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Ultimate Guide to Year 11 Chemistry

Your complete guide to Year 11 HSC Prelim Chemistry!

Alex Loustau

Alex Loustau

Head of Biology & 99.45 ATAR

How Best to Understand The Year 11 Chemistry Syllabus

The syllabus will be an essential component of your Year 11 and Year 12 study. This is true not only in chemistry, but in every HSC subject! The syllabus is a document that is available on NESA’s Website, and it lists all the content you’ll learn in both Year 11 and Year 12. There’s a lot in the actual document, but the important information is the course content for each module (This starts on page 36 for Year 11, and page 49 for Year 12).

You want to use the syllabus for a couple reasons. It’s a great way to gain a head start over your classmates to know the core modules, chemical reactions and depth studies you’ll be learning ahead of time, and how it links to the rest of the content you’ve already learnt.

You also want to use it to guide your note making. It’s often hard to know what to include in your notes, but the syllabus has listed everything you need to know for both Year 11 and Year 12. If you make your notes based on the dot points in the syllabus, you can be confident they’ll be complete!

Best Ways to Make Year 11 Chemistry Notes

Speaking of notes, they can be incredibly useful revision tools for helping you remember the content taught in year 11. As I mentioned above, the key to making great notes is to use the syllabus! The syllabus literally divides up each module into dot points of content you have to know, so if you make notes on each of those dot points then you are set to understand chemistry!

Understand the Concepts Before Writing!

However, you have to be careful in how you create your notes. Do not sacrifice your understanding of the content just for the sake of making notes. When you’re in class learning something for the first time, making complete notes should not be your priority. Because if your only focus is on noting down everything the teacher is saying, your understanding of the actual concept being taught suffers.

My Chem teacher even banned us from taking notes while she was talking, and made it clear we should only be listening and trying to understand. And I’ve got to say, that was very effective in helping us develop a strong understanding of the content at school.

Now I’m not saying you should be incredibly strict and never touch a pen in class. However, when you are learning something for the first time you should prioritise actual conceptual understanding first, and not worry about noting down every single point that’s said.

Once you feel you have a solid understanding of the content, you can make a complete set of notes afterwards. This not only ensures your notes are a lot more concise, since you understand the topic holistically, but it also serves as a great source of revision of the content you just learnt!

In class you learn the content, after class you make notes to revise and commit the content to memory, now you have to learn how to apply this knowledge in an exam.

The Whole Point of Year 11 Chemistry

The main tip I have for Year 11 Chemistry is that: it’s supposed to be traumatic. The point of year 11 chemistry is to go into an exam, answer almost every question with a response you felt was good, and then promptly be ripped to shreds by the marker.

This is because in junior science, just knowing and understanding the content was more than enough to solve problems. But now we reach a point where we have to learn the 3rd part of succeeding in the HSC Chemistry course: the science skills to apply this knowledge in an exam scenario. And this is a really challenging skill! Schools and the HSC are looking for a certain style of answer, and they’ll dock marks if your answer doesn’t have the level of detail they’re looking for.

I remember my Chemistry teacher gave us a 7 marker question on complex chemical reactions to work on at home. I spent 30 minutes writing what I thought was a very solid answer. And got a very solid 2/7. I had written something that in my eyes answered the question, but in reality, lacked the detail needed for a HSC response.

Learning From Mistakes

That’s because the only way to learn how to write the type of answer expected in the HSC, is to get it wrong. To be absolutely roasted by a marker, but then taking on that feedback, implementing it, and improving.

And that’s the point of year 11, to get torn apart. But then to learn from your mistakes and come back stronger than a 90s trend. So that you’re writing answers that are immeasurably better as you head into the HSC.

That being said, we still want to maximise our marks in year 11! So here are some tips on how to do that.

By the way, you can find loads of revision questions for HSC year 11 and year 12 chemistry on the Project Academy website!

Best Exam Technique for Year 11 HSC Chemistry

Before the Chemistry Exam

Prior to an exam, you want to start your prep early. This is because there are 2 main stages of any exam prep. First you have to make sure you know the content. People do this in many different ways, some people look over notes, others create flashcards, some memorise their chemical reactions, some create new notes from scratch. Whatever your method is, first focus on becoming familiar with the content. You want to have this step done at least one week before your exam. This is because you want as much time as possible for stage 2: past paper spam.

There are only so many questions you can be asked. At a certain point, you’ll have done enough questions that you’ll be able to recognise almost any new question you see as just a variation of something you’ve already done. That’s the point you want to work towards, and the only way to do that is to have done a lot of questions. And the best place to get these questions, is from past papers. Textbooks are also another source of questions, but in my opinion they’re a very different style to what you see in exams, and so should be a lower priority.

During the Chemistry Exam

During your exam, you will likely be a mix of multiple choice, short answer, calculation and extended response questions. Everyone has different methods of approaching exams, so you should experiment to see what works for you! But personally, I liked to speed through the multiple choice and calculation first. This maximises the time you can then spend on the short answers and extended responses.

This is because, as I mentioned above, you are going to be torn apart in marking. But this will only really apply to your Short Answers and Extended responses. In multi choice and calculations, if you get the right answer you can be pretty confident you’ll get the marks. So speeding through them and maximising the time you have to spend on the worded responses can be very helpful!

After the Chemistry Exam

After an exam, firstly, take a break! Enjoy yourself a bit, you made it through an exam. A break is well-earned! But once you start getting results back and receiving feedback, you reach the most important step. As a warning, the feedback you receive will probably feel unfair. But the most important thing is to listen to what your markers are telling you. Because they’re the ones who are going to mark you year 12 internal exams. So even the feedback feels unfair, we must learn to work around it.

Then once you’ve taken on board on that feedback, redoing the questions you lost marks in is incredibly useful. Focus on implementing the feedback given to you, and if possible try to get your teacher to mark it again. This will without a doubt improve the quality of your answers, and you’ll be a much stronger chemist by the end of year 11.

How to Make The Best Use of Your Year 11 Chemistry Textbook

Textbooks are useful resources, but they are not at all essential to your learning. They often go into more depth than you really need, and as a result should mainly be used to supplement your learning in class; not to replace it.

The questions in textbooks are also not the best tool for exam preparation. As I mentioned above, textbooks don’t replicate exam style questions very well. Textbooks give questions that focus on regurgitating memorised content, while exams tend to focus on more stimulus and application-based questions. So while you can use textbook questions for revision, they are not a replacement for past paper questions.

FAQs for Year 11 Chemistry

What’s in Year 11 Chemistry

Year 11 Chem covers a tonne of great content! You start off with Module 1: Properties and Structure of Matter, where you learn about the structure of atoms and how they interact with each other to form a variety of compounds.

Then you hit Module 2: Quantitative Chemistry. Quantitative Chemistry is where you learn how to do all the calculations in chemistry, such as stoichiometry mole concept concentration, molarity gas laws and more!

Next up is Module 3: Reactive Chemistry. This is where you look at a tonne of different reactions and what they form! Acid base neutralisation, combustion and decomposition reactions to name a few. You’ll even touch upon a bit of electrochemistry!

Finally, you have Module 4: Drivers of Reaction. Aka the module most schools skip because they run out of time in year 11. This one will cover Thermodynamics, involving chemical reactions enthalpy and reactions energy changes, which look at energy and heat of reactions. Thermodynamics is really cool, it underpins why explosives are… well, explosive!

Of course, this was just a quick summary. If you want all the details, well you can consult the trusty Chemistry Syllabus.

Is year 11 Chemistry hard?

Year 11 chemistry is definitely challenging, but it is well worth the effort! If you’re curious why Kevlar is bullet-proof, or why nitro-glycerine is explosive, this is all built on Chemistry.

And it’s important to keep in mind that everyone in the state is going through the same thing, and as a result Chemistry scales very well and can reward you with great marks if you put in the effort!

Where can I find year 11 Chemistry Notes?

You can ask friends and siblings who have recently completed Year 11, as they probably have a set of notes lying around. You can also find notes on Project Academy’s website!

To help you make your own notes, you can use the PowerPoints and notes that your teacher has made, and then you can supplement them with your textbooks, as well as websites like Chem LibreTexts. It’s also a great idea to compile notes with your friends and classmates as you progress through the year. You’re all in this together and working as a group benefits everyone!

What are the best year 11 Chemistry textbooks?

Most schools will use either the Pearson Chemistry 11 New South Wales Student Book, or the Chemistry in Focus Year 11 Student Books. They’re both solid textbooks and both would be good. But if you put a gun to my head, I’d say Pearson is a little bit clearer and has better chapter review questions.

Is year 12 Chemistry similar to Year 11 Chemistry?

Year 12 Chemistry is built upon the ideas that you learn in Year 11. It’s important to get a solid grasp of the fundamentals in Year 11, so that you can build upon them during Year 12. And while there will be some topics from year 11 you never see again in Year 12 (cough cough galvanic cells), there are also a lot of topics that pop up again during the HSC. Intermolecular forces and Gibbs Free Energy are big ones that come to mind.

That being said, Year 12 Chemistry gets incredibly fascinating! Year 11 focused on the fundamentals, so that in Year 12 you can dive into some of the coolest applications of Chemistry. You learn to walk in year 11, so that you can learn to run in year 12. So, if you’re finding Year 11 a little boring or tedious: hang in there. It gets a lot better!

Don’t forget your periodic table!

If you’re looking for Chemistry tutoring, come sign up to Project Academy’s year 11 Chemistry course!


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Maximise Your Chances Of Coming First At School

Trial any Project Academy course for 3 weeks.

NSW's Top 1% Tutors

Unlimited Tutorials

NSW's Most Effective Courses

Access to Project's iPad

Access to Exclusive Resources

Access to Project's Study Space