Secondary Student's Guide: 5 Ways To Tackle 'O' Level Chemistry

Posted by Denise Lee on June 29, 2018

Contributed by Sheryl Ng, Head Of Secondary Science, United Square.

Secondary Student’s Guide:  5 Ways To Tackle ‘O’ Level Chemistry

The study of chemistry at the ‘O’ levels requires students to retain and apply a vast amount of content knowledge and a very specific set of skills.

Sheryl Ng, Subject Head of Secondary Science, breaks down essential information about Paper 2 of the ‘O’ Level Chemistry Paper and shares 5 key ways that students can tackle this paper in two parts:

1. Focus on Content
2. Focus on Skills

Unpack The ‘O’ Level Chemistry Paper 2

What do we know about Paper 2?

Section A - 50 Marks Section B - 30 Marks
Consists of 7 to 9 compulsory structured questions, each with several parts Consists of 3 questions, the first 2 of which are compulsory questions.

One of the questions will be a data-based question which requires students to interpret, to evaluate or to solve problems using the given data. which are compulsory.
Total Duration of Paper 2: 1h 45 min  Data Provided: A copy of the Periodic Table of Elements

As a whole, Paper 2 comprises 50% of the overall ‘O’ Level Chemistry grade. Since the demands of Paper 2 are high and the given duration for students to complete the paper is relatively short, students have to strategise during the revision period.

In order to score well, students need to:

•  know their content well
•  practise time management
•  identify question types and requirements with precision
•  answer each question with accuracy

Essentially, students need to have good content knowledge and good examination skills. Read on to explore Sheryl’s 5 tips to tackle the ‘O’ Level Chemistry Paper 2.

Section 1: Focus On Content

The ‘O’ Level Chemistry syllabus requires students to demonstrate a strong understanding of scientific knowledge.

Both the scope and the depth of the curriculum mean that students should utilise specific strategies when revising and reviewing topical knowledge.

1. Know Your Periodic Table

Secondary school teachers will tell you that this is non-negotiable: students must know how to use the Periodic Table.

Why? The Periodic Table has a wealth of information that can help students to solve questions across the entire Paper 2.

While some information such as proton number, mass number, group number and period number can be obtained directly from the Periodic Table, students can also deduce certain scientific information based on these data points.

In all, such information can help students tackle questions in Sections A and B.

Refer to the following table to see how students can fully use the Periodic Table to their advantage.

Direct Information From The Periodic Table What Can Be Deduced
Proton Number And Mass Number - Number of protons
- Number of electrons
- Number of neutrons
- Electronic configuration
- Number of electron shells
- Number of valence electrons
Group Number - Number of valence electrons
- Change of ion formed by element
- Valency
Period Number - Number of electron shells
- Relative sizes of atom

2. Understand The Link Between Topics

In Paper 2, students are required to use knowledge of more than one specific topic.

Hence, students should be able to link several concepts across different topics to answer questions. A good way to prepare for such questions would be to have strong content knowledge in foundational topics.

Key foundational topics to master are:

•  Kinetic Particle Theory
•  Atomic Structure
•  Energy Changes
•  Chemical Equations
•  Mole Concept

Topics often tested in tandem include:

•  Acids, Bases and Salts + Metals + Qualitative Analysis
•  Elements, Compounds and Mixtures + Separation Techniques
•  Periodic Table + Metals/Salts
•  Metals + Reduction and Oxidation Reactions
•  Electrolysis + Reduction and Oxidation Reactions
•  Atomic Structure + Chemical Bonding
•  Chemical Bonding + Periodic Table

TLL Top Tip: As long as chemical equations are involved, there is every opportunity for topics such as Mole Concept and Energy Changes to be tested.

Section 2:  Focus On Skills

Examination skills help students gain maximum marks because they help students accomplish two main things — understand the requirements of each question and accurately answer with the relevant topical knowledge.

3. Understand Question Requirements — Analyse Key Words

There are several types of key words to look out for in the ‘O’ Level Chemistry Paper 2. They are the directive word and the key words that identify the topic(s) being tested.

Look At The Directive Word

Questions which begin with the words, “define”, “state”, “describe”, “explain” or “outline” will test factual knowledge and understanding. Such questions will require students to recall and explain specific concepts.

Questions which ask students to “describe” will require them to use results or observations from the question in their answers. On the other hand, questions which ask students to “explain” will require them to use scientific concepts to back up the observations they pen in their answers.

Identify The Tested Topic(s)

Students should identify the topic(s) and/or concept(s) tested in a question by looking out for key words in the question.

For example, such key words or phrases may include “rate of reaction” or “double displacement reaction”. Students should take care to include related key words/phrases in their answers.

Detect Extended Questions

In the case of questions which are split into parts, students must ensure that their answers for subsequent parts are consistent with earlier parts.  Some key words/phrases students may look out for to identify such questions are “Use your answer from …” or “Based on your observations from …”

Related Article: 5 Ways To Master Expository Essay Writing


Would You And Your Child Like To Learn More?

Download our full guide on “5 Ways To Tackle ‘O’ Level Chemistry” where Sheryl shares more about how to fully prepare for Paper 2 with content revision tips, question analysis skills, answer precision techniques. Click here or on the image below to download the full guide.

5 Ways To Tackle 'O' Level Chem Paper 2

Bonus Tip For ‘O’ Level Chemistry: Use The 3 Cons Method

When structuring answers for Paper 2, use the 3 Cons Method.

It is a systematic approach that helps students to provide accurate and coherent answers.

The 3 Cons Method

Consider and mention the parameters and given information from the question (which could include numerical values, graphs, tables, diagrams, etc)

Deploy the appropriate concepts used to explain the contextual cues given in the question

Directly answer the question by linking back to the main focus of the question.

Find A Location That Suits Your Needs

New Call-to-action

The Learning Lab is now available at 9 locations. Find a location that suits your needs.

If you have any enquiries about our programmes, please email us at enquiry@thelearninglab.com.sg or call us at 6733 8711 and we will be happy to assist you.

Topics: O Level Seminar, secondary school, Secondary Science, O Level Chemistry