The GCE-O Level Examination in Singapore is a much-dreaded milestone for many secondary school students. For students taking the O-Level Pure Chemistry syllabus (code 6092), they will be facing their Paper 3 Practical Exam. This paper is worth a total of 40 marks and is a 20% weightage of the overall Chemistry grade. Students will have 1 hour and 50 minutes to finish their practical paper, which consists of a varying number of compulsory practical questions. Students should not skip any questions as they need to attempt all.

1. Compile all the O Level Chemistry practical past papers and know them by heart

The examiners will not allow students to refer to any textbooks, notes, or worksheets during the practical exam itself. As such, they need to be able to memorise the procedures and observations when executing tests for cations, anions, and gases by heart. Students should either make their own notes for qualitative analysis or take it from a reputable source. Students should try as hard as possible not only to read them and give them a once over, but also memorise them so they can recall the information easily during the practical exam. 

Where can you obtain reliable resources and references for O Level Chemistry Practical Past Papers?

2. Master the different skill areas

The examiners will assess students on the following skill areas during the O Level Practical Paper: Planning, Manipulation, measurement, and observation, Presentation of data and observations, Analysis, conclusions, and evaluation. It takes some time, effort, and practice, but students need to, among other things, identify key variables for a question, know what the risks of an experiment are, set up apparatus correctly, make good decisions about measurement and approximation, present their data in a good form, analyse, and interpret data for observations, and identify significant sources of error and explain its effects.

3. Have a solid practical technique on how to tackle O Level Chemistry papers

Students (who have ideally practised in the lab many times) should have developed a good practical technique before sitting for the O Level Chemistry practical paper. They need to have a good accuracy, especially in titration, and they need to know about what to do when conducting qualitative analysis. There are some things students need to take note of: (1) firstly, they should normally record burette readings to the nearest 0.05 cm3 and carry out enough titrations; and (2) during qualitative analysis, they should use approximately 1 cm depth of a solution for each test, adding reagents slowly, ensuring they mix well until no further change is observed. When writing answers, students should include details of changes in colours and precipitates formed, and they should name and test any gases produced. 

4. Know what will be tested in the exam

Perhaps it is apt to quote Sun Tzu when he says, “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles.” Similarly, students facing the Chemistry practical paper for O Levels should know the syllabus and what they will be tested on. The range of experimental techniques covered in the O Level practical paper include titration, speeds of reaction, separation techniques, preparation of salts, gas collection, drying gases, displacement reactions, tests for oxidising and reducing agents, qualitative analysis, tests for simple organic reactions, energy changes, data loggers, and mole concepts and chemical calculations. When students go for the exam, they need to be sure of the type of question (and hands-on practical experiments) on which they will be tested. Students ought to have some experience and should check and go over their practical worksheets for revision purposes.

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Frequently Asked Questions

a. Is O level chemistry hard?

O Level Chemistry can be challenging for students who lack a good foundation in basic Chemistry concepts. Furthermore, the calculations in O Level Chemistry can be challenging for students who are weaker at Mathematics.

b. How do I study for Chemistry O Level?

Firstly, the student should understand what the syllabus and style of exam questions are like for H2 Chemistry. Next, the student should practice doing the questions to do well and fix knowledge gaps and their lack of conceptual understanding.

c. Is Chemistry compulsory in O Level?

No, students can choose whether to undertake O Level Chemistry or not. However, if students want to do Chemistry as a subject in JC, they are highly recommended to take Chemistry in O Levels.

d. What is the hardest chapter in Chemistry O Levels?

Students could consider Organic Chemistry to be the hardest chapter in Chemistry O Levels as it is easy to mix up the different concepts learned in school. 

e. Can you fail O Levels?

It is possible to fail O Levels, and the consequence of this is the reduced chance of admission into a Junior College or polytechnic.

f. Can I go to university with only O Level?

Overseas universities may take candidates with only an O Level qualification, but Singaporean universities require a polytechnic, IB diploma or A Level certificate to undertake education here.

g. What happens if I do badly for O Levels?

The consequence of doing badly for O Levels is the reduced chance of admission into a Junior College or polytechnic.