AQA GCSE chemistry Exam


GCSE Chemistry is divided into two papers.
The first paper assesses the following: atomic structure and the periodic table, Bonding, structure, the properties of matter, quantitative chemistry, chemical changes and energy changes. It is a written exam of one hour and forty-five minutes, accounting for 50% of the GCSE. The exam questions feature a combination of multiple choice, structured, closed short answer and open response.

The second paper assesses the following: the rate and extent of chemical change, organic chemistry, chemical analysis, chemistry of the atmosphere and using resources. It is a written exam of one hour and forty-five minutes, accounting for 50% of the GCSE. The exam questions feature a combination of multiple choice, structured, closed short answer and open response.

There are three assessment objectives, which are specified for students. Please find our full breakdown of GCSE Chemistry below, with requisite assessment details and objectives. 

Paper 1

Topic 1: atomic structure and the periodic table
A simple model of the atom, symbols, relative atomic mass, electronic charge and isotopes

Atoms, elements and compounds
The development of the model of the atom (common content with physics)
Relative electrical charges of subatomic particles
Size and mass of atoms
Relative atomic mass
Electronic structure

The periodic table

Development of the periodic table
Metals and non-metals
Group 0
Group 1
Group 7

Properties of transition metals

Comparison with Group 1 elements
Typical properties

Topic 2: Bonding, structure, and the properties of matter
Chemical bonds, ionic, covalent and metallic

Chemical bonds
Ionic bonding
Ionic compounds
Covalent bonding
Metallic bonding

How bonding and structure are related to the properties of substances

The three states of matter
State symbols
Properties of ionic compounds
Properties of small molecules
Giant covalent structures
Properties of metals and alloys
Metals as conductors

Structure and bonding of Carbon

Graphene and fullerenes

Bulk and surface properties of matter including nanoparticles

Sizes of particles and their properties
Uses of nanoparticles

Topic 3: Quantitative Chemistry
Chemical measurements, conservation of mass and the quantitative interpretation of chemical equations

Conservation of mass and balanced chemical equations
Relative formula mass
Mass changes when a reactant or product is a gas
Chemical measurements

Use of amount of substance in relation to masses of pure substances

Moles (HT only)
Amounts of substances in equations (HT only)
Using moles to balance equations (HT only)
Limiting reactants (HT only)
Concentration of solutions

Yield and atom economy of chemical reactions

Percentage yield
Atom economy

Using concentrations of solutions in mol/dm3
Use of amount of substance in relation to volumes of gases

Topic 4: Chemical changes
Reactivity of metals

Metal oxides
Reactivity of metals
Extraction of metals and reduction
Oxidation and reduction in terms of electrons

Reactions of Acids

Reactions of acids with metals
Neutralisation of acids and salt production
Soluble salts
The pH scale and neutralisation
Strong and weak acids


The process of electrolysis
Electrolysis of molten ionic compounds
Using electrolysis to extract metals
Electrolysis of aqueous solutions
Representation of reactions at electrodes as half equations

Topic 5: Energy changes
Exothermic and endothermic reactions

Energy transfer during exothermic and endothermic reactions
Reaction profiles
The energy change of reactions

Chemical cells and fuel cells

Cells and batteries
Fuel cells

Paper 2

Topic 1: The rate and extent of chemical change
Rate of reaction

Calculating rates of reactions
Factors which affect the rates of chemical reactions
Collision theory and activation energy

Reversible reactions and dynamic equilibrium

Reversible reactions
Energy changes and reversible reactions
The effect of changing conditions on equilibrium
The effect of changing concentration
The effect of temperature changes on equilibrium
The effect of pressure changes on equilibrium

Topic 2: Organic Chemistry
Carbon compounds as fuels and feedstock

Crude oil, hydrocarbons and alkanes
Fractional distillation and petrochemicals
Properties of hydrocarbons
Cracking and alkenes

Reactions of alkenes and alcohols

Structure and formulae of alkenes
Reactions of alkenes
Carboxylic acids

Synthetic and naturally occurring polymers

Addition polymerisation
Condensation polymerisation
Amino acids
DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) and other naturally occurring polymers

Topic 3: Chemical analysis
Purity, formulations and chromatography

Pure substances

Identification of common gases

Test for hydrogen
Test for oxygen
Test for carbon dioxide
Test for chlorine

Identification of ions by chemical and spectroscopic means

Flame tests
Metal hydroxides
Instrumental methods
Flame emission spectroscopy

Topic 4: Chemistry of the atmosphere
The composition and evolution of the Earth’s atmosphere

The proportions of different gases in the atmosphere
The Earth’s early atmosphere
How oxygen increased
How carbon dioxide decreased

Carbon dioxide and methane as greenhouse gases

Greenhouse gases
Human activities which contribute to an increase in greenhouse gases in the atmosphere
Global climate change
The carbon footprint and its reduction

Common atmospheric pollutants and their sources

Atmospheric pollutants from fuels
Properties and effects of atmospheric pollutants

Topic 5: Using resources
Using the Earth’s resources and obtaining potable water

Using the Earth’s resources and sustainable development
Potable water
Waste water treatment
Alternative methods of extracting metals

Life cycle assessment and recycling

Life cycle assessment
Ways of reducing the use of resources

Using materials

Corrosion and its prevention
Alloys as useful materials
Ceramics, polymers and composites

The Haber process and the use of NPK fertilisers

The Haber process
Production and uses of NPK fertilisers

Key Ideas

The complex and diverse phenomena of the natural world can be described in terms of a small number of key ideas in chemistry. These key ideas are of universal application, and we have embedded them throughout the subject content. They underpin many aspects of the science assessment and will therefore be assessed across all papers. These ideas include:

• matter is composed of tiny particles called atoms and there are about 100 different naturally occurring types of atoms called elements

• elements show periodic relationships in their chemical and physical properties

• these periodic properties can be explained in terms of the atomic structure of the elements

• atoms bond by either transferring electrons from one atom to another or by sharing electrons

• the shapes of molecules (groups of atoms bonded together) and the way giant structures are arranged is of great importance in terms of the way they behave

• there are barriers to reaction so reactions occur at different rates

• chemical reactions take place in only three different ways:
• proton transfer
• electron transfer
• electron sharing

• energy is conserved in chemical reactions so can therefore be neither created or destroyed.

Assessment details

Assessment Objectives
The exams will measure how students have achieved the following assessment objectives:

  • AO1 Demonstrate knowledge and understanding of: scientific ideas; scientific techniques and procedures
  • AO2 Apply knowledge and understanding of: scientific ideas; scientific enquiry, techniques and procedures
  • AO3 Analyse information and ideas to: interpret and evaluate; make judgments and draw conclusions; develop and improve experimental procedures.
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