Trevor Critchley reviews this comprehensive guide
A-level chemistry: key skills and knowledge booster
Stevenage, UK: Badger Learning 2012 | Pp120 | £58 (PB & CD) | ISBN9781849266642
Reviewed by Trevor Critchley
Aimed at teachers of students starting an AS-level course, there is very little waffle in this book. Its 120 pages are crammed with good, useable resources. An accompanying CD provides electronic copies and answers, so you can edit them if you wish.
Many students find the transition from GCSE a big jump, and a lot of the material here is aimed to support that jump. There are some GCSE checker tasks, which cover essential vocabulary and concepts, followed by a section on basic A-level skills. This would sit well early on in a Year 12 scheme of work, with sufficient tasks to cover many key numeracy skills including the use of significant figures, standard form, plotting graphs and rearranging equations.
Practical skills come next, largely consisting of a series of concise information sheets, which would make good pre-lab primers. These include making qualitative observations, refluxing a mixture, recrystallisation and volumetric analysis. The Topic Builders chapter doesn't attempt to cover everything on an AS course, but instead focuses on 16 fundamental areas including energetics, equilibria, redox, periodicity and bonding. These sheets give clear explanations and examples, followed by questions on key points. They do not necessarily aim to stretch and challenge, but rather to reinforce students' understanding of key ideas and build confidence. My Year 12 students have found them very helpful.
To add that extra degree of challenge and develop students' ability to communicate ideas, the final section of the book asks them to write a report on five broad themes, including medicinal chemistry, explosives and green fuels. These require some research and should foster a more independent approach to learning as the A-level course progresses.
In summary, my copy of this book is already looking well worn from frequent use, my students like the resources and I think the author has done a very good job at addressing the needs of her target audience.