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Subject Summary: Part IB Chemistry B

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 B focuses mainly on how chemists find out about and rationalise the enormous range of chemical structures and reactions that are known. Despite the apparently overwhelming number of these we can make sense of them by using a relatively small number of key concepts in chemical bonding and reactivity. As the discussion develops the central role taken by electronic structure and the three-dimensional shape of molecules becomes apparent. The course closes with an introduction to Chemical Biology - that is the chemistry of life. 

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 Materials Science and Metallurgy, Mineral Sciences 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 B

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 concepts and ideas used to understand the structures and reactions of a wide range of chemical compounds, with particular emphasis on the areas of organic chemistry, electron deficient compounds and transition metal complexes;
  3. to understand the importance of the shapes and structures of molecules, and how these properties can be determined i.e. by spectroscopy or diffraction;
  4. to introduce the way in which an understanding of chemical concepts is crucial for understanding the molecular basis of living systems;
  5. to develop practical skills involved in preparing, purifying and characterising typical organic and inorganic compounds.

Learning outcomes

At the end of the course students should:

  1. be able to apply the ideas and concepts introduced in the course to solve problems, make predictions and rationalize trends;
  2. have enhanced practical skills, particularly in the area of preparative chemistry.

Teaching and Learning Methods

These include lectures, supervisions and practical classes.


Assessment for this course is through:

  • two unseen written examinations (for aims 1-4 and learning outcome 1);
  • continuously assessed practical work (for aim 5 and learning outcome 2).

Courses of Preparation

Essential: NST Part IA Chemistry.

Recommended: NST Part IA Biology of Cells

Additional Information

Further information is available on the Course Websites pages.