VCE Chemistry

This information is based on the study information provided by VCAA. The Year 11 component has been updated to reflect the Study Design from 2016 to 2021. The Year 12 component has not yet been updated as it does not take effect until 2017.

Rationale

VCE Chemistry enables students to examine a range of chemical, biochemical and geophysical phenomena through the exploration of the nature of chemicals and chemical processes. In undertaking this study, students apply chemical principles to explain and quantify the behaviour of matter, as well as undertake practical activities that involve the analysis and synthesis of a variety of materials.

In VCE Chemistry students develop a range of inquiry skills involving practical experimentation and research specific to the knowledge of the discipline, analytical skills including critical and creative thinking, and communication skills. Students use scientific and cognitive skills and understanding to analyse contemporary chemistry-related issues, and communicate their views from an informed position.

VCE Chemistry provides for continuing study pathways within the discipline and leads to a range of careers.

Branches of chemistry include organic chemistry, inorganic chemistry, analytical chemistry, physical chemistry and biochemistry. In addition, chemistry is applied in many fields of endeavour including agriculture, bushfire research, dentistry, dietetics, education, engineering, environmental sciences, forensic science, forestry, horticulture, medicine, metallurgy, meteorology, pharmacy, sports science, toxicology, veterinary science and viticulture.

Structure

The study is made up of four units:

Unit 1 – How can the diversity of materials be explained?

The development and use of materials for specific purposes is an important human endeavour. In this unit students investigate the chemical properties of a range of materials from metals and salts to polymers and nanomaterials.

Using their knowledge of elements and atomic structure students explore and explain the relationships between properties, structure and bonding forces within and between particles that vary in size from the visible, through nanoparticles, to molecules and atoms.

Students examine the modification of metals, assess the factors that affect the formation of ionic crystals and investigate a range of non-metallic substances from molecules to polymers and giant lattices and relate their structures to specific applications.

Students are introduced to quantitative concepts in chemistry including the mole concept. They apply their knowledge to determine the relative masses of elements and the composition of substances. Throughout the unit students use chemistry terminology including symbols, formulas, chemical nomenclature and equations to represent and explain observations and data from experiments, and to discuss chemical phenomena.

A research investigation is undertaken in Area of Study 3 related to one of ten options that draw upon and extend the content from Area of Study 1 and/or Area of
Study 2.

Unit 2 – What makes water such a unique chemical?

Water is the most widely used solvent on Earth. In this unit students explore the physical and chemical properties of water, the reactions that occur in water and various methods of water analysis.

Students examine the polar nature of a water molecule and the intermolecular forces between water molecules.

They explore the relationship between these bonding forces and the physical and chemical properties of water. In this context students investigate solubility, concentration, pH and reactions in water including precipitation, acid-base and redox. Students are introduced to stoichiometry and to analytical techniques and instrumental procedures, and apply these to determine concentrations of different species in water samples, including chemical contaminants. They use chemistry terminology including symbols, units, formulas and equations to represent and explain observations and data from experiments, and to discuss chemical phenomena. Students explore the solvent properties of water in a variety of contexts and analyse selected issues associated with substances dissolved in water.

A practical investigation into an aspect of water quality is undertaken in Area of Study 3.

Unit 3 – Chemical Pathways

In this unit, students investigate the scope of techniques available to the analytical chemist. Students investigate organic reaction pathways and the chemistry of particular organic molecules. Again, design and performance of experimental techniques is important in this unit, with an emphasis on the application of principles of green chemistry to chemical processes.

Unit 4 – Chemistry at Work

In this unit, students investigate the industrial production of chemicals and the energy changes associated with chemical reactions. Features that affect chemical reactions such as the rate and yield of equilibrium position are investigated. Students investigate how energy is produced from available resources and consider the efficiencies, advantages and disadvantages of each energy resource, focusing on how particular reactions operate by transforming chemical and electrical energy. Students will continue to investigate the application of principles of green chemistry to chemical processes.

Entry

Students who enter the study at Units 2 or 3 levels may need to undertake preparatory work. Students must undertake Unit 3 prior to undertaking Unit 4 and, in view of the sequential nature of the study, it is advisable that students undertake Units 1 to 4.

Assessment

Satisfactory Completion

Demonstrated achievement of the set of outcomes specified in the unit.

There are 3 outcomes for each of the units 1 and 2.

There are 2 outcomes for each of units 3 and 4.

Unit 1

  • Outcome 1: On completion of this unit the student should be able to relate the position of elements in the periodic table to their properties, investigate the structures and properties of metals and ionic compounds, and calculate mole quantities.
  • Outcome 2: On completion of this unit the student should be able to investigate and explain the properties of carbon lattices and molecular substances with reference to their structures and bonding, use systematic nomenclature to name organic compounds, and explain how polymers can be designed for a purpose.
  • Outcome 3: Research investigation

Unit 2

  • Outcome 1: On completion of this unit the student should be able to relate the properties of water to its structure and bonding, and explain the importance of the properties and reactions of water in selected contexts.
  • Outcome 2: On completion of this unit the student should be able to measure amounts of dissolved substances in water and analyse water samples for salts, organic compounds and acids and bases.
  • Outcome 3: Practical investigation

Unit 3

  • Outcome 1: On completion of this unit, the student should be able to evaluate the suitability of techniques and instruments used in chemical analyses.
  • Outcome 2: On completion of this unit, the student should be able to identify and explain the role of functional groups in organic reactions and construct reaction pathways using organic molecules.

Unit 4

  • Outcome 1: On completion of this unit, the student should be able to analyse the factors that determine the optimum conditions used in the industrial production of some important industrial chemicals.
  • Outcome 2: On completion of this unit, the student should be able to analyse chemical and energy transformations occurring in chemical reactions.

Levels of Achievement

Units 1 and 2

Satisfactory completion of the outcomes and levels of achievement are determined by the school.

Units 3 and 4

School assessed coursework and an end of year examination.

Unit 3 school assessed coursework – 20%
Unit 4 school assessed coursework – 20%
End-of-year examination – 60%