Category Archives: Study Tools

Resources for students studying VCE and other high-school curricula

Which Chapters of Heinemann Chemistry 1 are most essential for VCE Chemistry Units 3 and 4? (2022 edition)

Some Chapters in VCE Chemistry Units 1 and 2 are more useful than others when for Units 3 and 4. Organic chemistry and redox dominate the Units 3 and 4 course while ionic bonding and metallic bonding barely feature at all.

I made this chart so students know which chapters of Heinemann Chemistry 1 are essential (and usually assumed) knowledge for students commencing Heinemann Chemistry 2.

Please note that this chart is only relevant for students studying VCE Chemistry Units 1 and 2 in 2022 who will progress to VCE Chemistry Units 3 and 4 in 2023.

Kennedy College VCE Chemistry Trial Examination 2022

Click to download the Kennedy College VCE Chemistry Trial Written Examination

Here it is… the Kennedy College VCE Chemistry Trial Written Examination for 2022.

This trial examination is designed to test the key mistakes that students make year after year in the real examination based on my experience as a teacher.

Warning: every question in this trial examination is difficult.

VCE/VET Statistics Dashboard is ready for viewing (2021 data now included)

The Boys vs Girls performance tab has been updated to include 2021 VCE/VET results. Click here for access.

The VCE/VET Statistics dashboard I created last year has now been updated with the latest 2021 VCE/VET result data.

Click here to access the VCE/VET Statistics Dashboard.

My Python code, running in Google Colab, scrapes the VCAA website to extract and organise this data for presentation in Tableau Public

VCE Chemistry Question 9 Collection

Click to download the VCAA Question 9 Collection

Try this VCAA Chemistry Question 9 collection. Question 9 is usually about experimental design.

All these questions are original past VCAA Chemistry Question 9 (experimental design questions) from the current study design. Relevant pages from VCAA’s examination reports are linked below.

Note that the first question in this collection is question 8 because the 2018 NHT paper only had 9 questions in total instead of the usual 10. The next question isn’t exactly related to experimental design, but rather to an experimental cell design. It’s the closest question in the 2019 NHT paper to a question on experimental design.

All the best for the upcoming Chemistry exam!

Try the Most Difficult MCQ that VCAA Ever Asked (2021 edition)

Some multiple choice questions (approximately 2 out of every 30) are “tricky” – that is, they contain a distractor that students choose more frequently than the correct answer.

This collection of 10 multiple choice questions is entirely comprised of questions where students did worse than guessing (in other words, <25% of students chose the correct answer). One of these questions was so tricky that only 8% got it right.

Try these questions then scan the QR code at the end for the solutions.

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.

Introducing the VCE/VET Statistics Dashboard

I made a free VCE/VET Statistics Dashboard.

Find insights into your favourite subjects here. Data was scraped from VCAA and VTAC using open-source Python. #Python #dataviz

The Boys vs Girls tab and the Dropout Statistics pages are most interesting.

Why are girls 5.5x more than boys likely to drop out of VCE LOTE Arabic?

Try this Python script that scrapes data from the VCAA Research & Statistics page and generates a scatterplot of boys vs girls in each VCE subject. Girls outperform boys in 15 of the 20 most popular VCE subjects.

Data was scraped from the VCAA Research & Statistics page in Python (click here for the source code)

Original code is here:

https://colab.research.google.com/drive/1XFS4Kq5nsYPs5YQIPZrP3q3ehKDrnDgv?usp=sharing

If you’re new to Python, go to the menu bar and click Runtime > Run all.

Then wait for around 20 minutes while this script scrapes data from the VCAA and generates an interactive scatterplot for you. When it’s done, there will be some interesting data files available for download from the file explorer on the left of the screen.

You’ll notice some interesting findings in the scatterplot, including the fact that boys outperform girls in biology, and girls outperform girls in physics! Girls outperform boys in 15 of the 20 most popular VCE subjects with the only exceptions being Chemistry, Biology (only slightly) and all three mathematics subjects.

Feel free to modify this code and repost it. There are some other interesting insights you could glean from the dataset. Enjoy!

What percentage of the highest achievers in each VCE subject have an Asian (Chinese) surname?

Data from VCE high achievers list 2018-2020 and the top 100 Asian surnames according to Wikipedia

This chart shows the percentage of students with a top 100 Asian surname among high-achieving VCE students (≥2 study scores ≥40) by subject with EAL students excluded from the analysis.

The proportion of high-achievers with Asian surnames was highest in the following subjects: Specialist Maths, Maths Methods, Physics, Chemistry, Accounting and English Language. Conversely, the least Asian subjects among high-achievers were Drama, Sociology and Theatre Studies.

All spelling variations of the top 100 Asian surnames listed on Wikipedia were included in the analysis, for example Li as well as Lee.

High-achieving VCE students are more likely to have chosen Specialist Maths, Latin, Chemistry, Global Politics, Physics and Literature

Data from VCE high achievers list 2018-2020

In this analysis, I defined “high-achieving students” as those who achieve at least 2 study scores ≥40. I then compared this with enrolment data to see how their subject choices differed from that of all students (from VCAA statistics).

Choosing these subjects doesn’t guarantee you a high grade. But it does provide some interesting insight into the patterns of high-achieving students, who are more likely to have chosen Specialist Maths, Latin, Chemistry, Global Politics, Physics and Literature.

All-new Annotated VCE Chemistry Data Book for 2021 Chemistry Course

The data book contains a wealth of information that’s hidden in plain sight. If you know how to read the data book properly, you can:

  • Never lose marks again for not knowing the states of fuels or combustion products
  • Know how to substitute metric prefixes in calculations
  • Learn that amino acids with primary amide side chains (–CONH2) are polar and not basic!
  • and much more…
Slide to preview the annotated VCE Chemistry Data Book

VCE Chemistry Study Group starts Saturday May 9th 2020 via Zoom

With schools closed due to COVID-19, it can be difficult to stay on track with your VCE studies.

That’s why I’m hosting my first VCE Chemistry study group for Year 11 students on Zoom this Saturday. We’ll work through a selected set of practice questions for VCE Chemistry Unit 1 until we finish them all, which should take around 55 minutes.

By signing up using the link below, you’ll receive a set of questions you need to complete in advance. This will form Part A of our stimulus material. Part B will be revealed during the Study Group on Saturday.

I’m James Kennedy, a VCE Chemistry teacher with 9 years’ experience, and plenty of experience teaching online. (You may have also seen one of my YouTube channels, books or appearances at chemistry conferences before.)

Many students are already using my Annotated VCE Chemistry data book.

Screenshots from real classes are shown below.

Join for just $9.95 by clicking the button below.

Anxious? Sanvello is giving all its users Premium access free of charge

Get free access to Sanvello Premium during COVID-19 pandemic

COVID-19 is having an immense impact on stress and anxiety levels: Mentions of the virus were up 605% in Sanvello last week, and we’re seeing nearly a third more user sign-ups this quarter than last. 

There are over 3 million users of Sanvello, the #1 app for stress and anxiety, but there are so many more that could use our help right now. So, we’re cutting our subscription fees down to zero. 

Premium access to Sanvello is now completely free to everyone, effectively immediately for the duration of the crisis. 

This means all of our clinically validated techniques, coping tools, and peer support are available to everyone to help people find calm, gain insight and feel more socially connected from the comfort and safety of their own home. 

VCE Chemistry written examination paper analysis of marks allocated per chapter

Examination reports are very useful but most students don’t read them. I’ve scoured the examination reports from 2017, 2018 and 2019 and analysed how many marks were awarded for each topic of the VCE Chemistry course, and recorded what percentage of students got these right. As usual, this revealed that VCAA asks more questions on topics that students frequently get wrong.

Tip for students: focus more of your attention on the red topics in the chart above.

Chapter numbers refer to those used in the Heinemann Chemistry 2 textbook.

Focus on perfecting your written responses in VCE Chemistry… because that’s where most of the marks are awarded.

Students obsess over significant figures and mole calculations… but these are only worth 1 and 16 marks, respectively in the final written examination. Over two-thirds of the marks in the VCE Chemistry written examination are awarded for written responses where calculations are not necessary.

Tip for students: focus on perfecting your written responses such as explanations of bonding, chromatography, protein structures, and, most importantly, critiquing experimental designs.

Race to the top: the higher your ATAR, the more difficult it is to increase your ATAR

Plotting a graph of ΔATAR/study score vs ATAR gives an interesting curve: students whose ATARs are around 50 have the most to gain from an additional study score point. Above about 90, the incremental ATAR gain from a single extra study point is probably below the margin of error given the way in which ATARs are calculated.

Tip for students: check the entry requirements for your course and make sure you meet those first. If your requires, for example, a particular score in the UMAT or in English, make sure you get that score. If your course requires a particular ATAR, make sure you get that, too. Remember that these scores are just entry requirements for undergraduate courses; not indicators of self-worth.