By Juan Nichols,2014-04-12 11:27
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    VCE CHEMISTRY UNITS 12: 20072014; UNITS 34: 20082014

    The accreditation period has been extended until 31 December 2014.

    Please Note: This study summary comprises excerpts from the VCE Chemistry Study Design. The summary is not a substitute for the VCE Study Design. Users are advised to consult the VCAA website ( to view the accredited

    Study Design and other resources.


    Chemistry is a key science in explaining the workings of our universe through an understanding of the properties and interaction of substances that make up matter. Most processes, from the formation of molecules in outer space to the complex biological interactions occurring in cells, can be described by chemical theories. Although there are no sharp boundaries between sciences such as chemistry, physics and biology, chemistry is used to explain natural phenomena at the molecular level, as well as create new materials such as medicines and polymers. The development of modern society has been intimately linked with the successful integration of chemical knowledge into new technologies. This continues with emerging fields such as biotechnology and nanotechnology.

    There are many unanswered questions in science, and many unexplained phenomena such as the language of the brain and the evolution of climate. Over time, chemistry will play a key role in answering some of these questions as well as providing a sustainable environment for the future. Studying Chemistry can enrich students’ lives through the development of particular knowledge,

    skills and attitudes, and enable them to become scientifically capable members of society. It will also provide a window on what it means to be a scientific researcher, working as a member of a community of practice, including insight into how new ideas are developed and investigated, and how evidence or data collected is used to expand knowledge and understanding of chemistry.

    Many people develop an ‘applied’ knowledge of chemistry through their careers and day-to-day

    pursuits. Chemistry permeates numerous fields of endeavour, including agriculture, art, biochemistry, dietetics, engineering, environmental studies, food, forensic science, forestry, horticulture, law, medicine, oceanography, pharmacy, sports science and winemaking. The chemistry undertaken in this study is representative of the discipline and the major ideas of chemistry. Some students will develop a passion for chemistry and be inspired to pursue further studies. All students, however, should become more informed, responsible decision-making citizens, able to use chemical knowledge and scientific arguments in their everyday lives and to evaluate and debate important contemporary issues such as the future of our environment and its management.

VCE CHEMISTRY Units 12: 20072014; Units 34: 20082014 STUDY SUMMARY


    The study is made up of four units:

    Unit 1: The big ideas of chemistry

    Unit 2: Environmental chemistry

    Unit 3: Chemical pathways

    Unit 4: Chemistry at work

    Each unit contains between two and four areas of study.


    There are no prerequisites for entry to Units 1, 2 and 3. Students must undertake Unit 3 prior to undertaking Unit 4. Students entering Unit 3 without Units 1 and/or 2 may be required to undertake additional reading as prescribed by their teacher. Units 1 to 4 are designed to a standard equivalent to the final two years of secondary education.

    Unit 1: The big ideas of chemistry

    The story of chemistry begins with the building of the Periodic Table from speculation, debate and experimental evidence. The Periodic Table provides a unifying framework for studying the chemistry of the elements using their chemical and physical properties to locate their position. The electron configuration of an element, its tendency to form a particular bond type and its ability to behave as an oxidant or reductant can all be linked to its position in the Periodic Table. A study of the development of our understanding about the internal structure of the atom illustrates to students the collaborative and step-by-step way in which scientific theories and models are formed.

    Students study the models for metallic, ionic and covalent bonding. They consider the widespread use of polymers as an example of the importance of chemistry to their everyday lives. Students investigate the uses of materials and how these have changed. Examples could include improved corrosion prevention or limitation and carbon nanotubes and self-repairing materials.

    Students are introduced to the development and application of ‘smart’ materials. Developing new materials has escalated with the use of synchrotron science that explores particle behaviour at an ever decreasing size. Some examples of new materials are alloys, fibres and compounds incorporating polymers, ceramics, biopolymers, films and coatings.

    Students use the language of chemistry, its symbols and chemical formulas and equations, to explain observations and data collected from experiments.

    Unit 2: Environmental chemistry

    Living things on earth have evolved to use water and the gases of the atmosphere in the chemical reactions that sustain them. Water is used by both plants and animals to carry out their energy-producing reactions, dissolve their nutrients and transport their wastes. The atmosphere supplies life-giving gases, provides temperature that sustains life, and gives protection from harmful radiation.

    Algae blooms, salinity, acid rain, depletion of ozone, photochemical smog, and global warming continue to have an impact on living things and the environment. Students will investigate how chemistry is used to respond to the effects of human activities on our environment. ?VCAA 2010 2

VCE CHEMISTRY Units 12: 20072014; Units 34: 20082014 STUDY SUMMARY

    Typical tasks of environmental chemists include monitoring the concentration of wastes in the effluent from an industrial plant and monitoring air quality. Quantitative chemical calculations play an essential role in these tasks and students are introduced to the types of calculations used every day by analytical chemists.

     benign by design to processes and The principles and applications of green chemistry

    practices are included. The goal of these processes is to achieve hazard-free, waste-free, energy efficient synthesis of non-toxic products whilst maintaining efficiency. Students are introduced to new, cleaner and more efficient chemical processes that have been designed using green chemistry principles.

    Students continue to use and develop the language of chemistry, its symbols and chemical formulas and equations, to explain observations and data collected from experiments. Unit 3: Chemical pathways

    In this unit students investigate the scope of techniques available to the analytical chemist. Chemical analysis is vital in the work of the forensic scientist, the quality control chemist at a food manufacturing plant, the geologist in the field, and the environmental chemist monitoring the health of a waterway.

    Each technique of analysis depends on a particular property or reaction of the chemical being investigated. Consequently, an understanding of the chemistry is necessary in learning how and why the techniques work. Some techniques of analysis have been refined over many years to make them quicker and more accurate. Other techniques are now used in combination to provide higher and more reliable levels of accuracy, for example gas chromatography and mass spectrometry. State of the art analytical tools such as the Australian synchrotron will enable investigation of the properties of materials and chemical reactions at the micro level. Students investigate organic reaction pathways and the chemistry of particular organic molecules. A detailed knowledge of the structure and bonding of organic chemicals is important to the work of the synthetic organic chemist. In the wake of the work done on the genome project, synthesis of new medicines is one of the growth industries for the coming decades. Students investigate the role of organic molecules in the generation of biochemical fuels and forensic analysis.

    Students will continue to investigate the application of principles of green chemistry to chemical processes and use the language and symbols of chemistry, and chemical formulas and equations to explain observations and data collected from experiments.

    Students complete an extended experimental investigation drawn from Area of Study 1 or Area of Study 2.

    Unit 4: Chemistry at work

    In this unit students investigate the industrial production of chemicals and the energy changes associated with chemical reactions.

    Chemical reactions produce a diverse range of products we use and depend on every day. Access to large quantities of raw materials and reliable energy supplies for these reactions is necessary to maintain continuous production of high quality useful chemicals. Features that affect chemical reactions such as the rate and yield or equilibrium position are investigated. Students explore how an understanding of these features is used to obtain optimum conditions in the industrial production of a selected chemical.

    Our society uses a range of energy sources, including coal to generate electricity and gas for heating, oil for transport, and solar and wind for small and large scale production of electricity. ?VCAA 2010 3

VCE CHEMISTRY Units 12: 20072014; Units 34: 20082014 STUDY SUMMARY

    Students investigate how energy is produced from available resources and consider the efficiencies, advantages and disadvantages of each energy resource.

    Galvanic cells and electrolytic cells operate by transforming chemical and electrical energy. Students investigate their operating principles, both in the laboratory and in important commercial and industrial applications including fuel cells. These cells are used in smaller appliances such as mobile phones, CD players, personal computers, and in larger scale systems such as cars and motor bikes, and in the production of chemicals.

    Students will continue to investigate the application of principles of green chemistry to chemical processes and use the language and symbols of chemistry, and chemical formulas and equations to explain observations and data collected from experiments.


    Satisfactory Completion

    The award of satisfactory completion for a unit is based on a decision that the student has demonstrated achievement of the set of outcomes specified for the unit. This decision will be based on the teacher’s assessment of the student’s performance on assessment tasks designated

    for the unit.

    Levels of Achievement

    Units 1 and 2

    Procedures for the assessment of levels of achievement in Units 1 and 2 are a matter for school decision.

    Units 3 and 4

    The Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority will supervise the assessment of all students undertaking Units 3 and 4. In the study of VCE Chemistry students level of

    achievement will be determined by School-assessed Coursework, a mid-year examination and an end-of-year examination.

    Percentage contributions to the study score in VCE Chemistry are as follows: Unit 3 School-assessed Coursework: 17 per cent

    • Unit 4 School-assessed Coursework: 17 per cent

    • Mid-year examination: 33 per cent

    End-of-year examination: 33 per cent.

?VCAA 2010 4

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