b) Manipulation, measurement and observation (MMO)
Candidates should be able to:
• set up apparatus correctly by following written instructions or diagrams
• use common laboratory apparatus and techniques to collect data and make observations
• describe and explain how apparatus and techniques are used correctly
• make and record accurate observations with good details and measurements to an appropriate degree of precision
• make appropriate decisions about measurements or observations

(c) Presentation of data and observations (PDO)
Candidates should be able to:
• present all information in an appropriate form
• manipulate measurements effectively for analysis
• present all quantitative data to an appropriate number of decimal places/significant figures

(d) Analysis, conclusions and evaluation (ACE)
Candidates should be able to:
• analyse and interpret data or observations appropriately in relation to the task
• draw conclusion(s) from the interpretation of experimental data or observations and underlying principles
• make predictions based on their data and conclusions
• identify significant sources of errors and explain how they affect the results
• state and explain how significant errors may be overcome or reduced, as appropriate, including how experimental procedures may be improved

One, or more, of the questions may incorporate some assessment of skill area P, set in the context of the syllabus content, requiring candidates to apply and integrate knowledge and understanding from different sections of the syllabus. It may also require the  treatment of given experimental data in drawing relevant conclusion and analysis of proposed plan.

The assessment of PDO and ACE may also include questions on data-analysis which do not require practical equipment and apparatus.
Within the Scheme of Assessment, the practical paper constitutes 20% of the O-Level Chemistry examination. It is therefore  recommended that the schemes of work include learning opportunities that apportion a commensurate amount of time for the development and acquisition of practical skills.

Candidates should be able to use appropriate apparatus/equipment to record a range of measurements such as mass, length, time, volume and temperature. In addition, candidates are expected to have been exposed to a range of experimental techniques in the following areas:
1. Titration, e.g. acid-base titration (with suitable indicators such as methyl orange, screened methyl orange, and thymolphthalein). Other types of titrations may also be required, and where appropriate, sufficient working details will be given.

2. Speeds of reaction that may involve measuring of quantities, e.g. temperature, volume, length, mass or time measurements

3. Experiments involving separation techniques such as simple paper chromatography, filtration and distillation

4. Salt preparation

5. Gas collection

6. Qualitative inorganic analysis involving an element, a compound or a mixture, including displacement reactions and tests for oxidising and reducing agents. Candidates should be familiar with the reactions of cations, reactions of anions and tests for gases as detailed in the Notes for Qualitative Analysis. Candidates would not be required to carry out tests involving Pb2+ ions or sulfur dioxide gas.
Reactions involving ions not included in the Notes for Qualitative Analysis may be tested: in such cases, candidates will not be expected to identify the ions but only to draw conclusions of a general nature.
Candidates should not attempt tests, other than those specified, on substances, except when it is appropriate to test for a gas.

7. Qualitative organic analysis requiring a knowledge of simple organic reactions as outlined in Section VI, e.g. test-tube reactions indicating the presence of unsaturation (C=C) may be set, but this would be for the testing of observation skills and drawing general conclusions only.

This is not intended to be an exhaustive list. Candidates are expected to be familiar with the use of dataloggers. Assessment of Skill P may include the appropriate use of data-loggers.

Responsibility for safety matters rests with Centres.

Candidates are not allowed to refer to notebooks, textbooks or any other information in the practical
examination. Notes for Qualitative Analysis will be included in the question paper for the use of candidates in
the examination. Candidates may be required to carry out simple calculations as detailed in the theory

Practical Techniques
The following notes are intended to give schools and candidates an indication of the accuracy that is expected in titration and general instructions for qualitative analysis.
(a) Candidates should normally record burette readings to the nearest 0.05 cm3 and they should ensure that they have carried out a sufficient number of titrations, e.g. in an experiment with a good end-point, two titres within 0.20 cm3.

(b) In qualitative analysis, candidates should use approximately 1 cm depth of a solution (1–2 cm3) for each test and add reagents slowly, ensuring good mixing, until no further change is seen. Candidates should indicate at what stage a change occurs. Answers should include details of colour changes and precipitates formed, and the name and test for any gases evolved.

Apparatus List
This list given below has been drawn up in order to give guidance to Centres concerning the apparatus that is expected to be generally available for examination purposes. The list is not intended to be exhaustive, in particular, items (such as Bunsen burners, tripods) that are commonly regarded as standard equipment in a chemical laboratory are not included.

Unless otherwise stated, the rate of allocation is “per candidate”.
one burette, 50 cm3
one pipette, 25 cm3
a supply of dropping pipettes
one pipette filler
two conical flasks within the range 150 cm3 to 250 cm3
measuring cylinders, 10 cm3, 25 cm3 and 50 cm3
one filter funnel
beakers, squat form with lip: 250 cm3
thermometer: –10 °C to +110 °C at 1 °C graduations
a polystyrene or other plastic beaker of approximate capacity 150 cm3
test-tubes (Pyrex or hard-glass), approximately 125 mm × 15 mm
boiling tubes, approximately 150 mm × 25 mm
stopwatch to measure to an accuracy of about 1 s
balance, single-pan, direct reading, 0.01 g or better (1 per 8−12 candidates)
stand and clamp suitable for a burette
wash bottle
a glass rod

The apparatus and material requirements for Paper 3 will vary year on year. Centres will be notified in advance of the details of the apparatus and materials required for each practical examination.

This list given below has been drawn up in order to give guidance to Centres concerning the standard reagents that are expected to be generally available for examination purposes. The list is not intended to be exhaustive and Centres will be notified in advance of the full list of all the reagents that are required for each practical examination.

hydrochloric acid (approximately 1.0 mol / dm3)
nitric acid (approximately 1.0 mol / dm3)
sulfuric acid (approximately 0.5 mol / dm3)
aqueous ammonia (approximately 1.0 mol / dm3)
aqueous sodium hydroxide (approximately 1.0 mol / dm3)
aqueous barium nitrate (approximately 0.2 mol / dm3)
aqueous silver nitrate (approximately 0.05 mol / dm3)
limewater (a saturated solution of calcium hydroxide)
aqueous potassium manganate(VII) (approximately 0.02 mol / dm3)
aqueous potassium iodide (approximately 0.1 mol / dm3)
aluminium foil
red and blue litmus paper or Universal Indicator paper


Notes for Qualitative Analysis

O Level Chemistry - Test for Anions
O Level Chemistry - Test for Cations
O Level Chemistry - Test for Gases
O Level Chemistry - Periodic table

Mathematical Requirements

Candidates should be able to:
1. add, subtract, multiply and divide
2. use averages, decimals, fractions, percentages, ratios and reciprocals
3. recognise and use standard notation
4. use direct and inverse proportion
5. use positive, whole number indices
6. draw charts and graphs from given data
7. interpret charts and graphs
8. select suitable scales and axes for graphs
9. make approximate evaluations of numerical expressions
10. recognise and use the relationship between length, surface area and volume, and their units on metric scales
11. recognise and convert between appropriate units
12. solve equations of the form x = yz for any one term when the other two are known
13. comprehend and use the symbols/notations <, >, ≈ , /, ∝
14. comprehend how to handle numerical work so that significant figures are neither lost unnecessarily nor used beyond what is justified.

Glossary of Terms Used in Chemistry Papers

It is hoped that the glossary (which is relevant only to science papers) will prove helpful to candidates as a guide, i.e. it is neither exhaustive nor definitive. The glossary has been deliberately kept brief not only with respect to the number of terms included but also to the descriptions of their meanings. Candidates should appreciate that the meaning of a term must depend in part on its context.

1. Calculate is used when a numerical answer is required. In general, working should be shown, especially where two or more steps are involved.

2. Classify requires candidates to group things based on common characteristics.

3. Comment is intended as an open-ended instruction, inviting candidates to recall or infer points of interest relevant to the context of the question, taking account of the number of marks available.

4. Compare requires candidates to provide both similarities and differences between things or concepts.

5. Construct is often used in relation to chemical equations where a candidate is expected to write a balanced equation, not by factual recall but by analogy or by using information in the question.

6. Define (the term(s)􀂫) is intended literally. Only a formal statement or equivalent paraphrase being required.

7. Describe requires candidates to state in words (using diagrams where appropriate) the main points of the topic. It is often used with reference either to particular phenomena or to particular experiments. In the former instance, the term usually implies that the answer should include reference to (visual) observations associated with the phenomena. In the latter instance, the answer may often follow a
standard pattern, e.g. Apparatus, Method, Measurement, Results and Precautions.
In other contexts, describe and give an account of should be interpreted more generally, i.e. the candidate has greater discretion about the nature and the organisation of the material to be included in the answer. Describe and explain may be coupled in a similar way to state and explain.

8. Determine often implies that the quantity concerned cannot be measured directly but is obtained by calculation, substituting measured or known values of other quantities into a standard formula.

9. Discuss requires candidates to give a critical account of the points involved in the topic.

10. Estimate implies a reasoned order of magnitude statement or calculation of the quantity concerned, making such simplifying assumptions as may be necessary about the points of principle and about values of quantities not otherwise included in the question.

11. Explain may imply reasoning or some reference to theory, depending on the context. 

12. Find is a general term that may be variously interpreted as calculate, measure, determine etc. 

13. List requires a number of points, generally each of one word, with no elaboration. Where a given number of points is specified, this should not be exceeded.

14. Measure implies that the quantity concerned can be directly obtained from a suitable measuring instrument, e.g. length, using a rule, or angle, using a protractor.

15. Outline implies brevity, i.e. restricting the answer to giving essentials.

16. Predict or deduce implies that the candidate is not expected to produce the required answer by recall but by making a logical connection between other pieces of information. Such information may be wholly given in the question or may depend on answers extracted from an earlier part of the question. Predict also implies a concise answer with no supporting statement required.

17. Sketch, when applied to graph work, implies that the shape and/or position of the curve need only be qualitatively correct, but candidates should be aware that, depending on the context, some quantitative aspects may be looked for, e.g. passing through the origin, having the intercept, asymptote or discontinuity at a particular value.
In diagrams, sketch implies that a simple, freehand drawing is acceptable; nevertheless, care should be taken over proportions and the clear exposition of important details.

18. State implies a concise answer with little or no supporting argument, e.g. a numerical answer that can be obtained ‘by inspection’.

19. Suggest is used in two main contexts, i.e. either to imply that there is no unique answer, or to imply that candidates are expected to apply their general knowledge to a ‘novel’ situation, one that may be formally ‘not in the syllabus’.

20. What do you understand by/What is meant by (the term(s)...) normally implies that a definition should be given, together with some relevant comment on the significance or context of the term(s) concerned, especially where two or more terms are included in the question. The amount of supplementary comment intended should be interpreted in light of the indicated mark value.

Special Note

Students will be expected to be familiar with the nomenclature used in the syllabus. The proposals in ‘Signs, Symbols and Systematics’ (The Association for Science Education Companion to 16–19 Science, 2000) will generally be adopted although the traditional names sulfate, sulfite, nitrate, nitrite, sulfurous and nitrous acids will be used in question papers. Sulfur (and all compounds of sulfur) will be spelt with f (not with ph) in question papers, however students can use either spelling in their answers.

It is intended that, in order to avoid difficulties arising out of the use of l as the symbol for litre, use of dm3 in place of l or litre will be made.

In chemistry, full structural formulae (displayed formulae) in answers should show in detail both the relative placing of atoms and the number of bonds between atoms. Hence, –CONH2 and –CO2H are not satisfactory as full structural formulae, although either of the usual symbols for the benzene ring is acceptable.

Units and significant figures
Candidates should be aware that misuse of units and/or significant figures, i.e. failure to quote units where necessary, the inclusion of units in quantities defined as ratios or quoting answers to an inappropriate number of significant figures, is liable to be penalised.

An approved calculator may be used in all papers.

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