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A Complete Guide to VCE Chemistry Exam 2024

Violet, a second-year medical student at Monash University, shares expert tips and strategies for mastering the VCE chemistry exam. Graduating with a top chemistry score, Violet provides valuable insights for exam success.

I’m Violet, a second-year medical student from MonashUniversity. I graduated in 2022 with chemistry raw score of 47. In this blog I will be introducing the structure and some common types of questions to expect in the final VCE chemistry exam, and sharing some handy tips that hopefully will make your chemistry exam easier.

Section A -- Multiple Choice Questions

Your chemistry final exam consists of 120 marks. The first 30 marks comes from section A – Multiple Choice Questions. These questions will cover nearly all areas of studies. Since each question worths one mark, I would recommend 1-1.5 minutes for each. However, I totally understand that this is sometimes challenging, since in some questions there would be calculations orchunky texts to read. My advice would be to use reading time wisely to read thematerials and have a think about the answers before-hand. There will be another section on strategies to use reading time in this blog.

If you are not sure about a question, ruling-out is sometimes a good way to get started, especially with those concept-based questions. If this wouldn’t work or if you’ve got no clue at all, my suggestion would be to skip the question and come back later to avoid wasting time in just one mark!

When attempting multiple choice questions, you could make annotations on your booklet and briefly state why it is correct or why the other options are wrong if there is enough time. These annotations will behelpful for you to track your thoughts and make checking easier.

Section B – Short Answer Questions

In section B, the questions add up to a total of 90 marks. In past exams, the number of questions varies but mostly 9 to 10. This can be found on the cover of the paper, which will be released before the exam date.The followings are some common types of questions in section B:  

Calculations

In exams there will always be calculation questions, testing knowledge and skills including stoichiometry, Faraday’s law, energy and calorimetry etc.

For calculation questions, understanding and knowing the formula by heart is important. However, if you find it difficult to recall formula under exam condition, you may look at the unit provided by the questionfor guidance. For example, if the question asks for answer in kJ/mol, then whynot try divide energy in kJ by amount in mole?

Unit and significant figures are important details that maybe easily overlooked sometimes. In most of the cases units required are given in the question, but keeping some common unit in mind is always beneficial. For significant figures, understanding what they are and practicing rounding when preparing for exam is key.

Despite the answers need to be rounded to correct number of significant figures, during the calculation process you must always keep the exact values either on paper or in your calculator to make sure the final answer is precise enough.

Lastly, I don’t recommend skipping or combining steps in calculations, as if you make any mistake in your final step, the previous steps may earn you some marks if they are stated correctly. Clearly list each step you take, and they may save some marks for you at some point.

 

Scientific Investigation

In VCE chemistry exam there will always be a scientific investigation question in which you demonstrate experimental design and evaluation skills. The common types of questions include identifying independent and dependent variables, writing aim/hypothesis, analysing trend in data, suggesting sources of errors/improvement, evaluating experimental design in terms of validity and reliability etc. and writing conclusions. My advice for preparation for these questions would be making sure you have a solid understanding of each of these terms, especially systematic/random error, validity etc., and practice using formats, such as if…then format for hypothesis.

 

Extended Response Question

The last question of exam is always an extended response question. The topics covered in past exams include fuels and energy, analytical techniques, food molecules, electrolysis and physical properties of chemicals.

There are always lots of marks allocated to these questions, therefore structuring a clear and comprehensive response is key. Good news is that hints are always given on points that need to be covered. It is very important to follow these dot points and make sure they are all covered.

 

General Tips for Section B

1.       Planning your response before start writing. A clear response with flow will always be a bonus point. When structuring your response, look at the mark allocation for a guide.

2.       If you get stuck with a question, especially when you’ve got no clue at all, try read the material again. If still no idea what’s going on, then skip to avoid missing the rest of the questions.

3.       Use a highlighter. Highlight key words, command terms, unit required and mark allocations to make sure you do not miss important information. This also makes checking easier and quicker because you can clearly see if you’ve hit the point of the questions.

 

Using Reading Time Wisely

In VCE chemistry exam you will get 15 minutes of reading time, which is a lot. During the time, here are a few things that I recommend:

1.       Skim read all short answer questions in section B and gauge some information on the topics each covers. Roughly allocate thetime that should be taken for each question.

2.       Read the extended response question and brainstorm some ideas you may have, concepts you could talk about, and pros/cons related if there are any.

3.       Come back to and start multiple choice questions. Note that you are not allowed to make any markings on paper during reading time, therefore you have to remember the answers in your head. This makes double checking more important because there might be chance of making mistakes especially under exam stress.

The above is just my recommendation. It is also beneficial that you find the list that best suits you and your way of thinking. In your preparation stage when practicing pastpapers, you could try different strategies to find the one that works best.

 

Using Data Book

An extremely handy tool in your final exam would be the data book. It includes significant values, parameters, formula and structure of chemicals that may be used in the exam. To improve the efficiency, you may familiarise yourself with the data book. Make sure that you are clear with what’s in there and roughly where to find the data you need. This will save you some time when you search through the booklet.

Also, despite the fact that data is given in the booklet, it would be beneficial to remember some important and common values, for example, molar mass of common atoms (e.g. C, H, O, N). This would save you some more time as you don’t need to refer to the booklet all the time.

 

 

Above are all tips for today. Thanks for reading and wish everyone good luck in their VCE chemistry exam preparation.

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