A level Chemistry

What is the A level Chemistry about?

We study OCR Chemistry A level, choosing the “A” syllabus. This has a helpful mix of the fundamental theories behind the subject, balanced with plenty of the practical side. The course is structured around the three sides of Chemistry, being Physical, Organic and Inorganic. The first covers atomic structure in which we take our GCSE knowledge to another level, and also some of the more mathematical sides, including rates of reaction and the idea of dynamic equilibrium. Organic Chemistry looks at the plethora of compounds based on carbon, an incredibly versatile element as you will see. This encompasses many of the molecules upon which life is based, hence the name of the subject. The third section, “Inorganic”, looks at all the other elements and their compounds, concluding with some depth of study of the Transition Metals. The development of practical skills underpins much of the work, both with the undertaking and planning of experiments. This is assessed regularly with formal practical challenges which are recorded and finally recognised with the achievement of practical competency on the exam certificate at the end of the course. In addition the final papers will examine knowledge of practical techniques and the processing of results.


Lower Sixth

  • Practical Skills in Chemistry
  • Atoms and Reactions
  • Electrons, Bonding and Structure
  • The Periodic Table
  • Physical Chemistry
  • Basic concepts of Organic Chemistry
  • Alcohols, Haloalkanes and Analysis

Upper Sixth

  • Rates, Equilibrium and pH
  • Energy
  • Transition Metals
  • Aromatic Compounds, Carbonyls and Acids
  • Nitrogen Compounds, Polymers and Synthesis
  • Analysis


A level Chemistry is assessed through three exam papers at the end of the Upper Sixth year. The first two are over 2 hours 15 minutes, the third, a synoptic paper is 1 hour 30 minutes. There is also ongoing assessment of practical skills throughout the year to assess competency in this area. 

Whom does the subject suit?

Chemistry is such a broad subject benefiting hugely those who have an interest in what anything and everything is made of. We will delve into the intricacies of sub-atomic particles explaining from where we get our theories of these, and explain more about the bonding that is so key to the macroscopic properties of the chemicals that we think we know. There is much to learn about the energy changes in processes, and when and why an equilibrium may form - how fast and how far the reactions will go. Vitally we not only look at the theories of these, but also the impact on the economics and practicality too.

Organic Chemistry teaches us about the fundamental building blocks of life, transition metals (on the inorganic side) about some of the most important chemicals industrially being the catalysts. We also look at some of the cutting edge analytical techniques used in laboratories around the world every day. Whom does this suit? Anyone who finds an interest in these areas and so much more!

What skills should I have?

Along with an inquiring mind, being able to spot patterns and link ideas, and having an ability sometimes to think outside of the box, you will need to be able to spot what is really being asked in a challenging situation. It helps to be able to express yourself clearly and concisely. Precision and accuracy are key in practical work, with terminology and calculations.

What trips are involved?

We take the L6th pupils to the Big Bang Fair in Birmingham which exposes the pupils to the vast range of careers that are available for pupils who have studied Biology. This fair is usually at the start of March and so is just at the time that the pupils are starting to think about university courses that they might be interested in.

What else should I consider before choosing?

It might be helpful to consider what other subjects you could do alongside Chemistry which would complement the subject. The obvious ones are Physics and Biology, Animal Management, Sports Studies and Mathematics. Other students have also studied DT or Art or English and all of these subjects help to develop analytical and observational skills that are very useful in Chemistry.

What wider reading would be helpful?

  • The Disappearing Spoon by Sam Kean
  • Any auto/biographies about leading chemists
  • Journals such as New Scientist, Catalyst and so on
  • Start with the Royal Society of Chemistry website -
  • Listen to top scientists reporting on their work and passion on BBC Radio 4’s “The Life Scientific” via the BBC Sounds app.

Exam Board

OCR Chemistry (A) (H432)

Entry Criteria

Grade 7 at GCSE Chemistry and grade 6 at Maths. Consideration may be given to pupils with a grade 6.

For American Program pupils: successful completion of Algebra I, Geometry, Chemistry and two years of English maintaining at least a B+ average.

Career Pathways

A level Chemistry is a challenging but extremely valuable A level to achieve. It can lead into pure Chemistry courses at University, along with the more applied Chemical Engineering versions. There is much overlap with biological subjects such as Biochemistry and Pharmacology as well as being a vital component to a budding medic’s CV. Many other courses would be pleased to accept a student with a strong Chemistry A level as it will prove not only ability but a willingness to work hard.