Chemistry is an experimental science that combines academic study with the acquisition of practical and investigational skills.

It is often called the central science as chemical principles underpin both the physical environment in which we live and all biological systems. Apart from being a subject worthy of study in its own right, chemistry is often a prerequisite for many other courses in higher education, such as medicine, biological science and environmental science.

Through studying a science subject students should become aware of how scientists work and communicate with each other. While the scientific method may take on a wide variety of forms, the emphasis on a practical approach. In addition, through the overarching theme of the “Nature of Science” this knowledge and skills will be put into the context of way science and scientists work in the 21st century and the ethical debates and limitations of creative scientific endeavour.

The sciences are taught practically. Students have opportunities to design investigations, collect data, develop manipulative skills, analyse results, collaborate with peers and evaluate and communicate their findings. The investigations may be laboratory based or they may make use of simulations and data bases. Students develop the skills to work independently on their own design, but also collegiately, including collaboration with schools in different regions, to mirror the way in which scientific research is conducted in the wider community.

Chemistry syllabus outline:

  1. Higher level (240 hours)
  2. Internal assessment (individual investigation): 20%
  3. External assessment: 80%
  4. Standard level (150 hours)
  5. Internal assessment (individual investigation): 20%
  6. External assessment: 80%

Key features of the curriculum and assessment models –

  1. available at standard (SL) and higher levels (HL)
  2. The minimum prescribed number of hours is 150 for SL and 240 for HL
  3. Students are assessed both externally and internally
  4. Chemistry students at SL and HL undertake a common core syllabus and a common internal assessment (IA) scheme.

While there are core skills and activities common to both SL and HL, students at HL are required to study some topics in greater depth, to study additional topics and to study extension material of a more demanding nature in the options. The distinction between SL and HL is one of breadth and depth.

A practical approach to the course delivery is emphasised through the interdisciplinary group 4 project and a mixture of both short-term and long-term experiments and investigations.

Internal assessment accounts for 20% of the final assessment and this is assessed through a single individual investigation. This investigation may involve a hands-on approach, use of data-bases, modelling, simulation or a hybrid. Student work is internally assessed by the teacher and externally moderated by the IB.

The external assessment of chemistry consists of three written papers. In paper 1 there are 30 (at SL) or 40 (at HL) multiple-choice questions. Paper 2 contains short-answer and extended-response questions on the core (and Additional Higher Level (AHL) material at HL). Paper 3 has two sections; Section A contains one data-based question and several short-answer questions on experimental work on the core (and AHL material at HL). Section B contains short-answer and extended-response questions from each of the four options.

Please click on the arrow for a detailed breakdown:

UnitSubtopicKey Episodes / QuestionsAdditional detailsLength of time.Learner Attribute(s)
Unit 1 StoichiometryStoichiometric relationshipsFormulae
Particulate nature of matter
Balancing equations

8 HoursReflective
The mole conceptThe mole concept
Empirical and molecular formula
Reacting masses & volumes
Gas Laws
Unit 2 & 12Atomic Structure The nuclear atomHistory of atomic theory
Atomic structure
Calculating relative atomic mass
8 HoursPrincipled
Electrons in atomsAtomic orbitals
Electron configurations
Line spectra
Atomic structure (AHL)Electrons in atomsCalculating ionisation energies
Successive ionisation energies
Unit 3 & 13PeriodicityThe periodic table The structure of the periodic table
Regions of the periodic table
Electron configuration and the periodic table
14 hoursRisk Taker 
Periodic trendsAtomic and ionic radii
Effective nuclear charge and ionisation energy
Electronegativity and electron affinity
Metallic character and melting point
Trends on oxide behaviour
Trends within groups
The periodic table – Transition elements (AHL)Properties of transition metalsTransition elements
Variable oxidation states
Structure of complex ions
Magnetic and catalytic behaviour
Coloured complexesColour of complex ions
Unit 4 & 14Chemical bonding & structureIonic bonding and structureIonic bonding
Formulae of ionic compounds
Physical properties of ionic compounds
12 HoursCommunicator
Covalent bondingNature of covalent bonding
Polarity of covalent bonds
Covalent structuresThe octet rule
Lewis structures
Resonance structures
VSEPR theory
Molecular polarity
Giant covalent structures
Allotropes of carbon
Intermolecular forcesTypes of intermolecular forces
Metallic bondingMetallic structure and bonding
Chemical bonding & structure (AHL)Further aspects of covalent bondingSigma and pi bonds
Formal charge
Delocalised pi electrons
Lewis structure and resonance
Expanded octets and molecular geometry
Catalytic destruction of ozone
HybridisationHybridisation of atomic orbitals
Unit 5 & 15Energetics/thermochemistryMeasuring energy changesMeasurement of heat energy
Exothermic and endothermic reactions
Experimental measurement of heat changes
15 HoursBalanced
Hess’s LawHess’s Law
Bond enthalpiesMaking and breaking bonds
Ozone formation and destruction
Energetics/thermochemistry (AHL)Energy cyclesLattice enthalpy
Born-Haber cycles
The solubility of salts
Entropy and spontaneityEntropy
Entropy and spontaneity
Spontaneous reactions
Unit 6 & 16 Chemical kineticsCollision theory and rates of reactionCollision theory and activation energy
The Maxwell-Boltzmann distribution
Rates of reaction
Measuring rates of reaction experimentally
Factors that rates of reaction
The role of a catalyst
10 HoursInquirer 
Chemical kinetics (AHL)Rate expression and reaction mechanismRate expressions
Determining the order of reaction graphically
Reaction mechanisms
Activation energy The Arrhenius equation
Graphical determination of activation energy
Unit 7 & 17EquilibriumEquilibriumDynamic equilibrium
The equilibrium constant Kc
The reaction quotient Q
La Chatellier’s principle
Industrial equilibria 
10 HoursThinker
Equilibrium (AHL)The equilibrium lawCalculations involving homogenous equilibrium
Gibbs free energy and equilibrium 
Unit 8 & 18Acids and basesTheories of acids and basesBrønsted-Lowry theory of acids and bases  
Conjugate acid-base pairs
20 HoursKnowledgeable 
Properties of acids and basesCharacteristic reactions of acids
Neutralisation reactions
The pH scaleDefinition of pH
Acid-base indicators
The ionic product of water
Strong and weak acids and basesIonisation of acids and bases
Strength of conjugate acids and bases
Acid depositionAcid deposition
Effects and reduction of acid deposition
Acids and bases (AHL)Lewis theories of acids and basesLewis theories of acids and bases 
Calculations involving acids and basesTemperature dependence of Kw
Acid and base dissociation constants
Calculations of pH for weak acids and bases
pH curvespH curves
Acid-base indicators
Buffer solutions
Salt hydrolysis
Internal assessment 10 HoursInquirer 
UnitSubtopicKey Episodes / QuestionsAdditional detailsLength of time.Learner Attribute(s)
Unit 9 & 19Redox processesOxidation and reductionDefinitions of oxidation and reduction
Oxidation states
The activity series
Redox reactions
12 HoursPrincipled
Electrochemical cells Voltaic cells
Electrolytic cells 
Redox processes (AHL)Electrochemical cells Standard electrode potentials
Electrolysis of aqueous solutions
Calculations involving electrolysis  
Unit 10 & 20 Organic chemistry Fundamentals of organic chemistryHomologous series
Molecular and structural formula
Structural isomerism
Functional groups
Naming organic compounds
Trends in physical properties
Classification of organic compounds
Aromatic hydrocarbons
15 HoursOpen minded
Functional group chemistry Alkanes
Organic chemistry (AHL)Types of organic reactionsNucleophilic substitution reactions
Electrophilic addition reactions
Electrophilic substitution reactions
Reduction reactions
Synthetic routesDevising synthetic routes and retrosynthesis
StereoisomerismConformal isomerism
Cis-trans and E/Z isomerism
Optical isomerism
Unit 11 and 21Measurement and data processing Uncertainties and errors in measurement and results Qualitative and quantitative data
Random and systematic errors
Precision and accuracy
Absolute and percentage uncertainties
10 HoursBalanced
Graphical techniquesGraphical techniques
Spectroscopic identification of organic compoundsIndex of hydrogen deficiency (IHD)
Infrared (IR) spectroscopy
Mass spectrometry (MS)
Nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy (1H NMR)
Measurement and analysis (AHL)Spectroscopic identification of organic compoundsHigh resolution 1H NMR
Combining analytical techniques
X-ray crystallography
Option: Medicinal chemistry Medicinal chemistry Pharmaceutical products and drug actionDrug development
Drug action and administration
The therapeutic index
25 HoursCaring
Aspirin and penicillinThe synthesis of aspirin
How aspirin works
Synthesis of penicillin
How penicillin works
OpiatesTypes of opiates
How opiates work
Use of opiates
pH regulation of the stomachNeutralisation of stomach acid
Decreasing acid secretion
Antiviral medicationsHow antiviral medicines work
Environmental impact of some medicationsSources of medical waste
Nuclear medical waste
Green chemistry solutions
Medicinal chemistry (AHL)Taxol – a chiral auxiliary case study Chirality
Nuclear medicine What is nuclear medicine?
Targeted alpha therapy
Drug detection and analysis Extraction and purification
Spectroscopic methods
Alcohol and steroid detection