Please Mind The Platform Gap: Taking H2 Chemistry

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By Tay Yu Ning (23S06E)

As one of the most popular subjects in Raffles Institution (second only to Mathematics), H2 Chemistry certainly appeals to many during the subject selection phase. Practically every Science stream student takes H2 Chemistry, unless they are one of the few who decided to replace Chemistry with Further Math or Computing.

This appeal, however, often does not last throughout the year. During the Promotional Exams period, it is common to hear complaints such as “I should have fled to the hybrid stream” or “What was I thinking when I decided to take H2?”

So, is it truly worth it to take Chemistry at the H2 level?

What H2 Chemistry Is About

The study of Chemistry is fundamental to scientists because it helps them understand and investigate a wide range of macro and micro processes and better understand how the world works. Chemistry serves as the link and foundation between other scientific disciplines such as Biology and Physics.

In H2 Chemistry, students will explore fundamental Chemistry concepts like Matter, Chemical Bonding, the Periodic Table and Thermodynamics. These concepts serve as a foundation for more complicated concepts such as Organic Chemistry and the Transition Elements.

The world’s most expensive periodic table, featuring many of the Transition Elements. Many of the Transition Elements here are actually made from the precious metals they represent!

H2 Chemistry entails a strong conceptual understanding of the myriad topics covered, most of which end up being so inextricably linked that a singular gap in understanding can lead to “significant” problems.

Through the H2 Chemistry syllabus, one will be pushed to think out of the box and explain phenomenons around the world in a logical fashion.

Differences between H1 and H2 Chemistry

Perhaps you lack interest in Chemistry. Perhaps you have traditionally not done so well in this subject. Perhaps you have heard horror stories from your seniors about scoring straight “U”s for Chemistry all throughout JC.

In such situations, you may be considering taking Chemistry as a H1 subject instead.

There are two main differences between H1 and H2 Chemistry.

The first difference would be Content. As opposed to H2, H1 Chemistry has a substantially smaller amount of content. It covers the various topics at a shallower range of depth. Some topics, such as “Transition Metals” and “The Gaseous State”, are even completely omitted from the H1 Chemistry syllabus.

Lecture notes from “The Gaseous State”, one of the topics not covered in H1 Chemistry.

The second major difference would be the Examination Format. In H2 Chemistry, students sit for four different papers: Multiple Choice (1h), Structured Questions (2h), Free Response Questions (2h) and Practical (2.5h). Meanwhile, H1 Chemistry students only sit for the first two papers.

Skills Required to Take H2 Chemistry

To do well in H2 Chemistry, one needs to have the following skill-sets:

  • A strong foundation in Chemistry: Much of the H2 Chemistry syllabus builds upon Year 4 / O-level Chemistry topics. Thus, without mastery of Year 4 / O-level Chemistry, it may be more difficult to understand what is taught in H2 Chemistry
  • Good study habits: With a whopping 23 topics covered at the A-levels, Chemistry is certainly one of the most content-intense H2 subjects. It is exceptionally difficult to survive just by memorisation alone and it is certainly impossible to cram the many important details of all the various topics the night before exams. Good study habits, such as daily practice and frequent revision are thus crucial to doing well
  • Be able to learn from mistakes: Unless you are a bona fide Chem genius (in which case, you shouldn’t need to read this article to know already that you’ll be taking Chem!), you’re most likely going to face struggles while studying H2 Chemistry. It is important to be able to learn from your mistakes and not feel disheartened if you can’t understand the concepts immediately

Opportunities Provided by H2 Chemistry

By taking H2 Chemistry, one can enjoy the following benefits:

More options for university admissions: A good pass in H2 Chemistry is required for many popular local courses such as Medicine, Dentistry, Pharmacy and Chemistry. Additionally, many Science-related courses such as Computer Engineering require applicants to take at least one H2 Science, which H2 Chemistry could count towards.

Opens the doors to opportunities such as H3 Chemistry / Raffles Academy (Chemistry): If you’re extremely passionate about Chemistry, you might want to consider not just taking H2 Chemistry but also Raffles Academy (Chemistry) or even H3 Chemistry. The Raffles Academy typically holds two rounds of selection tests at the start of the year in January (for RP students) and February (for JAE students and RP students who missed the first test). Meanwhile, if you score at least a B for Chemistry and at least a C for all your other subjects, you will have the option to take H3 Chemistry in Year 6.

If alternate periodic tables like the one above pique your interest, you might want to consider taking your interest in Chem to the next level by joining either H3 or Raffles Academy

At the end of the day, the subjects you choose in JC should either aid towards your future career goal or be something you are genuinely passionate about. Taking a subject you do not enjoy for two years may not be worth it, especially since you could spend the time studying something else you enjoy instead.

If you do not enjoy Chemistry and do not intend to pursue a university course which has H2 Chemistry as a prerequisite, then the subject might not be for you. You might want to consider other paths, such as the Arts stream or Hybrid, even if they are paths less conventionally travelled upon.

On the other hand, if you’re interested in learning more about the world one chemical concept at a time, then it might be time to form a covalent bond and see if you have chemistry with H2 Chemistry!

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