VCE Chemistry enables students to examine a range of chemical, biochemical and geophysical phenomena through the exploration of the nature of chemicals and chemical processes. In undertaking this study, students apply chemical principles to explain and quantify the behaviour of matter, as well as undertake practical activities that involve the analysis and synthesis of a variety of materials.
In VCE Chemistry students develop a range of inquiry skills involving practical experimentation and research specific to the knowledge of the discipline, analytical skills including critical and creative thinking, and communication skills. Students use scientific and cognitive skills and understanding to analyse contemporary chemistry-related issues, and communicate their views from an informed position.
VCE Chemistry provides for continuing study pathways within the discipline and leads to a range of careers. Branches of chemistry include organic chemistry, inorganic chemistry, analytical chemistry, physical chemistry and biochemistry. In addition, chemistry is applied in many fields of endeavour including agriculture, bushfire research, dentistry, dietetics, education, engineering, environmental sciences, forensic science, forestry, horticulture, medicine, metallurgy, meteorology, pharmacy, sports science, toxicology, veterinary science and viticulture.
Units of Study
The development and use of materials for specific purposes is an important human endeavour. In this unit students investigate the chemical properties of a range of materials from metals and salts to polymers and nanomaterials. Using their knowledge of elements and atomic structure students explore and explain the relationships between properties, structure and bonding forces within and between particles that vary in size from the visible, through nanoparticles, to molecules and atoms.
Students examine the modification of metals, assess the factors that affect the formation of ionic crystals and investigate a range of non-metallic substances from molecules to polymers and giant lattices and relate their structures to specific applications.
Students are introduced to quantitative concepts in chemistry including the mole concept. They apply their knowledge to determine the relative masses of elements and the composition of substances. Throughout the unit students use chemistry terminology including symbols, formulas, chemical nomenclature and equations to represent and explain observations and data from experiments, and to discuss chemical phenomena.
A research investigation is undertaken in Area of Study 3 related to one of ten options that draw upon and extend the content from Area of Study 1 and/or Area of Study 2.
Water is the most widely used solvent on Earth. In this unit students explore the physical and chemical properties of water, the reactions that occur in water and various methods of water analysis.
Students examine the polar nature of a water molecule and the intermolecular forces between water molecules. They explore the relationship between these bonding forces and the physical and chemical properties of water. In this context students investigate solubility, concentration, pH and reactions in water including precipitation, acid-base and redox. Students are introduced to stoichiometry and to analytical techniques and instrumental procedures, and apply these to determine concentrations of different species in water samples, including chemical contaminants. They use chemistry terminology including symbols, units, formulas and equations to represent and explain observations and data from experiments, and to discuss chemical phenomena. Students explore the solvent properties of water in a variety of contexts and analyse selected issues associated with substances dissolved in water.
A practical investigation into an aspect of water quality is undertaken in Area of Study 3. The investigation draws on content from Area of Study 1 and/or Area of Study 2
The global demand for energy and materials is increasing with world population growth. In this unit students explore energy options and the chemical production of materials with reference to efficiencies, renewability and the minimisation of their impact on the environment.
Students compare and evaluate different chemical energy resources, including fossil fuels, biofuels, galvanic cells and fuel cells. They investigate the combustion of fuels, including the energy transformations involved, the use of stoichiometry to calculate the amounts of reactants and products involved in the reactions, and calculations of the amounts of energy released and their representations. Students consider the purpose, design and operating principles of galvanic cells, fuel cells and electrolytic cells. In this context they use the electrochemical series to predict and write half and overall redox equations, and apply Faraday’s laws to calculate quantities in electrolytic reactions.
Students analyse manufacturing processes with reference to factors that influence their reaction rates and extent. They investigate and apply the equilibrium law and Le Chatelier’s principle to different reaction systems, including to predict and explain the conditions that will improve the efficiency and percentage yield of chemical processes. They use the language and conventions of chemistry including symbols, units, chemical formulas and equations to represent and explain observations and data collected from experiments, and to discuss chemical phenomena.
A student practical investigation related to energy and/or food is undertaken either in Unit 3 or Unit 4, or across both Units 3 and 4, and is assessed in Unit 4, Outcome 3. The findings of the investigation are presented in a scientific poster format.
The carbon atom has unique characteristics that explain the diversity and number of organic compounds that not only constitute living tissues but are also found in the fuels, foods, medicines and many of the materials we use in everyday life. In this unit students investigate the structural features, bonding, typical reactions and uses of the major families of organic compounds including those found in food.
Students study the ways in which organic structures are represented and named. They process data from instrumental analyses of organic compounds to confirm or deduce organic structures, and perform volumetric analyses to determine the concentrations of organic chemicals in mixtures. Students consider the nature of the reactions involved to predict the products of reaction pathways and to design pathways to produce particular compounds from given starting materials.
Students investigate key food molecules through an exploration of their chemical structures, the hydrolytic reactions in which they are broken down and the condensation reactions in which they are rebuilt to form new molecules. In this context the role of enzymes and coenzymes in facilitating chemical reactions is explored. Students use calorimetry as an investigative tool to determine the energy released in the combustion of foods.
A student practical investigation related to energy and/or food is undertaken in either Unit 3 or in Unit 4, or across both Units 3 and 4, and is assessed in Unit 4, Outcome 3. The findings of the investigation are presented in a scientific poster format.
- Environmental Scientist
- Industrial Engineer
- Wine Maker
This is a guide only, please see the careers team for pathway planning advice.
This subject requires the completion of a folio as part of assessment.
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 preparation as prescribed by their teacher.
Unit 3 and 4 Assessment
Percentage contributions to the study score in VCE Chemistry are as follows:
- Unit 3 School-assessed Coursework: 16 per cent.
- Unit 4 School-assessed Coursework: 24 per cent.
- End-of-year examination: 60 per cent.