What is Chemistry about?

Chemistry may seem a very complicated subject at first sight, but the ideas and complexities are actually built on a set of fundamental underlying patterns. Once you have developed a careful understanding for these it becomes accessible and fun to study. Our aim is always to help students to understand these key principles; they can then enjoy the logic that underpins the subject, and use it to explore and make sense for themselves the many factual details and experimental observations.

What is studied in chemistry?

You are the stuff that stars are made of. Chemistry is the study of all chemical substances and how to change one chemical into another. The food you eat, the air you breath, your own body, your mobile phone, the plants and streets around you are made of chemicals. As you want inexpensive products, chemistry helps to decrease economic costs, and as you want a safe environment, chemistry helps to decrease pollution by detecting the toxins, and by destroying them. Gone are the days that poisonous red lead oxide is used to colour cheese, or to sweeten cider; and now we do not put toxic arsenic in cosmetics; nor do we use lead in white paint, or make CFCs that destroy the ozone layer. These chemicals were used mostly out of ignorance, so with the development of new understanding in chemistry, a safer world is built.

If you like logical problems, and thinking hard – really using your brain – then Chemistry is for you. If you want to know what makes up the world around you, you are a natural chemist.

It is like seeing with new eyes all that is before you, within your food, on product labels, in cosmetics, in fuels, in the atmosphere, in the chemistry of life, and in the chemistry of the newest products.

Mobile phones are small because chemists developed more efficient batteries, and new pigments for the screens. Clothes are more light weight and colourful (or a darker black!) than those of our ancestors. Cars go more kilometres on a litre of fuel due to the study of chemical combustion.

Chemistry is also always helping us to develop new products and processes. In the car industry, for example, companies are working on fuel cells to power your car more efficiently, new fuels from plant material and new alloys to make vehicles lighter.

Whom does the subject suit?

Do you take pleasure in working out difficult ideas? Do you enjoy logic problems, learning ideas that ‘click’ beautifully together? Then you would enjoy Chemistry. Studying Chemistry is like studying a logical game so that once you know the ‘rules of Chemistry’ you can ‘play’ with the chemical ideas. However just as in a game you must know the rules, so you must be prepared to memorise the small number of details.

Chemistry is a concise subject that makes you think. Studying Chemistry would complement A levels which are essay based, or that have a particularly heavy reading load, like Biology, History, Geography, English and Modern Languages.

If you study A level Chemistry then you should be able to ask ‘Why?’ and get a good answer. You will find AS Chemistry explains chemical ideas mostly using words, while A2 Chemistry explains chemical ideas using Maths, while broadening the topics studied.

What does the AS consist of?

AS Chemistry shows you in more detail how atoms bond, allowing you fully to comprehend group and carbon chemistry, and you will learn to make calculations relating to reactions. AS teaches you to understand, building on your GCSE Chemistry knowledge.

What might the subject lead onto?

Each year more students are studying science subjects as they realise that science degrees generally lead on to higher incomes. More students are studying pure chemistry, or chemistry based subjects like medical chemistry, or environmental chemistry. If you want to join them then you must study chemistry at A level, preferably with mathematics. AS or A level Chemistry is particularly important if you want to study Medicine, Veterinary Science, Dentistry or Biochemistry at university.

It is also appreciated by admissions tutors in many other subjects, including Law, due to its logical discipline.

It is useful if you want to go on and study subjects such as Geology, Physical Geography, Engineering, or Material Science. Many chemistry graduates are also recruited by the financial companies.

Studying Chemistry would also help you with the pyrotechnics in Theatre Studies and if you want to train in Art Conservation, a knowledge of Chemistry is necessary!