UCL Centre for Languages & International Education (CLIE)



Find out more about the Chemistry foundation subject on the UPC. Learn about what you will study, teaching methods, assessments and recommended reading.

Key information

Subject title: Chemistry

Subject type: optional

UPC pathway: UPCSE

Subject leader: Dr Aga Kosinska

Number of students (2023-24): 41

Subject description

This subject will introduce you to the basic principles of chemistry. You'll explore theoretical concepts and use your knowledge of these principles to help you solve hypothetical and practical chemistry problems.

It is a part of the Undergraduate Preparatory Certificate for Science and Engineering (UPCSE) pathway.

There are four branches to the subject:

  • physical
  • inorganic
  • organic
  • analytical chemistry

We teach each of these areas in a way that focuses on the unifying concepts. Throughout the international foundation year, you’ll observe the application of chemistry in the wider context of society.

The subject involves practical work in UCL’s undergraduate chemistry lab alongside theoretical lectures. The experimental work will support your knowledge and give you hands-on experience.

Physical Chemistry

  • atoms, molecules and stoichiometry
  • atomic structure
  • chemical bonds and forces
  • states of matter
  • chemical energetics
  • electrochemistry
  • equilibria
  • kinetics

Inorganic Chemistry

  • periodicity of physical and chemical properties of the elements in Period 3
  • chemical periodicity of other elements
  • acid-base chemistry
  • redox reactions
  • chemistry of transition metals

Organic Chemistry

  • formulae, functional groups and the naming of organic compounds
  • characteristic organic reactions
  • isomerism: structural, and stereoisomerism
  • chemistry of alkanes, alkenes, arenes, haloalkanes, alcohols and phenols, aldehydes and ketones, carboxylic acids and their derivatives, nitrogen based organic compounds, polymers

Analytical Chemistry

  • chromatography
  • Infra-Red Spectroscopy (IR)
  • Mass Spectrometry (MS)
  • Proton (1H) and Carbon (13C) Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) Spectroscopy

How we teach Chemistry


There are two lectures per week. We record these and upload them to our Moodle site. To help you study, we upload the outline and aims of each lecture as well as presentation slides in advance.


There are two tutorials per week, following each lecture. These sessions consist of classroom activities involving a combination of tutor-led and small-group work. We upload tutorial worksheets to Moodle a week before the sessions. We upload answers afterwards, so you can monitor your progress each week.


Almost every week, there is one lab session related to that week's lecture topic. When we are not in the lab, we run workshops related to basic digital skills, lab reporting and scientific writing.

Communication in Chemistry (CIC)

There is one CIC session per week. The session focuses on linguistic and communication aspects of the course. This helps us support your preparation for the formative and summative assignments.

Intended learning outcomes

Theoretical concepts and their application

By the end of the subject, you should be able to demonstrate knowledge of the principles of chemistry and apply your understanding of:

  • chemical theories, models, definitions, laws and facts by implementing mathematical and problem-solving skills
  • chemical vocabulary, terminology, conventions such as symbols, structures, units and scientific constants to structure scientific arguments and reasoning
  • develop competence and confidence in using chemical instruments and apparatus
  • chemical quantities, their determination and usage in scientific and everyday scenarios
  • chemical technologies and their influence (including ethical and financial) on societies, economies and the environment
  • logical explanations for phenomena and trends by connecting different subject areas together

Experimental skills and analysis

By the end of the subject, you should be able to:

  • plan and design simple experiments and ways of testing how valid and reliable they are
  • collect, record and present results and observations
  • analyse and interpret data
  • suggest possible improvements
  • communicate experimental information and ideas in an appropriate format

Overview of Summative Assessment

We assess your knowledge of the principles of chemistry with both written and online coursework. For every half-term and end of term during the international foundation year, you’ll complete a written test. Your final exam consists of oral and written components.

We’ll assess your experimental work through a combination of online pre-labs and post-labs and virtual and face-to-face experimentations. You’ll also write lab reports and produce video lab reports, logbooks and demonstrate your practical skills.

OneEnd of Term Written Exam10%
TwoEnd of Term Written Exam10%
ThreeOral Exam/Viva10%
 Final Written Exam40%
Throughout the year

Pre-labs, logbooks, practical skills & lab reports

  100% Total

Assessment weighting is for the 2022-23 academic year. This may change for 2023-24 entry.

Recommended reading

If you wanted to do any reading before the subject, we recommend the following:

  • Chemistry and Chemical Reactivity – e-textbook, Treichel P., Treichel D., Kotz J., Townsend J; CENGAGE
  • Chemistry in Context for Cambridge International AS & A-level, Hill G., Holman J., Gardom Hulme P; OUP
  • Cambridge International AS and A Level Chemistry Coursebook; Ryan L. & Norris R; Cambridge
  • Foundations of Chemistry: An Introductory Course for Science Students, Philippa B. Cranwell & Elizabeth M. Page; Wiley

Additional costs

For assessed work – particularly the Tests and Exams – you’ll need to use a scientific calculator approved by UCL.

The recommended model is Casio FX85GT X (available at the Student Union Shop).

Subject selection guide

Please check out our optional subject selection guide for information on suitable subject for your future degree plans.

Please note the information on all the UPC subject pages, including this one, reflects the subject as it was taught in the 2022-23 academic year (unless otherwise stated).