How to achieve an A/A* in A-level Chemistry
Updated: Sep 14
Here's another set of essential tips from some A/A* Chemistry students. Chemistry often gets a bad reputation of being an impossibly hard subject however it can be so engaging as you cover the different chemical processes that essentially keep the world going. Also, who doesn't love a good science practical? With chemistry there is no shortage of this, trust me!
Any subject can be made slightly easier depending on the amount of work you put in and these tips will also help make that journey a little easier!
1) Spend more time doing practice questions, rather than making notes/flashcards. Chemistry is a subject which is big on problem solving, you have to get used to seeing unfamiliar problems and learn how to work through them without a memorised answer. Moreover, by repeating similar questions you’ll begin to learn the specific wording required in the mark schemes.
2) Focus on understanding the big concepts, don’t try and memorise everything. By understanding the fundamental concepts, you’ll be able to work out problems on the spot, saving you time to memorise key definitions and equations.
3) When learning mechanisms, use the name to help you out. E.g Elimination is always getting rid of something, since carbon must form 4 bonds, if you lose an atom you must form a double bond instead therefore elimination mechs must form a double bond. E.g Addition is always adding something, again since carbon must form 4 bonds, a bond must be broken.
4) Don't neglect learning practical methods. It’s often an easy 6 marks and at least one will be on every paper + a full paper at A2
5) It is scientifically proven that the best study method is through something called active recall. This involves writing questions for yourself on a lesson/topic and writing the answer underneath/next to it. When you come to revise, ask yourself the question and try and answer it. Keep repeating this until you no longer require the answer for guidance. Don’t waste your time reading and re-reading notes. It will feel weird at first, but it will save you a ton of time and help you memorise facts much faster!
6) Read around the subject. Books with challenging problems ie unfamiliar mechanisms can help develop your problem solving skills but also give you a deeper understanding of fundamental concepts within chemistry. This is especially helpful for things you do not understand. Different text books and online resources explain things slightly differently and you’ll surely find one that clicks if you throw your net wide!
7) Practice drawing diagrams including the different mechanisms but more importantly the ones in required practicals. They don't have to be works of art, but you need to be able to draw and label the different apparatus required for certain practicals such as distillation.
8) Examiners Reports are really useful in looking at past students mistakes when it comes to answering certain questions either topic based or using the different command words. Studying this helps you avoid making the same mistakes in your exams but also give you an insight into what the examiner is expecting when they ask you these questions. It is also worth noting that the question styles/topics students seem to get incorrect the most are likely to come up in the future.
These tips are not here to guarantee you an A/A* in your exams but to help you structure your revision and just general A-level studies from the get go in order to help you work towards achieving those higher grades!
Hi, I'm Aba and I started The Student Scope to give other students advice on their academic journey. Have a look around and enjoy!