Contrasting solutions

27th April 2001 at 01:00
ADVANCED SCIENCE. Chemistry. 2nd edition. By Ann and Patrick Fullick Heinemann pound;24.99. ADVANCED CHEMISTRY FOR YOU. By Lawrie Ryan Nelson. Thornes pound;22.50. STRUCTURE, BONDING AND MAIN GROUP CHEMISTRY. By Rod Beavon and Alan Jarvis Nelson Thornes pound;10.99. ENVIRONMENTAL CHEMISTRY. By Alan Winfield. Cambridge University Press pound;6.50. PRACTICE IN CHEMISTRY: Progressive questions for AS and A-Level. By Frank Benfield, Robin Hillman and Colin McCarty Hodder amp; Stoughton. pound;9.99. CALCULATIONS IN ASA LEVEL CHEMISTRY. By Jim Clark. Longman pound;12.99. INORGANIC CHEMISTRY. By Catherine Housecroft and Alan G Sharpe. Prentice Hall pound;29.99

The first two of this collection of books for A-level are what may be considered standard A-level textbooks, but in approach they could not be more different. Heinemann's Advanced Science Chemistry in its first edition was an innovative text, with an attractive page layout, highlighting extension material and showing the real-life applications of the chemistry discussed.

This new edition updates the previous one and removes some topics, in line with new specifications. Questions have been revised to include some on key skills. Numerical and organic identification answers are given, together with fuller answers to end-of-section questions. I am sure it will remain a popular choice for an all-in A-level text. However, the book makes no attempt to divide the contents along ASA2 lines and in this respect begins to look rather old-fashioned.

Advanced Chemistry for You continues the style of its popular GCSE counterpart, injecting humour to keep students interested. It nevertheless covers all aspects of the AS specifications and core topics for A2 and helpfully emphasises A2 content by asterisks in the contents pages. Full answers are given to end-of-section examination questions. There are valuable sections on study skills and practical skills, and key skills are also covered. Students who enjoyed using Chemistry for You for GCSE will find the transfer to A-level easy with this book. Others might find its approach condescending.

The next two books are syllabus-specific offerings. Structure Bonding and Main Group Chemistry is part of the Nelson Advanced Science series and covers the first unit of the Edexel AS specification and, as such, is an essential book for those using this course. Short questions throughout the text test students' comprehension. The approach is dry, with no attempt to put the chemistry covered into any real-life context and, frustratingly, its use as a revision aid is limited because there are no answers provided to the examination questions.

Environmental Chemistry covers one of the A2 options of the OCR A-level syllabus. Its four sections correspond to modules on the atmosphere, the hydrosphere, rocks and soils and the treatment of waste. Clearly laid out, with end-of-chapter summaries and self-assessment questions throughout, this is an interesting background book for all A-level students (if they have any time to read around their courses).

Practice in Chemistry and Calculations in ASA-level Chemistry are suitable adjuncts to any A-level course. The first begins with a very useful specification-matching grid so that students can check which questions will help them. Each chapter begins with a checklist of topics that need to be understood, but there are no worked examples. However, detailed answers are given to all questions, making this an ideal revision aid.

Calculations in ASA Level Chemistry fills a large gap in the market and provides excellent coverage of the calculations needed at A-level. Chapters are clearly laid out, with plenty of worked examples, and there are helpful notes throughout. Full answers are given to all but the end-of-chapter-revision questions, which have numerical solutions only. I shall recommend this to my students as a self-study aid and will certainly use it myself.

Inorganic Chemistry is primarily an undergraduate text, but deserves a place in the school library. It provides comprehensive coverage of the subject and is illustrated throughout with clear structural diagrams. Boxes in the text show the chemical and theoretical background of the topic under discussion and also cover applications. Like many such books, it has its own website, where it is possible to find 3-D structures of compounds and multiple choice tests, among other options. A valuable reference tool.

Sue Thackray is head of chemistry at the Lady Eleanor Hollis school, Hampton

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