Just started Year 11 Chemistry and completely lost as to what Module 1: Structure and Properties of Matter is all about?

You’ve come to the right place!

In this article, we’ll cover the content focus, how to prepare, use class time and knock this module out of the park towards your Band 6!

So what are you waiting for? It’s time to dive into Structure and Properties of Matter!

Introducing Properties and Structure of Matter
How Can I Get a Band 6 in Year 11 Chemistry Module 1?

Introducing Properties and Structure of Matter

The new syllabus swaps out The Chemical Earth (old) for the new module Properties and Structure of Matter.

The old module was a bit of a mish-mash of naming schemes, junior science concepts reviewed (particles, mixtures, states of matter) and structure of matter.

Instead, the new course focuses in on matter and starts Chemistry up at its heart: atomic structure under the periodic table. After all, the objects we’ll be playing with all year are of course nothing more than joined-up atoms (molecules). The idea is to progressively grow an understanding of chemistry up from the place all of chemistry arises out of – the details of atomic structure.

This is a great change which I think will lead to deeper, integrated chemical understanding towards Uni.

So what is Properties of Structure and Matter all about?

Properties and Structure of Matter is primarily concerned with linking atomic electronic structure to the periodically repeating chemistry (and physical properties) laid out on the periodic table.

Hot off the syllabus press! Here is the Properties of Structure and Matter Content Focus straight from the NESA Website (edited down to the nitty gritty):

There are four main topics within the new module, each with an accompanying inquiry question: 

Properties of Matter – How do the properties of substances help us to classify and separate them?


Atomic Structure and Atomic Mass – Why are atoms of elements different from one another?


Periodicity – Are there patterns in the properties of elements?


Bonding – What binds atoms together in elements and compounds?

How Can I Get a Band 6 in Year 11 Chemistry: Properties and Structure of Matter?

The overarching idea you need to know and understand to do well in Properties and Structure of Matter is to:

Explore the properties and trends in the physical, structural and chemical aspects of matter.

In other words, you need to be able to understand how atomic structure gives rise to the chemical and physical trends of the periodic table.

To do well in Properties and Structure of Matter, you also need to be able to design, conduct and evaluate investigations in order to obtain, analyse and process, using a range of appropriate media, primary and secondary data and information. 

In other words, you need to be able to analyse graphed data collected by experimentation and reflect on the experimental processes to draw conclusions.

Step 1: Your new favourite poster

The periodic table is the centrepiece of chemistry. Almost all of chemistry, and everything driving it, is encoded in this thing and the first module starts to train your eye to see it.

I would literally print out a giant periodic table and have it on my wall for the year, drawing on all the new information and trends as the course unravelled them to me.

All of the interrelationships are encoded on this thing. It’s your study mind-map for the whole subject; and module 1 kicks it off in a big way: State, weight, size, metallicity, electron config, type of bonds, number of bonds, reactivity, radioactivity – the table shows how these relate to each other and trend in an exact way.

year 11 chemistry

Bookmark this website. This is a periodic table of EVERYTHING.

It has every single piece of physical and chemical information on all the elements (you can even change the temperature of the table), including all the electron-config and nuclear info you need to know. Everything.

As you begin to form your own integrated periodic-table/subject mind-map, use this website to ID knowledge-gaps and verify your self-created table.

Step 2: Learn to Love Experiments

“Do” the pracs at home before the rest of your class and become a report-writing master!

You can easily find videos of other people performing experiments on the web. One where they explain their preparation is good! Write a short report up as if you were the one who did the experiment!

This is a great plan for a few reasons:

Reason #1:

You can get feedback on scientific writing by taking your report to your teacher/tutor. Your scientific writing is one of the science skills the new syllabus targets.

Reason #2:

It forces you to write a discussion: Having to use your understanding to explain real observations is a great way to test how well you’ve nailed the concepts. Bring this section to your teacher especially.

Reason #3:

Your depth study in both years requires you to produce a large piece of work, most likely an extended report, which will be an assessment task. Therefore getting practice in investigating and scientific writing will help you with this!

Reason #4:

You will understand everything that is happening when you do the experiment with your school class! That way, when you do the experiments in class you’ll be revising content you’ve already covered, instead of learning it for the first time alongside everyone else.

Step 3: Stay one step ahead of your class

Tip 1: Textbooks

Get textbook suggestions from your teacher and locate them. Ones with worked solutions are better (every single introductory chemistry course covers this topic).

Grab future class worksheets off your teacher and use the web to guide you on how to do them: Your weak spots will be covered in class while everyone else is learning how to do the questions for the first time!

Crunch through as many questions as it takes to feel confident (present challenging ones to your tutor and teacher).

If you’re looking for some practice questions on Properties and Structure of Matter, makes sure you check out our 25 practice questions here!

Tip 2: Pre-Learning

You don’t have to wait until class; there’s a trove of teaching on how to nail this topic all over the web – including youtube videos from other teachers and science educators.

Pre-learn the topic. Stay at least a week ahead of your class teacher. Enter those lessons with clear questions already formulated in your mind waiting to be answered.

Don’t be passive about this: treat your class-time as revision of your pre-learning that plugs the gaps – don’t treat it as your main learning ground. When you actually do revision at school, it’s actually a third pass through the same content for you!

Tip 3: Note-Taking

Re-read your notes you took in class. Re-write them as if you had to explain the same concept to a much younger person with no physics training. Re-write them without chemistry-specific, or complicated vocabulary. If there’s anything you can’t re-phrase in to simple language highlight it – you’ve just ID’d a concept that has some holes you need to plug!

In summary…

  • Mind-map your entire understanding of the course on to a (big) periodic table.
  • Stay a week ahead of your class: Re-cast class time as a gap-filling revision session with an expert consultant (teacher), not as your primary learning ground.
  • “Perform” experiments before your class: Use others’ secondary data to as if it was your own and generate reports to get fantastic at your science communication and to prep for the depth study. Practice comparing the theoretical and experimental and accounting for deviations using chemistry reasons, which is usually the most important part of reports.
  • Use your notes as a device to ID knowledge-gaps.

Are you looking for some extra help with Properties and Structure of Matter?

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Adrian Wendeborn is a qualified science and maths teacher with a physics/chemistry double-major degree from USYD and a GDipEd from UQ. Adrian has taught in QLD and NSW and has worked with Art of Smart Education as a campus teacher, tutor, resource developer and Head of Faculty.