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The second-year courses build on the topics studied in the first year and explore these chemical ideas and principles in more depth. A broad range of topics is covered and the connections between these different topics are emphasised, as is the way in which one idea grows from another and can be developed to aid our understanding of chemistry as a whole. The courses lay a firm foundation of chemical principles which inform both more advanced study of chemistry and also related areas such as Biochemistry, Physics, Molecular Biology, Materials Science and Earth Sciences. 

Two courses are offered in the second year: Chemistry A and Chemistry B; students may take either or both of them. 

Chemistry A focuses mainly on the theories which are used to understand and probe chemical bonding, structures and reactions. It starts out with a discussion of quantum mechanics which is the fundamental theory used by chemists to understand the microscopic nature of matter and molecules. The course goes on to use these ideas to discuss chemical bonding, the way in which microscopic properties influence those of bulk matter, and how all of these ideas can be used together to understand the properties and chemistry of solid materials. The underlying theme which runs through the course is endeavouring to understand the microscopic nature of molecules, matter and reactions.

Chemistry B focuses mainly on how chemists find out about and rationalise the enormous range of chemical structures and reactions that are known; a wide range is covered, from the familiar world of carbon-based chemistry, through the huge diversity of compounds and structures that are the domain of inorganic chemistry, and finally to the important topic of biological chemistry, in which we look at the chemistry of life. Despite the huge range that the course will cover, we will find that we can begin to make sense of it all by using a relatively small number of key concepts in chemical bonding and reactivity. As the discussion develops, the central role taken by electronic structure and the three-dimensional shape of molecules becomes apparent; it is these properties that influence their reactivity and other properties.

Within IB Natural Sciences there are many courses which complement the two chemistry courses. Physics, Materials Science, and Mathematics are commonly taken alongside Chemistry A. Any of the biological courses with a more ‘molecular’ slant sit well with Chemistry B, and those with interests in Earth Sciences will find useful content in both Chemistry A and B.