A / AS Level
2 years

What is Chemistry?

If you have ever wondered about the answers to any of the following questions, then you have been thinking about some of the problems that chemists' solve. You will be able to answer these questions yourself when you have completed the course.

  • Why do manufacturers change the petrol mixture four times a year?
  • How can dissolving plastics be manufactured?
  • What happens to the chemicals in a film when light falls on it?
  • Why is the ozone layer being depleted?
  • Why is the material used for bullet proof vests so strong?
  • How are proteins formed in the body?
  • Why are some dyes colourfast but others fade when washed?
  • How are old paintings renovated?

Chemistry investigates the properties and structure of a whole range of different substances and is also concerned with chemical reactions in which new substances are produced.

Is Chemistry suitable for me?

Current students have particularly enjoyed the variety of different activities especially practical work, group work and making models. The Starter Pack and the work covered in the first term help ease the transition from GCSE and they have found the resources available to them most useful.

How will I learn?

The course is based on a number of different topics with titles such as ‘Developing Fuels’, ‘What’s in a Medicine?’, ‘The Polymer Revolution’, ‘Colour by Design’, ‘The Oceans’. You will have two books, one which contains the background story to the topic and recent chemical and technological developments, and one which contains chemical theory and the chemical principles involved.In class you will carry out a variety of activities which include practical sessions (for which you must wear a lab coat and safety glasses supplied by the College), group discussions, solving problems, analysing data, making models to help you understand molecular structure and interpreting scientific information.

You will be expected to do at least 4 to 5 hours study time per week outside lessons. There is a Science Work Area where students can borrow the resources used in class for further study. The resources are also available on the College network. Each topic takes approximately one month and you will have a test at the end of each. You will need to be very organised in your approach to work and you will be helped to take responsibility for your own learning as the course progresses.

How will I be assessed?

In year 1 coursework accounts for  20% of your AS level and will consist of a number of different activities. You will be assessed in 5 experimental and investigative skills – competence, measurement, analysis and evaluation, observation and interpretation.

There are two written examinations which consist of structured questions:

  • Paper 1: 1 hour - 30% of AS
  • Paper 2: 1 hour 45 minutes - 50% of AS

In year 2 coursework accounts for 30% and consists of a practical investigation in a subject of your choice. You will be given plenty of help with this. You will spend four weeks on practical work and then write a report. Students have studied a wide range of topics such as:

  • What is the best method for determining vitamin C content of fruit and vegetables?
  • What is the most accurate way to find the concentration of salt in sea water?
  • What are the best conditions for producing pure aspirin?
  • How much sulphur dioxide is there in wine?

There are two written examinations which consist of structured questions:

  • Paper 1:  1 hour 30 minutes - 30% of the year
  • Paper 2:  2 hours - 40% of the year


Past students have gone on to a wide range of courses and careers. Chemistry is an essential subject for Higher Education in Chemistry, Chemical Engineering, Materials Science, Medicine, Dentistry, Pharmacy, Pharmacology, Food Science, Veterinary Science and for some Biology courses. Lee came to Alton College with ten GCSEs including Chemistry. He took A Levels in Chemistry, Physics, Maths, Further Maths and AS Spanish. He studied Natural Sciences at Cambridge and is now doing his PhD at Oxford. Danielle came with 10 GCSEs including Double Science. She took A Levels in Chemistry, Psychology, Art and AS Biology. She is now studying Forensic Science at Kent.

Entry requirements

Students studying a 3 or 4 AS level programme should normally have achieved an average GCSE point score of 5.5 or above and at least a grade C in Maths and/or English (unless specified otherwise). Students with a point score between 4.5 – 5.5 will normally take a mixture of Subsidiary Diplomas and AS levels. You can check your likely GCSE point score by going to 'Choosing the Right Course' on the website and entering your predicted grades.

You should have gained at least grade B in Chemistry or B/B in Science before starting the course. AS and A2 Chemistry also requires Mathematical competence. It is recommended therefore that you have a B grade in Maths at GCSE.

Course costs

All students will be expected to provide their own textbooks, stationery, computer disks and calculators (where appropriate).

Any further costs are outlined below:

Essential: £45 textbooks.
Optional: £13 for magazine subscription, £10 for photocopying, £18 for trips, £15 for additional books. 

If the costs of equipment, materials and trips may cause you financial hardship, you may wish to read through details of our financial support scheme on our website.

Course Code