VCE Chemistry Written Examination 2020 Analysis

The pandemic turned VCE Chemistry upside-down. Stoichiometry, traditionally a difficult topic, was the best-answered of all. Chromatography, traditionally an easy topic, was the most difficult for the class of 2020.

Most noticeable is the increase in “difficult” topics highlighted red in the chart above. (For a comparison with the 2013 & 2014 VCE Chemistry written examinations, click here.)

Unbelievably, the Victorian state average score in the 2020 VCE Chemistry written examination was a FAIL at just 47.9%.

Disruptions to learning caused by the pandemic could help explain why the VCAA is considering making the VCE Chemistry curriculum substantially easier from 2023 onwards. If the educational effects of the 2020 pandemic really do linger for most of this decade then making the curriculum easier fails to tackle the root of the problem, which is the loss of quality study-hours. I believe the only correct remedy is to provide current students with extra training and support to make up for the pandemic… not to drop the bar so low that our students cannot compete on the world stage.

Marks lost by topic. Chapter numbers refer to the Heinemann Chemistry 2 textbook.

2 thoughts on “VCE Chemistry Written Examination 2020 Analysis

  1. I agree with your statement that we should be providing additional support for our students and that changing where the standard sits will disadvantage our students. Universities may not change the level of knowledge required for their first-year subjects which will result in added pressure in a new environment. In regards to utilising this data to its fullest, would you recommend providing some additional focus work during revision sessions of spectroscopy and the like? Do you think it is more likely that VCAA will include questions from those areas that students demonstrated difficulty in understanding in last years exam?


    1. VCAA does tend to ask more questions on topics that students have answered badly in the past, and students struggled with spectroscopy questions more than usual in 2020 so yes – I’d give them some spectroscopy practice. Also keep giving students the traditionally difficult topics, too, including long-answer (4-5 mark) questions on experimental design, where many students get just 1-2 marks, as well as electrolysis questions. Also – the NHT 2021 Chemistry examination was extremely tricky this year due to the style of questions and the way they were worded.


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