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General Chemistry

Module titleGeneral Chemistry
Module codeBIO1347
Academic year2022/3
Module staff

Dr Sam Stevens (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks



Number students taking module (anticipated)


Description - summary of the module content

Module description

Over your university career and into graduate employment or further study/research, an understanding of the theoretical and practical aspects of chemistry is essential for any biochemist. Therefore, following tradition, this module groups together general, mathematical, inorganic and physical chemical concepts for first years before they tackle more biological and chemical concepts requiring such knowledge in later endeavours. Where we break away from tradition is to immediately apply these concepts to practical laboratory work and further build on more practical aspects such as analysis and calculation.

This module is mandatory for all Biological & Medicinal Chemistry students and Biochemistry students.

In order to take this module, you must have an A-level (or equivalent) in Chemistry and a GCSE (or equivalent) in Mathematics.

Module aims - intentions of the module

We aim for all students to finish the module with considerable laboratory experience and confidence borne of a clear chemical understanding.

Through this module, you will gain the following essential skills:

  • Data handling skills– demonstrated use of appropriate laboratory equipment fundamental for measurements in chemistry, and the ability to interpret and analyse resulting datasets
  • Analytical skills– being able to understand core aspects of inorganic and physical chemistry and related mathematical concepts and apply these to solve problems and explain experimental observations.
  • Practical skills - conduct practicals safely and timely making competent records of your findings.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 1. Describe and apply the basics of inorganic chemistry
  • 2. Describe and apply the basics of physical chemistry
  • 3. Describe and apply the basics of historical and current chemical methods

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 4. Evaluate chemical phenomena from a sub/atomic microscopic perspective.
  • 5. Evaluate chemical phenomena from an intensive/extensive macroscopic perspective.
  • 6. Evaluate chemical phenomena from an abstract/predictive mathematical perspective.

ILO: Personal and key skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 7. Conduct labwork safely through preparation of chemical and safety concepts.
  • 8. Conduct labwork reproducibly through understanding of error and careful notation through books.
  • 9. Conduct labwork effectively by maintaining focus and professionalism.

Syllabus plan

Syllabus plan

The module’s precise content will vary from year to year to complement the other modules on offer by the department. The precise nature of practical assessments will also vary from year to year. However, the indicative syllabus is as follows:

Theoretical Aspects

Note that organic and biochemical chemistry concepts are directly covered in other modules at Exeter.

Inorganic chemistry

  • Atoms: The structure of the atom and an explanation and exploration of periodic trends in electronegativity, electron affinity, etc.
  • Ions: The disassociation of electron from atoms and their associated electrochemistry, an assessment of the utility of oxidation states and the nature of acidity.
  • Molecules: A formalised approach of bonding from a Lewis (dot-cross or octet rule) bonding and VSPER (geometry) to a molecular orbital version identifying the benefits of both regimens.
  • Complexes: Identification, naming and justification for the composition, geometry and reactivity of these biologically essential, transition metal centred species.

Physical chemistry

  • Classical mechanics - A short formal definition of fundamental concepts such as energy, mass, etc. applied to at least the macroscopic world.
  • Quantum mechanics - A review of twentieth century experiments leading to sufficient understanding of subatomic particles for chemical purposes.
  • Thermodynamics - A study of why reactions proceed due to extensive and intensive properties.
  • Kinetics - The measurement of reaction rates and subsequent modelling to deduce mechanistic aspects of reactions.
  • Spectroscopy - An explanation on how chemical structures are elucidated specifically (in this module) from the exploitation of electromagnetic radiation.

Chemical mathematics

  • Calculus of one variable - Differentiation and integration.
  • Population distributions - Normal distribution, Boltzmann, and others.
  • Algebra – rearrangement of equations and linearisation of formulae.
  • Simultaneous equations - Identify the values of coefficients.

Practical Aspects

Covered, amongst others:

  • Health and safety: Theories on handling dangers and hazards and practical steps on laboratory preparation.
  • Synthesis: Complexes, small molecules, ligands, etc.
  • Measurement: UV-vis spectroscopy, pH, titration, calorimetry, conductivity, etc.
  • Analysis: Determination of chemical structure, reactivity, disassociation constant, rate constant, etc.
  • Data processing: tabulation, linear regression, data fitting, etc.

Accessibility Statement:

As part of this module, you will undertake regular laboratory sessions in the large teaching laboratory that are of 3 hours in duration. These sessions will be undertaken in groups and will involve fine laboratory work and chemical handling (with appropriate PPE and safety considerations). Breaks are possible and students are able to leave the laboratory for short periods.

Learning and teaching

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled Learning and Teaching 44Live lectures including formative and summative in-class tests (44x 1 hour)
Scheduled Learning and Teaching 66Practicals with taught content, assessment, and support (22 x 3 hours)
Guided Independent Study 11Practical preparation including pre-records and note-taking (17 x ca. 40 minutes)
Guided Independent Study 132Lecture consolidation and associated reading
Guided Independent Study 47Assessment revision


Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Formative in-class tests (5)ca. 30 minutes (1 hour including feedback)1-6In-class
Practicals (17)ca. 3 hours1-9Practicals

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Summative in-class tests (5x)20ca. 30 minutes (4% each)1-6In-class
Assessed practicals (5x)80ca. 3 hours (16% each)1-9Practicals


Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Summative in-class testsAverage taken from other summative in-class test results1-6N/A
Assessed practicalsAssessed practicals1-9Next available opportunity (January exam period, term 2 week 11, or term three)

Re-assessment notes

Deferral - If you miss an assessment for certificated reasons judged acceptable by the mitigation committee, you will normally be either deferred in the assessment or an extension may be granted. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of deferral will not be capped and will be treated as it would be if it were your first attempt at the assessment.

Referral - If you have failed the module overall (i.e. a final overall module mark of less than 40%) you will be required undertake a further assessment combining theoretical and practical aspects of the course. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of referral will count for 100% of the final mark and will be capped at 40%. The format will be assessed practical(s).


Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

TALIS page:

Suggested purchase: Chemistry3, 4th Edition, Oxford University Press

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

ELE page:

Module has an active ELE page

Key words search

Inorganic chemistry, physical chemistry, laboratory skills, spectroscopy, kinetics, thermodynamics, atoms, ions, complexes, metals, molecules, calculus, algebra, synthesis, analysis, measurement, processing.

Credit value30
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites


Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date