8 must-knows for WACE Chemistry

Chemistry is simultaneously one of the most loved and one of the most hated subjects in year 12. Here are 8 tips for you to get ahead of the pack and succeed

6 months ago   •   4 min read

By KIS Academics
Photo by Julia Koblitz / Unsplash

Chemistry is simultaneously one of the most loved and one of the most hated subjects in year 12. The exams are deceptive and volatile, with questions and concepts switching from easy to incredibly difficult seemingly on a whim.

Chemistry in year 12 is quite different from chemistry in year 11. You can divide the year into 5 main sections. The first semester is dedicated to 1) equilibrium, 2) acids and bases and 3) redox reactions, whilst the second semester is focused mainly on 4) organic chemistry and 5) industrial chemistry.

Chemistry in year 12 is infinitely more interesting than in year 11 and very practical. There are a lot of equations and theories to remember, and it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by them. However, it’s not the end of the world. There are ways to prepare and a bunch of tips that would make the entire subject a lot more accessible.

But what is this correct preparation? Well, that changes for everyone but there are still a few general tips for chemistry that can take you to the next level.

Tips/Tricks for the Subject

1. Stay on top of things

Staying on top of things is absolutely crucial for Chemistry in year 12. It’s very easy to get bogged down whilst cramming for Chem since it is a memory and practice-intensive subject. The journey of Chem in year 12 is all about the progression from basics all the way to more in-depth content. And the course is designed for regular weekly study. So cramming really isn't all that effective especially once the going gets tough in the latter half of the year.

2. Learn how to write explanations

Explanations underpin most of Year 12 Chemistry, and learning how to structure them is a major skill. Ideally, you should develop a scaffold for writing chemistry answers to different questions. Just go home and write down the key points that you have to mention for each explanation type. You may be asking what are some of these explanations? Well, you have:

  • Explanations of equilibrium and changes imposed on equilibrium
  • Explanations of acidity and pH
  • Buffer explanations
  • Soap and detergent method of action
  • Galvanic cells and electrolytic cells and how they function

3. Understand your fundamentals

It's extremely important to learn your fundamentals for chemistry. Most of the harder applications of these concepts involve some really basic thinking. For example, the buffer’s topic is often confusing for people, but in reality, it is just an application of the relatively easy equilibrium topic. It’s helpful if you connect back everything that you learn to the initial simple concepts at the start of each topic.

The most important fundamental concepts are;

  • Equilibrium Shift (important for industrial synthesis, buffers, changes)
  • Equilibrium Constant (important for temperature change)
  • Bronsted-Lowry Theorem (important for acids and pH changes)
  • Redox Basics (important for electrolysis and galvanic cells)
  • Structure of Organic Compounds (important for combustion)
  • Limiting Reagent (important for industrial synthesis)
  • Empirical Formula (important for industrial synthesis)

4. Look through worked solutions and use the right textbooks

Worked solutions are your best friend in year 12 chemistry. They show you exactly how to structure a response to a tricky topic and how to get as many marks as possible. I would say Pearson probably is not super effective in this case, because it’s got some weird structuring for answers. Lucarelli is pretty good but the gold standard in my opinion is the Creelman book. Creelman is a book of past WACE papers. It covers a bunch of questions from past WACE exams and gives the specific marking criteria and worked solutions WACE markers used for those exams. It is to be noted that Creelman should be used ideally in the lead-up to mocks and ATAR with your Lucarelli and school past papers being the main source for school assessments.

5. Be neat and organised

Being neat in chemistry is free marks. Honestly. If a marker can read what you are writing, you are ahead of a whole lot of people. The way that you structure responses often has marks associated with it. Make sure you either carry a whiteout or an eraser for diagrams. These will help you with being neat, especially with your diagrams.

6. Learn how to use the databook

You will rely heavily on the databook. Everything from the periodic table, observations, solubility tables, voltage potentials, and amino acid structures can be found in the databook. A top tip of mine is to have one databook throughout the year and annotate it with all the notes you need. That way you get used to having it with you and using it. When it comes to the final exam, your practice and memory will be enough to remember how to use the databook.

7. Think practically

Thinking practically is especially important for industrial synthesis. This topic is all about how you maximise production and reaction rate to increase the efficiency of industrial processes. The best way to set yourself up for success in this topic is to be aware of the industrial applications of different topics from the very start of the year. Equilibrium and reaction rate is very important for understanding how to maximise yield and reaction rate whilst organic chemistry underpins the processes of combustion and cleaning. Acids and bases have important applications for titrations and stoichiometry, whilst redox reactions and types of cells are often required for energy.

8. Ask questions

Asking questions from the teachers is quite important because especially for school assessments there is a lot of variation on what individual teachers will accept. Sometimes you get lucky and get a lenient teacher, but sometimes they refuse to change your marks or refuse to give you marks no matter what. And how do you know what a teacher wants without asking?

Anyway above all else, enjoy Chemistry. It may be tough, but it can be very rewarding if you choose to see the good side of it. And hey worst case, you will only suffer for one year.

Written by KIS Academics Tutor for WACE Chemistry, Isira Parahitiyawa. Isira is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Medicine/Bachelor of Surgery at Curtin University and has received stellar reviews from his past KIS Academics students. You can view Isira’s profile here and request him as a tutor. Alternatively, you can find other KIS tutors for Chemistry here.

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