A “Short” Guide on Your BC Provincial Exams

Chemistry 12 Provincial Exam

Note: this guide was written for the 2004-2005 provincial exams and will not be updated.

When most people think about chemistry, they get the picture of a bunch of nerdy looking people in lab coats mixing chemicals to create some colourful looking solutions. Those of you who have seen certain cartoons and/or movies might even get the image of a mischievous or inexperienced chemist mixing the wrong chemicals and blowing the lab up. Sorry to disappoint you folks, but Chemistry 12 isn’t quite that exciting or as dangerous. Chemistry 12 is another one of the three big science courses in the BC curriculum and you’ll need this course if you decide to pursue a science degree in university.

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Course Description
Course Analysis and Tips
Exam Overview
Exam Analysis and Tips

Course Description
Chemistry 12 is a continuation of the Chemistry 11 course, which is a prerequisite course to Chemistry 12. Chemistry 12 focuses specifically on several areas of chemistry. Below is the breakdown of what you’ll learn in Chemistry 12, based on my one year in the course.

Unit 1: Reaction Kinetics
In this unit you’ll learn about the factors that affect reaction rates and reaction mechanisms. You get to draw energy graphs. No calculations are involved in this unit.

Unit 2: Reversible Reactions
You might have been taught that reactions can only go to completion or go nowhere at all. Well, that’s not quite correct. There are many chemical reactions that are reversible and you’ll investigate these in this unit. Again, there are no calculations in this unit.

Unit 3: Solutions
This is the unit where some people start to have some trouble, because this unit is quite a bit more complicated and there are calculations involved. You’ll learn about solutions, solubility, concentration, precipitates, and the all important Ksp, plus plenty of other rules. You’ll also have to start looking up complicated charts in order to do your homework.

Unit 4: Acids and Bases
Well, in this unit you’ll learn about tons of new stuff regarding acid and bases. There are lots of things to remember and lots of calculation to do. This unit is similar to Unit 3 in terms of the calculations: there are Ks (constants) involved here and you’ll probably have to look them up somewhere. This is the longest and one of the hardest units of the course.

Unit 5: Electrochemistry
In this unit you get to learn about chemical reactions that produces electricity and reaction that uses electricity. There are some pretty equation balancing problems involved here. This unit is probably quite different than anything you’ve ever seen in your high school career, and all the concepts may seem strange to you, and this is what makes this unit fairly hard to a lot of people. If you can grasp the concepts, then this unit isn’t that difficult.

Like the other science courses, there are quite a bit of homework assignments and lots of quizzes, tests, and exams in Chemistry 12. Even though chemistry is less hands-on than it was before, there are still plenty of labs you’ll have to do, and that means lots of lab reports. There is quite a bit material to go over in this course, so expect a lot of lecturing and going over notes in class.

Course Analysis and Tips
As I have said before, chemistry used to be a subject that required a lot of memorization, but nowadays (as in when I wrote this article) that’s not really the case. There are quite a bit of calculations involved in Chemistry 12. You’ll still have to remember a fair bit of stuff though, and that’s what makes Chemistry 12 a pretty tough course. You have to memorize stuff and calculate stuff at the same time. Personally, I think Chemistry 12 is the hardest of the three science courses and my school marks reflect that. It might because that I took Chemistry 12 when I was still in grade 11, or because I missed quite a few classes due to work experience, but I just felt that Chemistry 12 took more effort. If you can understand the concepts and remember the information, Chemistry 12 isn’t really that hard, but it takes more work than either Physics 12 or Biology 12 to get a good mark in this course.

Because Chemistry 12 involves both memorization and application (calculations, balancing equations etc.), there is no single trick here that will make your life easier. I can only offer the general advices such as do your homework, review the material every so often, and pay attention in class. The calculations in Chemistry 12 aren’t really any sort of high level math, but the problems usually take more than one step to solve, and you also have to look up a lot of values, such as Ks (constants) of many chemicals. Chemistry 12 is also especially picky about significant digits, and there are many rules regarding how many digits should appear in the answer to a given problem. In other words, the homework assignments might take you a while to finish. Even though you are usually provided with a data booklet or can use your textbook to find certain values, there are still lots of items you have to remember, such as what the values actually mean. Again, review the things you have learned at least once a week if you have time so that you don’t forget.

There are also a lot of lab experiments in Chemistry 12. During labs, read the instruction carefully and pay close attention to the teacher and also the things going on around you. When you are working with high concentration acids, you sure don’t want any of that stuff to spill on you. The number of labs also means that you’ll have to write a few lab reports. Every teacher seems to have his/her own format for writing reports, and you better follow those format correctly if you want a good mark. Also try not to be absent on lab days. Not being there to perform the experiment makes it very difficult for you to write a good lab report. I know this fact personally because every time I was absent for a lab I got a bad grade on that lab report.

From what I heard from teachers and my fellow students, I got the impression that people usually have the most trouble with the last two units of the course. Unit 4 is pretty long, and there is a lot of stuff to learn, but the knowledge here is not completely new. You should have already learned about constants in Unit 3, and if you get that, then the calculations in Unit 4 should be easy because the methods are similar. I think most people just get intimidated by the amount of information before they actually sink into the topic and find out for themselves. Unit 5, which is electrochemistry, may seem a little strange because you probably have never seen this stuff before, but the concepts aren’t really that difficult to grasp. Again, I think people are scared of the material before they even take a closer look, and if they keep thinking that “oh, I don’t get this; this is so hard…” then they probably won’t be able to understand the material. If you truly don’t understand something, ask your teacher or a classmate who seems to be good at this stuff to give you some help. Personally I never found the last two units to be very hard. Actually my third term mark was quite a bit higher than my first two terms. I don’t know why it is this way, but it doesn’t matter.

So my conclusion about Chemistry 12 is that it is a fairly challenging course, but it’s nothing that you can’t handle with some hard work and persistence. Study regularly, do your homework, show up and pay attention in class and you should at least be able to get yourself a decent mark.

Exam Overview
My Chemistry 12 Provincial Exams consisted of two sections. The first section is made up of around 60 multiple choice questions. The second section is made up of a number (mostly 6 to 9) of short answer questions that are worth a total of approximately 30 marks. The exam is out of a total of around 90 marks and is designed to be completed in two hours. Of course like all provincials, you may take another 30 minutes to finish. Visit the Ministry’s website for official exam specifications.

Exam Analysis and Tips
The Chemistry 12 Provincial Exam is just a paper exam and doesn’t test say… your skills in the lab. The exam does however, cover everything you will learn or have learned in this course, from the beginning of the year to the end of the year. Your best resources for review are the notes given by your teacher. If your teacher doesn’t give notes, you should try to take some in class. The textbook maybe of some help, but notes are better for review because they are designed specifically for this course while the textbook probably isn’t. Read over everything you’ve learned in the year at least once before going to the exam.

Like most provincials, the best way to practice for the Chemistry 12 exam is to download some old exams and do them at home. You can time yourself and also mark your own paper after you finish. Even though this is practice, try not the cheat by peeking at the answers beforehand. That would undermine the purpose of practicing, which is to let you familiarize yourself with the questions and get to know what you are good at and what you need to improve upon. Old exams are good practice because the same kinds of questions come up on every chemistry exam. You can also find practice for multiple choice questions at quizmeBC, which offers free online quizzes using old provincial questions.

I assume that you have read the exam overview and know that what’s on the exam. Note that the above specs are for the exam I took and may not be updated to newer standards. The Chemistry 12 Exam, in my opinion, is quite long. There are about 60 multiple choice questions there, and unlike Biology 12 where most of the answers are straight-forward, the chemistry exam has quite a number of calculation questions, including several problems that might involve complicated processes such as drawing ICE tables and/or looking up a bunch of values in the data booklet. Of course there are some theory questions which you may be able to answer in a heartbeat, but the amount of calculation questions on the exam will make time management pretty important, because those questions will take a fair chunk of time to do, and you only have a limited amount of time. You have to do the questions well, and also complete them at a fairly fast rate. All general strategies that apply to M/C applies here: skip questions that are taking too long to solve; read the question carefully before answering and never leave any M/C answers blank.

The short answer section isn’t as bad as the M/C since there are far fewer questions. There will be some questions where you basically just write a paragraph to answer, while there are others which require calculation and/or balancing. Like for all short answers, make sure that your writing is clear and legible, and use proper grammar. For calculation questions, make sure you list all the values such as constants beforehand and show all your work in an organized and logical manner. Do not skip any steps. Marks may be given based on whether or not certain steps are present in your calculation and missing steps may mean missing marks. When you put down your final answer, make sure you use the correct amount of significant digits and the right units. You don’t want too lose half a mark just because you put M instead of moles.

If you prepare well and use good time management, you should still be able to finish the exam within the time limit despite the length of the paper. The exam shouldn’t be really difficult if you managed to grasp the concepts of the course and studied in advance, but due to the sheer amount of questions it has, the Chemistry provincial is, in my opinion, the most challenging provincial out of the three science courses. I felt pretty mentally drained after the exam. Maybe you’ll feel better than I do. So some of you now might be wondering (or not) how well I did on the exam. Huh, it’s pretty funny thinking back now. I think luck was with me on that day, because I managed to fluke the exam. Actually, my chemistry score is tied for my best mark in a provincial exam. I don’t know why that is, but I’m happy with my mark, and hopefully you’ll get the mark you want when you go under the knife… uh… take the exam I mean.

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7 thoughts to “A “Short” Guide on Your BC Provincial Exams”

  1. I’m surprised how you said that the English 12 exam was the hardest and yet you still said you “escaped” with an A… Does this mean you got around 90+ on the exam or somewhere on the high 80s?

    I recently did the English 12 exam and came out with a score of 87. And quite frankly it was the multiple choice that seemed harder than writing. But I guess I’m just “one of those people” who you state like writing.

  2. Good job on the exam. I got 90% on my exam a couple of years ago. It’s different for everybody, but I thought English was the hardest of my provincials. I’m one of the those math and science nerds you see, so English has never been my strongest subject.

  3. Hey, about the the fact that the exam is impossible ace… last year, a kid in my town aced the exam. He scored 100%, and I thought to myself “Why would they publish this in the newspaper?” I now know why.

  4. dude this was a very good guide, thank you for all your free time to do this,heh… i am also a firm believer in the “less you expect” school of thought haha…

    i just looked on the internet for some last minute advice, my exam is tomorrow.

    one thing i will say is that reading really does help oneself with with improving their style and what not. unfortunately, i have not read in the past semester. so we shall see how things go…

    and again, this was really quite a marvelous essay, it had humor and wit and has put me in a much better mood.

    needless to say if you were a chick i would be hitting on you… i think that sums up my admiration…

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