Curriculum Vital

The new National Curriculum in England
Changes to the Key Stage 4 chemistry programme of study

Chemistry: (noun)  The branch of science concerned with the substances of which matter is composed, the investigation of their properties and reactions, and the use of such reactions to form new substances.

The national curriculum for GCSE chemistry is hugely varied and covers a wide range of different areas. The curriculum includes some 'traditional' content (such as the periodic table) alongside other areas where the focus in more on how chemistry can be applied in the real world (for example, the production of Ammonia in the Haber Process) The chemistry curriculum also contains aspects which can be linked to the other two scientific disciplines. (For example, the chemical structure of DNA relates to the 'Genetics and Evolution' unit within the GCSE biology syllabus.)

Main changes to the curriculum:

The main change to the chemistry curriculum is the additional unit entitled 'Quantitative Chemistry'. Whereas previously calculations were embedded within other topics, this unit emphasises the importance of good numerical skills within chemistry. The unit requires students to master:

  • The quantitative interpretation of balanced equations
  • Using chemical equations to calculate percentage yield and atom economy
  • The mole concept applied to masses of pure substances, volumes of gases and  concentrations of solutions
  • Methods for calculating and determining the concentration of solutions
  • The calculation of the amounts of material produced in electrolysis.

Pure and impure substances

  • Techniques for separating mixtures and measuring the purity of substances
  • The use of chemical and spectroscopic tools to identify gases and ions

The particulate nature of matter

  • How intermolecular forces and relative strength of chemical bonds dictate states of matter
  • The relationship between  energy transfer and change in state
  • Bulk and surface properties of matter and nanoparticles

Atoms, elements and compounds

  • A simple model of the atom
  • Calculation of relative atomic mass
  • Different kinds of chemical bonds and how their arrangement determines the properties of different substances

Chemical reactions

  • Displacement reactions in terms of electron transfer ('Redox' reactions) and their representation
  • Factors that influence the rate of reaction
  • The concept of dynamic equilibrium and how the balance between equilibrium position and rate in industrial processes such as the production of fertilisers


  • Exothermic and endothermic reactions in terms of making and breaking chemical bonds

Acids, alkalis and neutralisation

  • Defining acids, bases and alkalis with reference to hydrogen and hydroxide ions
  • Neutralisation reactions
  • The differences between  'weak' and 'strong' acids and alkalis

The Periodic Table

  • The principles underpinning the Mendeleev Periodic Table
  • The significance of the positions of elements in the Periodic Table and how this can be used to predict their properties
  • The properties and trends of elements in Groups 0, 1 and 7 as well as the  transition metals


  • The reactivity series of metals, how this can be explained on an atomic basis and how a metal's reactivity influences the method used for extraction
  • The physical and chemical properties of different metals related to their atomic  structure and position on the Periodic Table
  • Alloys - their production, properties, uses and causes for corrosion

Earth science

  • Common Greenhouse gases and pollutants
  • Carbon capture and storage
  • The Earth’s water resources and obtaining potable water
  • The industrial; applications of calcium carbonate


  • The difference between molten and aqueous ionic liquids
  • Products of electrolysis of various substances
  • Reactions at the electrodes
  • The use of electrochemistry for extracting and purifying some metals
  • Fuel cells

Organic chemistry

  • Understanding the differences in chemical structure between alkanes, alkenes and alcohols
  • The industrial applications of Carbon Compounds
  • The process of cracking and the fractional distillation of crude oil
  • How individual monomers can become polymerised  and the uses of polymers
  • Exanples of naturally occurring and synthetic macromolecules/polymers

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