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  • Writer's pictureDarrell

'O' Levels Chemistry Self-Study Guide (6 weeks timeline)

Updated: Dec 23, 2020

Pure chemistry has traditionally been one of the tougher science subjects to excel at for ‘O’ levels, in comparison to its counterparts in physics and biology.

Not only are some concepts extremely difficult to understand, there is often heavy content to memorise and exam questions which require knowledge from more than one chapter. A common example is how acid & bases questions are usually followed up with a mole concept question!

Students nowadays are not only required to know what the syllabus demands, they are also required to be able to apply the concepts they learnt to application questions that appears in Section A & B, which often feature content from the ‘A’ level syllabus.

It is no wonder why chemistry is a subject that many students dread, causing many students to just memorise and regurgitate, and of course (no surprise!), the exam result is often an undesirable one.

Chemistry doesn’t enjoy the nicely structured thematic topic categorization as physics or biology. Topics in chemistry are often interlinked and the mastery of the syllabus lies in understanding all the key concepts and being able to draw the link between topics.

In this study guide, I will dissect the ‘O’ chemistry syllabus and shed some light to students who are struggling with this subject. In this study guide, you will find detailed instructions and a precise study plan you can follow easily.

If you are the kind that tends to procrastinate a lot or have no idea how to tackle your revision for chemistry, this study guide is for you!

Chemistry Self-Study Guide

Number of chapters: 16 (excluding organic chemistry for Y2020)

Access to all free chapter notes & materials:

Extra material needed: Topical Ten Year Series (Pure Chemistry)

Bonus material: Chemistry Mock Paper

Duration: 6 weeks timeline


Week 1: Get your foundation right

Get your foundation right and this will ensure that you can eventually tackle the harder topics.

Start off with these topics:

1.1 Experimental Design 1.2 Separation Technique 2.1 Kinetic Model of Matter 2.2 Atomic Structure 2.3 Chemical Bonding

The toughest topic would probably be Chemical Bonding. Pay special attention to the physical properties (mp/bp, solubility & electrical conductivity) for your ionic lattice structure, simple molecular structure, giant covalent structure & metallic structure.

Attempt the Ten Year series and ensure you can capture the important key words that you need to include in your answers. Check the answer sheet after you do the questions.

Pro tip:

Practice drawing of ions and bonding structure as well. Remember to include the ‘key’.


Week 2: Getting your chemical calculations right

Mole concept and chemical calculations are highly related to many other topics such Acid & Bases & Rate of Reaction.

Topics for Week 2: 3 Chemical Equations & Mole Concept

Start working on balancing equations and creating ionic equations in the first half of the week. Use your TYS well and practice makes perfect!

In the second half of the week, jump into the world of mole concept and chemical calculation.

Learn the proper steps to approach different scenarios and be diligent about practicing!

Complete your TYS for this topic! Trust me, you will need the extra practice!

Once you are comfortable, try to tackle limiting reagent!

Refer to my notes “Chapter 4 - Mole Concept & Chemical Equations”!


Week 3: Acid & Bases, Salts, QA

These 3 topics are highly interconnected and should be studied together!

Topics for Week 3: 7.1 Acid & Bases 7.2 Salts 1.3 Qualitative Analysis

Start off with acid & bases. Be familiar with the 3 acid reactions and the 2 alkaline reactions. Be certain of the difference between bases & alkaline as well! Lastly, try to understand the difference between strength, concentration & basicity.

Refer to my notes “Chapter 7.1 - Acid & Bases”!

Next, spend time to be familiar with the salt solubility table and understand 3 different salt preparation methods. It is extra important to understand when you use which method to prepare certain salts.

Refer to my notes “Chapter 7.2 - Salts”!

Lastly, study the test for cations, anions & gases. Most teachers tend to ask students to just ‘memorise’ but I disagree. Look closely and understand the relationship between amphoteric oxides & test for cations. Understand that the test for anions is directly related to insoluble salts.

Refer to my notes “Chapter 1.3 - Qualitative Analysis”!

But do note that studying the content is one thing, practicing and being able to apply to questions is even more important! So take out your TYS and dedicate yourself to the practices!


Week 4: Periodic Table, Metals, Air

Thankfully, these 4 topics are simple to understand. However, they are heavy in content and require more time for revision.

Topics for Week 4: 7.3 Ammonia

8 Periodic Table 9 Metals 10 Air

Start with Ammonia & the Haber Process!

Next, Periodic Table. Focus on the trends and both the chemical & physical properties. Then narrow down and focus on your Group I, VII & VIII (alkali metals, halogens & noble gases).

Next, go on to Metals. Spend some time to familiarise yourself with alloys & rusting. Then move on to the metal reaction with water & acid (recognise the trend > memorise individually). The more difficult ones will be the blast furnace but do not neglect thermal stability of your compounds!

Do note that ‘O’ levels like to test the recycling and environmental concerns too!

Refer to my notes “Chapter 9 - Metals”!