There is no getting around it – when it comes to learning about chemistry, there are a lot of things that you need to know! Regardless of whether you’re studying chemistry as a single GCSE or as part of a combined science GCSE, there are a fair few topics that you should have an understanding of before sitting your exam.

There is a range of the fundamental chemistry topics that might appear as part of your GCSE chemistry syllabus. For instance, if your exam board is AQA and you’re studying GCSE chemistry as a single subject, you might learn about topics such as:

One topic that you might also come across as part of your GCSE chemistry course is the topic of the chemistry of the atmosphere.

Many students might find that they enjoy learning about this particular topic, not least because much of what is taught is highly relevant, as issues such as global warming and climate change are increasingly reported in the media.

These issues are also becoming increasingly political, and any students that would like to learn more about issues such as climate change can easily do so by reading up on the latest news articles regarding climate change policy around the world.

The recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), for instance, is something that GCSE chemistry students may find interesting.

While it might be useful to learn about such topics during the school year, one of the most important things when studying for a GCSE is that you are able to absorb what you’ve learnt over the course of your studies and put it to good use on the day of your exam, thereby increasing your chances of getting as many marks as possible.

Part of your preparation for any upcoming GCSE exam, including GCSE chemistry, should, therefore, be to put a good revision strategy in place. Getting the best result possible out of your chemistry exams is especially important if, for instance, you’d like to study chemistry at A-level, or even at university or beyond.

This article looks at what you might learn about the chemistry of the atmosphere in class as part of your GCSE studies and how you can revise topics like this as part of your preparation for exam season.

If you study for a GCSE in chemistry, you'll likely learn about the composition of the atmosphere.
During your GCSE chemistry studies, you'll learn that oxygen is not the dominant gas in our atmosphere. (Image Source: CC0 1.0, Simon, Pixabay)

What Will You Cover in This Topic?

Chemistry is a fascinating subject to study, not least because it can teach you so much about the way substances and elements are made and how they interact with one another.

What’s more, chemistry is incredibly useful when it comes to helping us understand how our world is built, from both a molecular and wider perspective. It also often brings together concepts and ideas that you see in other subjects taught at school, including subjects such as:

  • Mathematics;
  • Physics; and
  • Biology.

One great example of where the worlds of chemistry and environmental sciences combine is the topic of the chemistry and the atmosphere. This topic is often taught at chemistry GCSE level, and so you may already have come across it during the course of your studies.

As part of this topic, you may learn about a variety of things, including the history of the atmosphere and how it has developed over time. Although there is still a lot that is unknown about the very beginnings of the atmosphere and its composition, we do know a lot more about the “modern” atmosphere (which is still millions of years old!) Today, our atmosphere contains gases such as:

  • Nitrogen;
  • Oxygen; and
  • A small percentage of various other gases, including carbon dioxide.

Additionally, as part of your studies on chemistry and the atmosphere, you may well also learn about things such as climate change, global warming, and atmospheric pollutants. You may also learn about how humans may have an impact on the greenhouse effect. For example, through breeding cattle for food, more methane is released into the air from the cattle.

Equally, deforestation has an impact on the levels of carbon dioxide, leading to it being released into the air, while also providing fewer trees and plants that can absorb carbon dioxide through a process known as photosynthesis.

Revising effectively is important if you'd like to do well in GCSE chemistry exams.
Having a good revision technique is part of what it takes to do well in GCSE chemistry. (Image Source: CC0 1.0, quinntheislander, Pixabay)

How Best To Revise Topics Such As Chemistry Of The Atmosphere

It’s important that you take the time to revise any topic that features within the GCSE chemistry syllabus well before the expected date of your chemistry exam. This is because if a topic is on the GCSE syllabus, whether it relates to chemical reactions, atoms, or acids and alkalis, or another area entirely, it could well come up as part of an exam question, or there may be an entire exam question dedicated to the area.

As a result, if your GCSE exam board has included a topic such as the chemistry of the atmosphere, or a similar topic, within its curriculum, then it’s always a good idea to make sure you’re at least comfortable with the core ideas taught as part of that topic.

For instance, in the case of learning about the chemistry of the atmosphere, it would make sense to know at least something about the following areas, although this list is by no means exhaustive:

  • Greenhouse gases and the greenhouse effect;
  • Global warming and climate change; and
  • The composition of Earth’s atmosphere.

If your exams are still some way off, you’ll have the benefit of time when it comes to revising. Ideally, the more time you have to prepare for an exam, regardless of whether it’s a chemistry, physics, history, or English exam, the more time you have to address any problem-topics and to get comfortable sitting and completing exams under timed conditions.

Aside from giving yourself as much time as possible to revise, are there any other revision techniques you could use to give yourself the best chance when it comes to sitting your GCSE chemistry exam?

The below are just a few revision suggestions, although there are many more out there. While these suggestions could certainly help when it comes to revising GCSE chemistry and the topics within it, whether that’s atomic structure, the periodic table, or the atmosphere, these techniques can equally be applied to your other GCSE subjects as well.

Consider Joining A Study Group

A great option when it comes to revising for exams is to try and find a study group that you can attend. You don’t need to have a lot of people for a study group – even two or three people who are studying for the same exams as you can work well.

The advantage of having a study group is that you can talk about any issues that you’re having with the syllabus with other students, who may be able to help you work through your problems.

Equally, a study group gives you all a platform to discuss and contribute what you’ve learnt from a subject. As some students likely remember different aspects to others, it can be a great way to revise topics from the syllabus that you had forgotten about, which can be really helpful when it comes to your exam preparation.

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As some people prefer to revise alone, this revision method may not work well for everyone, but if you do enjoy revising alongside other people this might be a strategy worth pursuing.

A drawing of a hand holding a light blue pen writing down answers on some white paper. There is another sheet of paper, along with a yellow ruler, yellow and white rubber, and a light blue and dark blue pen laying to the top of the two sheets of white paper. Revising for GCSE chemistry exams can be stressful.
Past GCSE chemistry papers are a great resource when studying for your final chemistry exam. (Image Source: CC0 1.0, asi24, Pixabay)

Seek Out Past Paper Questions

Past paper questions are one of the best revision resources you can find. They can give you an idea of what topics may be tested in your exam and they also give you a chance to work through a previous exam paper and see whether you could actually complete it within the allotted time.

If you are looking for ways to test your knowledge of topics like the chemistry of the atmosphere, then looking for past paper questions, attempting these, and then checking your answers is a great idea.

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If You Need Further Help

Revision can feel overwhelming at times, and understandably so. If you do find yourself struggling, remember that you could always consider hiring a chemistry tutor to help you work through and revise any areas of the syllabus you’re having difficulty with, whether that’s the chemistry of the atmosphere, the periodic table, or another area entirely.

If you are looking for quality chemistry tuition, Superprof has a range of experienced chemistry tutors who are happy to provide in-person or online only revision lessons if you do feel as though you need the extra help, or even if you want to speak to someone about improving your exam technique or potential revision strategies.

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Lucy is a freelance writer and wine enthusiast, who loves travelling and exploring new places.