Many of the reactions in Chemistry can be explained by reference to the bonds that exist between the relevant species, but some bonds are a bit more difficult to understand

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(Why cannot we human beings be like the lovely little creatures above!)

My underlying assumption in writing these blogs is that you have come here because you want some aspect of Chemistry explained to you. My blogs have therefore become longer in recent weeks because I am trying to explain things in greater depth. You can access my  books by going to the link “My Books” at the very top right of this webpage. Depending on what topic I am working on at the time (I am currently revising the Chapters on ‘Second Year Inorganic Chemistry’), a Chapter in one of the two books will be updated almost every week during term time.

If you are in Year 13/the Upper Sixth, then this Autumn your life as a ‘child’ will come to an end and you will become an adult. The transition will be both daunting and at the same time exciting! During that transition you will inevitably make some mistakes (and I made many), but mistakes can be massively helpful because if you are intelligent then you learn from your mistakes, and you then become a better person.

Here is a little trick that might help you in all your subjects (and not just in Chemistry)  –  and it will be especially valuable when you get to University or Med School. Create a “memory tree” for every important topic in every subject (cf. the Benzene memory tree in my Benzene blogs), and in the weeks leading up to the exams, twice a week go to bed early and spend three hours going through (in your head) every single memory tree in every single subject. The reason that some students do not get high grades is sadly NOT because they lack knowledge, but because they waste valuable time in trying to remember things that they could easily have memorised. For example, in 60 seconds can you tell me how to get from Benzene to an azo dye, and tell me ALL the reaction conditions that are needed for each of the four steps involved (and there is no thought process in this because all that it requires is recall from memory)? Now do you see what I mean! If you do not finish all the questions in an exam paper, then you just cannot get an A* or an A in the subject.

It is interesting that in 20 years of teaching ‘A’ Level Chemistry, only one of my students has gone on to read Chemistry at University, but almost all of my students have gone on to be extremely successful Doctors/Dentists/Lawyers/ Engineers/etc. Chemistry as such has thus been absolutely unimportant to them! What is important is that it helped them to learn use their brains, and to demonstrate to prospective employers that they had decent brains and knew how to use them.

When you have left University/Med School/Law School/whatever, other than for having to put the details in a box on an Application form, I doubt that anyone will ever ask you what University you attended/what you read/and what Class of Degree you gained. However, what will be of interest to everybody will be how well you do your job  –  and your two years of ‘A’ Levels and your time at University will contribute hugely to that.

The Blogs

You will now have completed the final exams of your six years of Secondary schooling, and in October you will be going up to University or Med School / starting an Apprenticeship / doing an internship in an Accountancy or Law firm / or whatever.

If you get the grades that you wanted, then keep working hard and continue doing whatever you did to create the success that you deserved.

However, if you did not do as well as you wanted to do, then take heart. Your life is not over! You can still turn it round.  The lovely thing about making a mistake is that if you are intelligent, then you sit down and you analyse your mistake and you work out what to do to avoid making that same mistake ever again in your life. Everybody gets at least one ‘second chance’ in life, and I am posting below a Presentation on Second Chances in Life.

I have also posted a little Presentation that I gave to some Sixth Formers on Friday the 14th of June. It will provide you with a context for what you have been slogging away learning for the last six years.

Now relax and enjoy your summer break, and get ready for the big change in your life when you go from being a ‘child’ to becoming an ‘adult’.

Good luck in everything that you do in your life.

I will spend the Summer months reviewing every Chapter in the books, and I will start blogging again in September. I hope that you have a happy holiday.

Blogs for the Summer hols

A Second Chance

À Propos of the following Presentation on Molecular Biology 1920-1970, Professor Gareth Williams is giving a talk at the Royal Institution on the 25th of July. If you live in/near London you might want to get a ticket for the talk, or if you cannot do so, then the RI might put the talk on youtube, and failing that, then Prof Williams has published a book called “Unravelling the Double Helix: The Lost Heroes of DNA” and you might want to read that.

Participants in the development of Molecular Biology, UK 1920-1970

Participants in the development of Molecular Biology, UK 1920-197



Previous Second Year ‘A’ Level Chemistry Blogs

Acids and Bases, 23rd March 2019a

Acids and Bases, 23rd March 2019b

Benzene, Part 1, 15th December 2018

Benzene, Part 2, 22nd December 2018

Benzene, Part 3, 29th December 2018

Benzene, Part 4, 5th January 2019

Calculation of pH values during a titration (a blog for Second Year ‘A’ Level students who are just about to sit their final exams), 30th March 2019

Carbonyl Compounds, Part 1 (Acids), 12th January 2019

Carbonyl Compounds, Part 2 (Aldehydes), 19th January 2019

Carbonyl compounds, Part 3 (Ketones), 26th January 2019

Chromatography, Second Year Blog for 11th May 2019

Equivalence Points, 23rd of March 2019

Electrophoresis and DNA Fingerprinting, 18th May 2019

Entropy, Second Year Blog, 1st June 2019

Halides and Sulphuric Acid, Second Year Blog, 4th May 2019

IR Spectroscopy, 27th April 2019

Kc : Ka : pKa : and Kw, Strong and Weak Acids, Second Year Blog for 18th May 2019

Kw equations to memorise for the exams, Year 2 Blog for 25th May 2019

Kw, The Ionic Product of Water Equilibrium constant, Year 2 Blog, 25th May 2019

Mass Spectroscopy, 20th April 2019

NMR:MRI Spectroscopy, Second Year Blog, 4th May 2019

Potassium Permanganate and Sodium Sulphite, Three reactions, 17th November 2018

Properties of Period 3 Elements and their Oxides, 1st December 2018

Signposts for alculating pH values in acid-base titrations

Sulphuric Acid and Halides, 9th March 2019

Transition Metals: Complexes, 24th November 2018


Previous First Year ‘A’ Level Chemistry Blogs

Acids and Bases, 23rd of March 2019

Calculations in Chemistry, Part 1, 23rd of February 2019

Calculations in Chemistry, Part 2, 2nd of March 2019

Calculations in Chemistry, Part 3, 9th of March 2019

Calculations in Chemistry, Part 4, 16th of March 2019

Colour Changes, 8th December 2018

∆H of Formation, 24th November 2018

Electrophilic Addition Reactions of Ethene, 10th November 2018

Fractional Distillation and Cracking, 1st December 2018

Ionic and Molecular substances, (The difference between), 2nd of March 2019

Isomerism, Cis:Trans, 3rd November 2018

Isomerism, Structural, 27th October 2018

Mass Spectrometry, First Year Blog, 20th April 2019

Melting Points and Boiling Points, Part 1, 2nd February 2019

Melting Points and Boiling Points, Part 2, 9th February 2019

Melting Points and Boiling Points, Part 3, 16th February 2019

Melting Points and Boiling Points, Part 4, 23rd of February 2019

Tests, 15th December 2018

Titration (the elements of), 9th March 2019

Yield, Atom Economy or Atom Efficiency, 8th December 2018