GCSE Chemistry is probably at a comparable level of difficulty to GCSE Physics. The "guardian" of Chemistry in the UK is the Royal Society of Chemistry, and the guardians of Physics is the Institute of Physics (IoP). Both scrutinise GCSE standards in their respective subjects "most carefully". As with the other GCSE science papers, so with GCSE Chemistry, the GCSE exams are getting harder. The trend in exams for the reformed GCSE science syllabus is that they will include questions that reward students who are able to draw together their understanding of content from across the course and who write extended responses. There will be less non-exam assessment and all exams will be taken at the end of the course. For GCSE Chemistry students will be required to understand and use complex scientific terminology and to develop their mathematical skills in a scientific context. Exam questions will also include more questions of the type that will reward students who can draw on their experience of data analysis and experimental design." The message is very clear "gaming and rote learning will no longer be a failproof strategy for obtaining a good grade". Inspired Chemistry teaching should prepare student to tackle unusual problems that do not conform to patterns that they have been taught, and to be able to pull together elements from different sections of the syllabus. Calculations and manipulation of equations assumes a certain mathematical fluency. Tutoring, at its best, can provide insightful and adaptive approaches to build such skills and to improve confidence in problem solving ability to those that feel they lack it. Chemistry, more than physics requires memorising quite a lot of facts about the chemical properties of the elements and how they react, trends in the chemical behaviour of elements as one traverses a row in the periodic table, or as one descends a column in the periodic table. There is also the tricky matter of acids and bases and how to recognise them and to classify them. GCSE Chemistry also requires learning a fair amount of organic chemistry.
Recent developments in chemistry have had less of an impact on the GCSE Chemistry syllabus than development in Physics. However the application of chemistry to issues such as global warming and industrial pollution have produced plenty of food for thought. In good Chemistry tutoring the emphasis in should not be merely to cover the facts listed in the syllabus and provide training in answering exam questions, but to provide context and examples that may not be found in a typical combined science textbook. A good chemistry tutor should, for example, be a member of the Association for Science Education (in the UK at least) and, possibly, also a member of the Royal Society of Chemistry. Examples in GCSE Chemisty of topics that can prove particularly challenging are those such as balancing of equations, titrations of acids against bases, oxidation and reduction.
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