My favourite Year 11 VCE Chemistry book explains all the concepts you need to know for Units 1 & 2. If you’re in Year 12 and you want to refresh your memory of the essential topics from last year’s course, these are the chapters you should spend the most time reading.
Skip the sections in red;
Read the sections in yellow and make careful annotations;
Study the sections in green because they are assumed knowledge in the Year 12 course.
My favourite VCE Chemistry textbook contains some extra information that isn’t part of the VCE Chemistry Study Design, which almost certainly won’t be on the end of year examination. Use this chart to help you find your way through Heinemann Chemistry 2:
Skip the sections in red;
Read the sections in yellowand make careful annotations;
Study the sections in greenmeticulously and make concise notes on all of their contents.
Chapters 19 to 22 (in blue) explain the “detailed studies”, and students need to study just one chapter out of these four. Many schools choose the chapters on ammonia or sulfuric acid.
It amazes me how many students get low grades because their notes are disorganised or because they get resources from the wrong places. If you’re not getting the grades you expect, and your study notes are a bit of a mess, follow this simple 5-step strategy to get more out of your VCE Chemistry lessons.
1) Annotate the textbook.
Your primary resource is always the textbook. Annotate your textbook with pens, highlighters and Post-it® Notes. Circle key words and draw a line through question numbers once you’ve completed them (see step #3). Cross out titles of sections that are not on your course: your teacher can help you with this. Put bookmarks (pieces of paper will do) at your current position in the textbook and at the corresponding answers page at the back. Annotate every page of the textbook before you learn a new topic in class. Annotate your textbook from cover to cover as soon as you can at the start of the year.
2) Make textbook summary notes on A4 paper.
Throughout the year, use your annotated textbook to make your own textbook summary notes. Many of these notes will have been copied from the whiteboard during Chemistry lessons, but you’ll still need to supplement these notes with things you learn from your own reading as well. I recommend writing these summaries on loose sheets of A4 paper and organising them in sequential order in a ring binder. Feel free to use both sides of the paper. Some students prefer to use A4 notebooks, which also works fine, but it’s very important that you don’t limit yourself to a “one page per section” rule. This becomes very restrictive later on.
3) Complete textbook questions and Checkpoints questions in an exercise book.
Third, you need a exercise book. This is an A4 notebook that you use to complete question sets from four main locations: (1) the textbook; (2) from any other worksheets your teacher provides; (3) from Checkpoints; and (4) from Lisachem and other textbooks. When you’ve finished a block of around 20 questions, check your answers using the answer keys provided and mark them very critically. This is an excellent learning exercise. Use a red pen to note where you went wrong, and mark your own work as harshly as the harshest-marking teacher you’ve ever had. Your teachers don’t have time to mark all of these questions for you; but if you don’t understand why you got a question wrong, do approach your teacher or tutor and ask for an explanation. They’ll be happy to help you out.
4) Everything else provided by your teachers is just supplementary material.
Finally, there are supplementary resources provided by your teachers. Even if you use these a lot in class, remember that they’re not your main study resource. Even if your teacher gives you printed PowerPoint slides, work booklets or lecture notes, they’re still just supplementary to the primary study resource, which is always the textbook. If your teacher gives you any of these extra resources to use in class, use them in class only, and at home, all of your studies should follow steps #1 to #3 above. Nothing replaces the textbook in terms of depth and accuracy. Extra materials provided by your teacher are always secondary to the main text.
5) Don’t trust resources that you find by yourself.
Most of the resources that students find by themselves will be either unprofessional or irrelevant to VCE. Resources from interstate or overseas might use different vocabulary or cover topics that are beyond the scope of our VCE course. Don’t spend time studying resources you’ve found by yourself unless your teacher or tutor has approved them.
Following these five steps should take about 3 hours per week per subject.
Remember that your textbook is your primary resource. Teachers and tutors just help to help bring the textbook to life: they help you to understand it faster and more comprehensively than you could on your own. Tutors provide 1-on-1 motivation and accountability by giving you personalised homework and questioning during your tutoring sessions. Tutors have the time to check your work carefully and get personalised feedback on all your written answers, which teachers seldom have the time to do.
Choose a space, at least two square metres in area, where you will do nothing but study. It should be located in a bright, warm, comfortable part of your home with very few distractions. It should be a space that faces a wall or a window, and should not be in the middle of a room where other people might continually walk by. When I say “study space”, I’m referring to a high desk (for good posture), a hard chair (to help you concentrate) and the space that immediately surrounds them.
Remove every object from that 2m² space. If the desk has drawers, empty them. Clean the desk and its surroundings and remove all distractions from nearby (such as a TV, a radio or a buzzing light).
Place only study-related objects in your study space. Textbooks, files, notebooks and plain paper should all be on the desk. Stow the computer away while you’re studying, and only get it out when you need to write an assignment. Because the vast majority of your reading should be done from textbooks, your computer should not be a permanent fixture in your study space. Shut it down and keep it away.
By this point, your study space should look something like these:
Many people say they can’t study in their bedroom. Studies have shown that geographical separation between work and play puts people in the right mindset to do both. Therefore, studying at the same desk that you use to play computer games could be a huge hindrance to your studies. The minority of people who can study in their bedroom have made it a “study space” instead of a place to relax and play.
I study best in libraries because being surrounded by other studious people helps to keep me motivated! Libraries in the UK are strictly silent – so even if your friends are there, they can’t distract you. Natural-looking light fixtures in my Cambridge college library also kept me alert late into the evening while I worked. Find a 2m² study space in your home and make it look like a library. Or, of course, study in your nearest library!
Here are those points again, summarised: 1. Choose at least 2m² in your house as a designated “study space”. 2. Add a high desk and a hard chair; 3. Clean the desk, chair and surroundings; 4. Only put study-related items in that space; 5. Never do anything except for study in that space; 6. Keep your study space immaculately clean and tidy.
VCAA has released a new Chemistry Data Booklet to accompany its new Chemistry Study Design. The changes are subtle but important: a few new elements have been added to the periodic table and the unconfirmed elements have been removed. The whole booklet has been reformatted into tables that make the data easier to look up.
There’s a wealth of information in these data booklets but you have to know what to look for. I recommend asking your students to annotate the new Chemistry data booklet with as much information as they can. Many answers to examination questions require you to refer to this data booklet, and the quicker your students can do that, the more likely they are to finish the exam.
Annotate your 2015 data booklet with your students, and ask:
Where are the oxidants in the electrochemical series?
What is the structural formula of an R3-CH carbon environment?
What are the names of the functional groups in the 1H NMR part structures shown?
Are the chemical shifts in 1H NMR spectra strictly limited to the ranges supplied in the data booklet?
Are students aware that proximity to a highly electronegative atom can cause a large increase in a proton’s chemical shift?
Which fatty acids are polyunsaturated? How can you tell?
To which atoms do hydrogen bonds form on nitrogenous bases?