Standard Grade

Pupils who choose to take Chemistry in third and fourth year will follow the SQA Standard Grade Chemistry Course.

The Standard Grade course is made up of 15 units of work, which pupils will complete through experiments, written exercises, teacher demonstrations and homework exercises. The course is assessed by the SQA through an external examination, as well as through practical tests which are assesed internally by the teachers.

The Standard Grade course is made up of the 15 units listed below. This page gives a summary of the work covered in each unit.

Standard Grade Units

Click on a unit name for information about that unit.

Chemical Reactions

This unit involves a lot of practical work. It familiarises pupils with Chemical Reactions which take place in our everyday lives. The unit also establishes the differences between elements, compounds and mixtures.

Speed of reactions

This topic investigates the variables which affect the rates of reactions: particle size, concentration and temperature. The unit also introduces catalysts. Again, this unit involves a lot of practical work.

Atoms and the periodic table

This unit explains how everything in our world is made from a combination of elements from about 100 elements in the periodic table. It explains terms such as periods, groups, atoms, ions, and also explains how elements are arranged in the table.

How atoms combine

This unit involves a lot of use of the molecular model kits where pupils will create models of chemical atoms and molecules. It teaches pupils about how atoms join together to form bonds and about the forces of attraction between atoms in a molecule.


This unit is concerned with fossil fuels, in particular oil, its formation and its uses. It also explains the finite nature of fossil fuels and explains some possible replacements for them. It gives pupils an understanding of the pollution problems related with oil-based fuels and how some of these problems can be solved by environmentally-friendly fuels.

Structures and reactions of hydrocarbons

In this unit, pupils learn about homologous series, their structure and how they react - in particular the alkanes, alkenes and cycloalkanes. Pupils will also learn about 'cracking' hydrocarbons and how hydrocarbons are used in the plastics industry.

Properties of substances

This unit investigates the conductivity of chemical elements and compounds and introduces the theory of ionic compounds and their properties.

Acids and alkalis

This unit deals with acids and alkalis and in particular, identifying them by their pH number. It also teaches pupils about the causes and effects of acid rain. It teaches pupils how to work out the gram formula mass and concentration of substances.

Reactions of acids

This topic deals with various neutralisation reactions involving acids. These include: Acid+Metal Oxide, Acid+Metal Hydroxide, Acid+Metal Carbonate and Acid+Metal.

Making electricity

This topic teaches pupils how cells (batteries) produces electricity. It gives pupils an understanding of the importance of batteries in our everyday lives and explains how different types of battery work.


This topic deals with the properties, uses and reactions of metals and explains why some metals are found uncombined in the ground, while others have to extracted from ores. It also features the concept of metal alloys.


This topic deals with the corrosion of metals and in particular, the rusting of iron. It explains everyday causes of rusting, including "grit" on roads, and some of the solutions to the problem.

Plastics and synthetic fibres

This topic deals with the everyday uses of plastics as well as their manufacture. It also deals with the structure of plastic polymers.


This topic deals with the importance of polymers in our everyday lives, relating this to the need for greater food production due to the World's increasing population. It gives pupils an awareness of the nutrients required by plants and which fertilisers can supply these.

Carbohydrates and related substances

In this topic, pupils will study photosynthesis and respiration and their importance to the balance of the world's oxygen supply. They will also study sugars, including the monosaccharides, disaccharides and polysaccharides.

S3/S4 Assessments

Standard Grade Chemistry is assessed by the SQA through an external examination to determine the pupil's grades for Knowledge and understanding and problem solving. Questions in the final exam are based on the work covered throughout the year from the 15 units of the course.

The third element of the course, Practical abilities, is assessed internally. There are two elements to the practical abilities section: Techniques and Investigations.

Practical Techniques

Practical techniques involve little written work. They are simply a demonstration of the pupil's ability to carry out set tasks. There are 5 techniques in the course, 3 at general level and two at credit level:

  • Heating Solids and observing changes (G)

  • Filtration (G)

  • Solubility Tests (G)

  • Titrations (C)

  • Preparing compounds by neutralisation and evaporation (C)

A maximum of 6 marks can be awarded for each of the general level techniques and a maximum of 9 marks can be awarded for each of the credit level techniques, giving a possible total of 36 marks for practical techniques.


Investigations present pupils with a question such as "Investigate the factors which affect the reaction rate between X & Y". Pupils then have to choose a factor which they are going to alter and write a hypothesis. They should then carry out their experiment safely before creating a table of results, graphing their results and writing a full report about their investigation, drawing a conclusion from their results. Pupils will carry out 2 or more investigations, with their best 2 being assessed Each investigation is assessed under each of the following headings:

  • Generative Skills (8 marks)

  • Experimentation Skills (8 marks)

  • Evaluation Skills (4 Marks)

  • Recording and Reporting Skills (8 Marks)

A total of 28 marks is available for each investigation, and the marks from the pupil's two best investigations are averaged to give a total out of 28 for Investigations.

Overall Marking

The investigation mark is added to the mark awarded for techniques to give a total Practical Abilities marks out of 64. Grades are then awarded as follows:

Less than 34