Breaking Down Year 12 VCE Chemistry Part 1 – Unit 3

Breaking down Year 12 VCE Chemistry Part 1


This article has been written by Henry Ja, a Chemistry tutor at LearnMate. If you’re interested in private tutoring from Henry, then please check out his page here.


The VCE Chemistry Study Design contains all the information you need on what you should be studying for in Year 12 Chemistry. It is where the examiners go to prepare questions for the End of Year Exam and what your teachers will refer to when making SAC questions. It is a vital tool to have with you while you are studying.

The study design can be a bit ‘dry’ and boring to read and can be at times vague. Therefore, I’m going to help you out by dissecting the key points.

This article will focus on Unit 3, however, keep an eye out in the future for another article that will address the Unit 4 content.

Unit 3 consists of two areas of studies:

  • Area of Study 1: Chemical Analysis
  • Area of Study 2: Organic Chemical Pathways

Area of Study 1- Chemical Analysis:

As the title suggests AOS 1 is concerned mainly on how to analyse different types of chemicals. You will be introduced to different analytical techniques that scientists use in real life to analyse different chemicals.

You will probably be introduced to volumetric and gravimetric analysis in the initial weeks of your classes. Both these types of analysis are known as ‘wet chemistry’ because they are chemistry that is usually performed in the liquid phase.

After covering volumetric and gravimetric analysis, you will then move onto learning about the different types of instruments that are available for chemical analysis. 

There are five main techniques that are specified in the study design and they are:

  • Atomic absorption spectroscopy (AAS)
  • Infrared spectroscopy (IR)
  • Proton and carbon-13 nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy (NMR)
  • Visible and ultraviolet spectroscopy (UV-Vis)
  • Mass Spectroscopy (MS)

Each of these techniques provides information about different things and is useful in helping us determine what particular compound we are analysing. Some of these techniques are not only good for qualitative analysis but also quantitative analysis as well, which you will learn in your classes.

The final topic covered in AOS 1 will be chromatography. Chromatography is a term used to describe a set of techniques used to separate a mixture of chemicals. ➔ Think back to Junior Science where you might have done the chalk experiment where you separated a particular ink into its different components.  That was chromatography.

Although you will be learning some new and exciting things you still need to keep in mind some of the key concepts that very important. These concepts include:

  • Stoichiometry
  • Oxidation Numbers
  • Writing and balancing chemical equations
  • Know how to calculate concentration, volume, pressure and temperature
  • Acids and Bases
  • Redox

These concepts are specifically listed in the study design and, so they are concepts that you must know well. Although these concepts are listed under Unit 3 AOS 1, they are relevant to almost the entire course of Year 12 Chemistry.

Area of Study 2- Organic Chemical Pathways:

This is my favourite part of the Year 12 Chemistry course because not only is it interesting, but there are some biological concepts embedded in this AOS.

In this AOS you will need to know:

  • how to name organic compounds including alkanes, alkenes, alcohols, carboxylic acids, amines, haloalkanes and esters.
  • how to draw the structural formulae of the above compounds as well as the semi-structural formulae of those compounds.
  • the common reactions of the organic compounds mentioned above. This includes Addition reaction of alkenes, substitution reactions of alkanes and haloalkanes, oxidation of primary alkanols and esterification.
  • how esters are produced from alkenes
  • the primary, secondary and tertiary structures of proteins
  • the role of the tertiary structure in enzymes
  • the effect of pH and temperature on enzymes ➔ Denaturation
  • the primary and secondary structure of DNA ➔ Where do the bonds form between the base, sugar and phosphate groups?
  • how lipids (triglycerides) are produced from condensation reactions between glycerol and fatty acids.
  • how large biomolecules such as carbohydrates, proteins and DNA are produced from condensation reactions.
  • how biochemical fuels (bioethanol, biodiesel, biogas) are produced especially how ethanol is produced from the fermentation of sugars.
  • the definition of renewable, sustainable and non-renewable.
  • the function of organic molecules in the design and synthesis of medicines including the production of aspirin from salicylic acid.

This is just a break down of Unit 3 Chemistry and there are a lot more little things that you should know and will learn when you start Year 12 Chemistry. Your best guide is still the Study Design that you should refer to each time when you are unsure what you are supposed to be learning.

Print out a copy of the study design out so that you can have something to refer to when you are studying and making your notes.

Good luck, and keep an eye out for my next article covering the key concepts of Unit 4 Chemistry.

Disclaimer: This article only contains a summary of what the study design has outlined. You should not rely solely on this article on what you should know for VCE Chemistry; use it as a supplement. Refer to the Study Design for a more detailed guide. Also, ask your teacher if you are unsure about what you should be learning. VCAA does not endorse this article and all views presented here are of my own.


This article has been written by Henry Ja, a Chemistry tutor at LearnMate. If you’re interested in private tutoring from Henry, then please check out his page here.


LearnMate is Australia’s leading tutoring agency offering private lessons in all primary & high school subjects including English, maths, science, humanities, foreign languages, and so much more. Our mission is simple: to provide professional, engaging and enthusiastic tutors to students, while also ensuring the student feels empowered and confident during their assessments! Ultimately, our goal is to empower students all over Australia to achieve amazing results and make their dreams come true!

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Breaking Down Year 12 VCE Chemistry Part 1 – Unit 3

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