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Subject Summary: Part IB Chemistry A

Our second-year courses present the fundamental ideas of chemistry both for those who are intending to carry on with chemistry in the third year, and also for those who regard chemistry as a complement to their other Part IB subjects. The course builds on the material covered in the first year and continues to emphasise the interconnections between different areas of chemistry and the way in which fundamental concepts illuminate broad areas of the subject. 

Chemistry A focuses mainly on the theories which are used to understand and probe chemical bonding, structures and reactions. It starts out with a discussion of quantum mechanics which is the fundamental theory used by chemists to understand the microscopic nature of matter and molecules. The course goes on to use these ideas to discuss chemical bonding, the way in which microscopic properties influence those of bulk matter, and how all of these ideas can be used together to understand the chemistry of solid materials and their surfaces. 

Taken together, Chemistry A and B provide a good grounding in the chemical principles which are of relevance to many other IB subjects. On its own, Chemistry A fits in well with the more Physical IB subjects, such as Geology, Materials Science or Physics. Chemistry B is particularly relevant to students with interests in the molecular aspects of biology. 

Chemistry is above all an experimentally based science, so practical work is very much an integral part of the course and one of the key aims of the practical course is to develop the skills that an accomplished practical chemist needs. Practical work is continuously assessed; there are no practical examinations. 

Students who propose to carry on with Chemistry in the third and possibly fourth years, should certainly consider taking both Chemistry A and B so that they will experience the fullest grounding in chemical principles. However, the Part II Chemistry course will be readily accessible to students even if they have only taken one out of Chemistry A and Chemistry B. By only taking one of Chemistry A and B students will have a more restricted choice, but there are more than sufficient courses on offer for students to be able to put together an interesting and challenging year tailored to their interests. 

Programme Specification: Part IB Chemistry A

This course is taught by the Department of Chemistry.


  1. to build on the knowledge and ideas gained from Part IA Chemistry.
  2. to introduce the theories and techniques used to understand and probe the behaviour of individual molecules (i.e. quantum mechanics and spectroscopy), collections of such molecules (i.e. statistical thermodynamics) and the solid state (i.e. free-electron and band theory);
  3. to show how these ideas can be applied to understand a wide range of physical and chemical phenomena'
  4. to develop practical skills involved in making and interpreting physical measurements in the light of the theories studied in the course;
  5. to develop skills in using computer programs to make calculations of molecular properties and to understand the significance of the results in the light of the theories studied in the course.

Learning outcomes

At the end of the course students should:

  1. be able to apply the theories and concepts introduced in the course to solve problems, perform calculations, make predictions and rationalize trends'
  2. have enhanced practical skills, particularly in the areas of making and interpreting measurements, analysing data and using computer programs to compute molecular properties.

Teaching and Learning Methods

These include lectures, supervisions and practical classes and computer-based exercises.


Assessment for this course is through:

  • two unseen written examinations (for aims 1-3 and learning outcome 1);
  • continuouslt assessed practical work, including computer-based exercises (for aims 4-5 and learning outcome 2).

Courses of Preparation

Essential: NST Part IA Chemistry; and NST Part IA Mathematics (preferred) or NST Part IA Mathematical Biology.

Recommended: NST Part IA Physics; NST Part IA Materials Science.

Additional Information

Further information is available on the Course Websites pages.