There is a lot to learn when tackling a GCSE in chemistry! Whether you’re learning about:

There’s plenty of material to learn. That, unfortunately, also means that there is a lot of material that you need to revise when the time finally comes to sit your exams.

Thankfully, when it comes to revising a subject such as chemistry, students’ lives have been made easier through the fact that the vast majority of exam boards split the topics that you learn during your GCSE chemistry course into different topics.

This not only makes learning about chemistry much more manageable, but it also means that it’s easier to break down your chemistry revision into various different topics, which gives you a chance to check whether you’re comfortable with all the areas in a particular topic before revising a new topic.

For instance, you might decide to focus your revision efforts initially on topics such as atomic structure, chemical study and analysis, or chemical bonding, and then move on to other topic areas, such as organic chemistry, once you're happy that you've revised the other topics fully.

Out of the many chemistry topics you’ll learn about during your GCSE chemistry course (regardless of whether you’re studying chemistry as a single science or as part of a combined science with biology and physics) you’ll more than likely encounter two in particular: chemical changes and energy changes. This is especially the case if you’re studying chemistry as a single science GCSE under an exam board such as AQA or Edexcel.

Below this article outlines what the topic areas of chemical changes and energy changes tend to cover, and provides some insight into how you might revise for these areas when the time finally comes to prepare for your GCSE chemistry exam.

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Acidic solutions is just one aspect you'll likely be taught about as you study for a GCSE in chemistry.
You may well learn about acidic and alkaline solutions as part of your GCSE chemistry studies. (Image Source: CC0 1.0, congerdesign, Pixabay)

GCSE Chemistry: Chemical Changes

As part of your studies into chemical changes, you’ll more than likely be taught about areas such as acids, alkalis, bases, as well as about salts and electrolysis. Some exam boards, such as AQA, also cover areas such as titrations and the reactions of metals, so it's worth noting that the precise content of what you learn in the classroom will be largely dependent on the exam board that will set your GCSE chemistry exam.

Acids and alkalis are quintessentially the bread and butter of any solid education in chemistry, so it’s quite likely that you’ll already be familiar with these two concepts.

However, if you've not heard of an acid or alkali before, or want a quick refresher, they can be summarised as follows:

  • Acids have a pH value under 7 and go on to make acidic solutions when in water;
  • An alkali has a pH value over 7 and will go on to make an alkaline solution when in water; and
  • Any solution with a pH of 7 is classed as neutral – that is, it is neither acidic nor alkaline.

One of the ways you’ll be familiar testing the pH level of a solution is by using litmus paper, which is always fun to watch as it turns different colours depending on whether the solution is acidic, alkaline, or neutral.

Most likely you'll have experimented a little using litmus paper in school, but if you haven't just ask your teacher if they can do a quick demonstration to show you how the paper works.

GCSE Chemistry: Energy Changes

Part of any study on energy changes is likely to include discussion of exothermic and endothermic reactions.

Essentially, in chemistry, a chemical reaction discusses how energy is being transferred. Exothermic reactions refer to a chemical reaction, which results in energy being transferred externally. A common example of an exothermic reaction that you may already be familiar with is combustion. Exothermic reactions should also result in an increase in the surrounding area's temperature.

Endothermic reactions, on the other hand, refer to a chemical reaction, which results in energy being transferred internally. This means that often there is a decrease in the surrounding area's temperature.

As part of your studies on energy changes, you may also learn about how batteries and fuel cells work, covering aspects such as voltage as part of your work in this area.

You may learn about batteries as part of a GCSE in chemistry.
You might also learn about batteries during your GCSE chemistry lessons on energy changes. (Image Source: CC0 1.0, Manuchi, Pixabay)

Revising Topics Such As Chemical Changes And Energy Changes As Part Of Your GCSE Chemistry Exam

As with any exam, if you want to get the best possible results then ideally you should have a good idea of what you would like and, indeed, need to achieve during the revision stage in order to get those marks when the day of the exam does come around.

While doing well in chemistry may not be as important for some students, for others, getting good marks in chemistry, in particular, is extremely important. For instance, if you think you’d like to take chemistry as a subject at A-level, or perhaps even have aspirations to study chemistry, biochemistry, or a related field at university, then getting the best marks possible in your chemistry GCSE should be your goal.

Regardless of how much importance you place on your GCSE chemistry results, there are some things that all students, regardless of ability level, should take into consideration when putting together a revision plan for an upcoming chemistry exam, such as:

  • How much time you have before the final exam and how much of that time you can devote to revising chemistry compared to other subjects;
  • How confident you already are with certain topics on the chemistry syllabus; and
  • Whether you can comfortably complete and pass a past paper under exam conditions.
Revision is an important part of your GCSE chemistry work.
One way to revise effectively for an upcoming GCSE chemistry exam is to have an idea of how long you have to dedicate to revision. (Image Source: CC0 1.0, monicore, Pixabay)

Try To Revise Each Topic In The Syllabus

If you have enough time, try to go through your chemistry GCSE syllabus and take note of the various topics that the syllabus comprises.

This is so you have an understanding of all the topic areas that could be tested during your actual exam, while also giving you the chance to see whether you would be comfortable answering a question about any given topic in the exam.

For example, when it comes to revising the topics of chemical changes and energy changes, try to think about whether you have enough of the fundamental knowledge needed to answer an exam question on areas such as:

Chemical Changes

  • Acids, bases, and alkalis;
  • Salts; and
  • Electrolysis.

Energy Changes

  • Endothermic reactions; and
  • Exothermic reactions.

If you wouldn’t be comfortable answering a question on areas such as these, then have a think about whether you should go back and revise those areas until you are comfortable answering a question about them.

What’s more, you can adopt this approach to revision with all the topics that appear in your GCSE chemistry syllabus, regardless of whether that topic relates to the states of matter, the composition of various elements, the differences between a proton, neutron, and electron, or something else entirely.

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If you work through all the topics in this way, testing your knowledge as you go along, you should hopefully build your confidence levels and have the belief that you have the ability to complete your GCSE chemistry exam when the day comes.

Of course, there are other ways of preparing for an exam. For instance, you could go through your notes from previous chemistry lessons and re-read them to consolidate your knowledge, or you could speak to your chemistry teacher after class and ask them if they can give you some additional help if there are any areas you’re unsure of.

There are also plenty of resources available online, such as BBC Bitesize, which provides easy-to-read summaries of topics within GCSE chemistry, and also provides some practice questions so that you can test your knowledge and see whether you’re ready to move on to another topic as part of your revision.

Ultimately, one of the most important tasks you should undertake as part of your revision plan is to work your way up to being able to complete an entire past GCSE chemistry exam paper under examination conditions. This will require a mix of good time management, confidence in your own knowledge, and experience answering questions to an exam standard.

If you need any help preparing for your GCSE chemistry exam, or would like some extra help when it comes to things such as improving your exam technique, you might find it helpful to have a chemistry tutor on hand as you revise for your GCSE chemistry exam. Superprof has a range of experienced chemistry tutors who are able to provide one on one, online-only, or group revision workshops.

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