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.
Each year, the VCAA subtly upgrades the VCE Chemistry data book. Each year, I print it and annotate it to show students the wealth of useful information hidden within it (most of which, is in plain sight).
This year, the VCAA has changed some “constants” and added some interesting functional groups to the spectroscopy tables. Smaller things are changed, too. All the protons in the 1H NMR table are now in bold; not just the ambiguous ones.
Start using this annotated version of the data book for your year 11 and year 12 chemistry homework exercises. While you can’t take this annotated version into the final examination (or into most SACs), seeing the annotations frequently throughout the two years will help you find things faster in the final examination.
Do you have feedback? Any comments? Do you require 1-to-1 chemistry tutoring? Email me at email@example.com and I’ll get back to you personally.
You’ve graduated and you’re waiting for VCE examination results day on December 14th, 2015. In the meantime, you can rest, celebrate, and get ready for university.
When I completed my master’s degree at Cambridge University in 2010, I took note of the habits and traits that helped me to succeed in university. I didn’t maintain all of them all the time – rather, I fluctuated between doing these things and doing the exact opposite – but the process has taught me which character traits and mental attitudes are necessary for academic success in university. Here are my top ten tips for university. Each one of these tips is written carefully from my personal experience.
If you have a strong opinion on something, be prepared for it to change COMPLETELY several times before graduation. That’s how we grow and learn.
Always know where you’re going from now on. Always have a goal and you’ll never feel lost.
Ask for help from professors or lecturers if you don’t understand something. (They will not reach out to you in university.)
Read all the textbooks on the reading list. Read the whole books (not just the required chapters) if you have time.
Textbooks are always more important than academic papers despite what your lecturers tell you. Read the textbooks first.
Always make notes as you read.
Arrive early to lectures to get the best seats and to make friends with like-minded, punctual and keen students before the lecturer arrives.
Socialise carefully. Will joining this particular group/team help you to grow as a person? Some groups will help you grow; some will drag you down. Choose carefully!
Don’t be too stubborn but don’t be too easily influenced, either. Be in the middle.
Calorimetry can be a confusing topic. Avoid common errors by following these essential tips:
Always label the units of E (kJ or J) above the E. This is the most common source of error in calorimetry calculations. Try this quick way to remember the required units of E: If there’s ΔH in the equation, the units are kJ; otherwise, the units are J.
In E=mcΔT, all the variables refer to the mass of water being heated. A common error among students is to use the mass of limiting reactant instead of the mass of water. Generally, m in this equation is 100 g or a similar round number.
Never convert ΔT to kelvin. Temperature changes are the same in kelvin and celcius… never add 273 when finding ΔT.
No calibration step? Use m×c instead. Because E=mcΔT and E=CfΔT, it therefore follows that Cf ≡ m×c. For example, if we’re heating a 100.0 g of water without a Cf, we should use Cf = 100×4.18 = 418 J K-1 instead.
In ΔH = E/n, n denotes the number of moles of limiting reactant. Never add up the number of moles of reactants: use the number of moles of limiting reagent only.
Calculate twice. Students most often make mistakes when converting hours or days into seconds. Many answers are therefore wrong by a factor of 60. Do your calculations twice: once while doing the question and again when you check over your answers at the end of the SAC or examination.
Know a ballpark figure. Neutralisation and solubility reactions tend to have 2-digit ΔH values; combustion reactions tend to have a 3-digit ΔH and explosive reactions tend to have a 4-digit ΔH. If you get a 5-digit ΔH value, you’ve probably forgotten to convert your answer into kilojoules!
Remember the ‘+’ or ‘-‘ sign! The calculator doesn’t know whether the answer should be positive or negative. Think about it yourself instead: endothermic reactions need a ‘+’ sign and exothermic need a ‘-‘ sign. VCAA awards a whole mark for getting the ‘+’ or ‘-‘ sign correct! It’s possibly the easiest mark in the whole paper.
Consider getting a home tutor who can answer your questions and explain difficult concepts to you. Students learn much faster with a tutor than on their own.
Redox can be a confusing topic for VCE Chemistry students. It’s also taught right at the end of the year, when students are tired and some teachers are rushing their lessons so they can finish the course before the end of Term 3. Student motivation levels are at their lowest time of the year, which means that students often finish the course with an incomplete understanding of Redox.
Fortunately, there are six universal principles that are always true in Redox no matter what type of cell is being studied.
First, here’s a reminder of the types of cells you need to have studied in this course.
Primary (can’t be recharged)
Secondary (can be recharged)
Fuel Cells (reactants are supplied continuously)
Electroplating Cells (no overall reaction)
Electrolytic Cells (non-spontaneous reaction)
Commercial Cells (usually molten electrolytes)
Recharge reaction of a secondary cell (non-spontaneous)
Now, here are the six universal Redox principles.
1. The strongest oxidant at the cathode reacts with the strongest reductant at the anode (SOC SRA)
To predict which species will react with each other, circle all the species present at the cathode on the electrochemical series. The highest species on the left will always react. Now, circle all the species present at the anode… the lowest species on the right will react.
2. The half-reaction with the highest E° value is always positive
In all cells, the half-equation with the highest electrode potential (also called ‘reduction potential’ or E° value) always occurs at the positive electrode. Similarly, the half-equation with the lowest electrode potential (E°) will always occurs at the negative electrode.
3. OIL RIG
Oxidation is loss of electrons. Reduction is gain of electrons.
4. ←AN OIL RIG CAT→
Anode reaction (oxidation reaction) is whichever reaction is happening to the left in the electrochemical series.
Cathode reaction (reduction reaction) is whichever reaction is happening to the right in the electrochemical series.
5. Electrons always flow in this order (RACO)
Reductant → anode → cathode → oxidant
6. In the internal circuit, cations always flow to the cathode, and anions always flow to the anode.
The internal circuit might be an electrolyte or a salt bridge that contains soluble weak oxidants and reductants such as KNO3(aq) (potassium nitrate). Either way:
cations always flow to the cathode; and
anions always flow to the anode.
Keep practicing redox questions by completing past papers, Checkpoints and Lisachem questions. If you need more help, contact me via the Get a Tutor button in the site’s menu bar. Students learn much faster with a tutor than on their own.
We all remember the endless ‘cells’ questions at the end of the 2014 Chemistry exam. Less memorable was that the 2013 examination awarded a similar number of marks for ‘cells’ knowledge. Exams that test knowledge of these last two chapters in the course (Galvanic Cells and Electrolytic Cells) separate goodstudents from great students because these topics are taught at the end of the course when students are getting tired and teachers are rushing to finish the course before trial examinations and the Term 3 holidays. Only the most diligent students go out of their way to get a complete understanding of these topics at this stage in the year – and they’re the ones who benefit from this type of exam.
Interestingly, in 2013 and 2014, 33% of the marks in the VCE Chemistry examination were awarded for knowledge of just four of the textbook’s 28 chapters. Therefore, if you’re short of time, focus your efforts on these four chapters (28, 27, 16 and 12) before working on the rest.
“Based on past examinations, students should focus their revision on Electrolysis (28), Galvanic Cells (27), Equilibrium (16) and Biomolecules (12) before working on the rest…”
While the structure of past examinations provide no guarantees about future examinations, it’s still reasonable to expect that the top 5 subjects will remain mostly the same in 2015 as in previous years.
Correlation of the total number of marks awarded per chapter is moderate with R² = 0.48 for 2013 and 2014.
Consider getting a home tutor who can answer your questions and explain difficult concepts to you. Students learn much faster with a tutor than on their own.
Track your progress in VCE Chemistry with this A3 size progress tracker. Cross out or colour in each box as you complete it, and write your scores in . Start at the bottom (highlighted) and work your way upwards.
A ‘minimum expected level of examination preparation’ of 26 examination papers is labelled on the chart. Write your percentage scores in each of the boxes as you mark each paper. When you’re achieving past/practice examination scores concordantly above 90%, you’re ready to sit the VCE Chemistry examination.
1. Develop excellent study skills. Cultivate ideal study habits such as waking up early, reading your notes before school, doing all homework on time and studying even when there’s no homework set.
2. Stay committed and know what you want and WHY. People who know why they do what they do are far more likely to persist and put in the huge number of hours required to excel at that particular skill. All successful people were driven by a higher. Find your why and you’ll feel more motivated to study VCE.
3. Keep motivation levels high and consistent throughout the year. Remind yourself constantly why you’re studying the VCE subjcets you’ve chosen.
4. Do not “over-indulge” in VCE tutoring. Your tutors and teachers can only take you so far. The highest-achieving students are those who are self-motivated: they push themselves and study even when nobody asked them to. Become self-motivated and use your tutoring time wisely to maximise your performance in VCE exams.
2. There are two things you need to do: make great notes and do practice questions.
3. Build on your notes from external sources (other people’s notes and the textbook)
4. Mark your questions – or get them marked! Akhil says that while it’s an excellent learning exercise to practice marking questions by yourself, it’s also necessary to get your practice papers and Checkpoints questions marked by a teacher or tutor because they’ll be more vigilant with sticking to the marking scheme and can pick up slight errors in wording that are easy to miss if you mark your own work.
Memories and connections are some of the most valuable things you’ll take with you from Year 12. Keep in touch with as many people as possible both officially (using alumni networks) and unofficially (using social media). People move in different directions after graduation and you’ll be surprised at how your friendships evolve, too: classmates who were mere acquaintances during school might become very close friends in five years’ time. Keep in touch with all your classmates to make sure you don’t miss out on these future business connections, too. You might even meet again one day sitting opposite each other at a job interview!
Remember that your ATAR is only a means to a much more meaningful goal: it’s the key to a university course of your choice. Strive for an ATAR that’s high enough: there’s no need to stess yourself out by aiming for a ‘perfect’ score of 99.95. Your ATAR is like a disposable key: it gets you into university but doesn’t help you while you’re there. Nobody asked me what my A-level results were throughout my undergraduate years at Cambridge. High-school results simply weren’t important.
3) A Relentless Work Ethic
You’ve worked harder in Year 12 than you’ve ever worked in your life. If you want to be successful, you’ll have to maintain this level of hard work – or even increase it – to accomplish your goals in life. You’ve learned the difficult way that in Year 12, going to school and doing all the required homework isn’t enough. You’ve figured out in Year 12 that you have to spend hours reading the textbook by yourself, doing practice question sets that aren’t on the course, and making summary notes that your teacher will probably never see in order to get a high grade.
The relentless work ethic you’ve garnered will help you to conquer bigger obstacles in the years that follow. Give every major event in your life at least as much passion, dedication and preparation that you gave to your VCE examinations and you’ll be sufficiently prepared for the challenges that await you in the future. VCE is pre-season training for life.
Is there anything I’ve missed from this list? Is an ATAR more than just a “key to a university course”? Let us know in the comments section below.
A recent report by PriceWaterhouseCooper predicted that 44% (5.1 million) of the jobs that exist in Australia today are at risk of ‘digital disruption’ by 2035. PwC predicts that computerisation and technology will not only create new jobs in the next 20 years but will ultimately supersede much of the existing workforce as well.
In order to realise our full potential, Australia needs an appropriately skilled workforce; a workforce fit for the future. PwC has concluded that expanding our STEM industries (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) would maximise economic outcomes for Australia in the next few decades.
The Australian economy has benefited greatly from economic reforms and from increasing demand for natural resources, mostly from China, which drove most of Australia’s growth in the early 2000s. At the same time, the PwC report says, economic growth from productivity has halved and Australia needs to develop a strong STEM foundation to guarantee economic growth after the current commodity boom has finished.
While it’s important to choose a future-proof career in one of the fields above, the benefits of doing so extend far beyond the individual level. PwC has predicted that Australia could gain a $57 billion economic boost between 2015 and 2035 if it switched just 1% of its workforce into STEM occupations. Australia’s prosperity in the next few decades appears to be highly dependent on our nation’s commitment to STEM.
Conclusion: schools and STEM businesses need to do more outreach
“Business also has the opportunity to better connect with students. This can be done by profiling emerging STEM careers, talking about workforce needs, offering workforce and internship experiences and breaking down the stereotypes and barriers that still remain today. It’s not new, but scope exists for a much more coordinated approach to engaging with the potential STEM workforce.”
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.
Students who aim for a Study Score of 42 or above complete at least 20 practice papers for each subject they’re studying and correct them critically before examinations begin. High-achieving students print these 20 practice papers and make a detailed revision schedule before full-time revision sets in.
Twenty practice papers, with proper correction and revision of theory, require 20 days to complete. A student studying 5 VCE subjects therefore needs 100 Days of Revision before their examinations begin.
VCE exams begin on October 28th, 2015, and 100 Days of Revision therefore begins on July 20th, 2015 for students who want to excel. Most schools plan to finish teaching Unit 4 at the end of August, which is just 40 days before the final examination. Forty days allows you only 8 days of revision for each of your 5 VCE subjects, and this simply isn’t enough practice for students who want to excel.
The best way to make time for 100 Days of Revision is to study Unit 4’s Area of Study 2 during this upcoming Easter Holiday.
In this upcoming Easter Holiday, by yourself, or with the help of a home tutor, you can study the topics that your school has planned to teach after July 20th, 2015. Typically, this is Unit 4’s Area of Study 2 (Chapters 23 to 28 in the Heinemann Chemistry 2 textbook). By studying this topic early, you’ll save time later in the year, which will allow you to complete 20 practice exams per subject instead of using that time to learn new theory.
Easter Holiday Tutoring 2015
If you want to learn Unit 4’s Area of Study 2 this holiday, and free up your homework schedule later in the year, get in touch for a short-term set of tutoring sessions in April 2015. I am offering new students a short-term Easter Holiday tutoring package for $300.
The $300 tutoring package includes:
Chemistry Unit 3 & 4 diagnostic test;
Quizzes based on knowledge areas that need to be improved upon (as identified in the diagnostic test);
Three home tutoring sessions of 2 hours each, which includes:
Critical review of the student’s homework answers;
1-to-1 teaching of Unit 4 Area of Study 2 (Chapters 23-28) with homework exercises and quizzes;
Answering any Chemistry questions the student has accumulated while doing homework exercises.
Personalised Chemistry study timetable for the whole year; and
24/7 email and phone support for the duration of the Easter Holiday.
The program includes 6 hours of home tutoring and requires 15 to 18 hours of self-study to be completed by the student during the holiday.
Get ahead in Chemistry this Easter. I am available for VCE Chemistry tutoring on the following dates and times.
Monday 30th March 2015 to Friday 3rd March 2015: 9am – 5pm daily Monday 6th April 2015 to Friday 10th March 2015: 9am – 5pm daily
*UPDATE: I am now fully booked for the 2015 Easter Holiday. Fill in the contact form below to enquire about term-time tutoring at evenings and weekends.
Visualising reaction mechanisms in VCE Chemistry can sometimes be difficult. Making plastic models helps, but I’ve been thinking that it would be much more convenient if students had their own paper version of molecular models that they could keep for themselves and use at home.
That’s why I created Foldable Biomolecules. Each Foldable Biomolecule is a PDF template that students can fold into a shape that demonstrates a chemical reaction clearly. Pull apart the edges of each sheet to visualise a hydrolysis reaction, and push them back together to visualise a condensation reaction.
These paper-based biomolecules are downloadable, shareable and much quicker to set up than their plastic counterparts.
You can also download the complete set of Foldable Biomolecules as a single PDF here.