Understanding Chemistry



You can get all the books on this page quickly and easily from Amazon.co.uk. You can, of course, also buy the books from normal bookshops. However, these days few bookshops keep much beyond the standard revision guides, and so you will probably have to order what you want.

I have split the page into recommendations and suggestions. It is impossible to recommend a book unless you are familiar with it, and the only one I am really familiar with is my chemistry calculations book. That should be useful whatever syllabus you are doing.

For the suggestions, I am giving you links into Amazon.co.uk for books for each of the main UK syllabuses, but I don't claim to be familiar with the majority of the books listed. You should compare the reviews of the books by following the links to the Amazon site.

Required statement from Amazon:  Jim Clark is a participant in the Amazon EU Associates Programme, an affiliate advertising programme designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.co.uk.


My calculations book

Click on the title or the picture to take you to the Amazon.co.uk site for more information including all the reviews.

Note:  If you don't see an image here, it is probably because you are using ad-block software. The simplest way around this is to disable it temporarily and then reload this page.

You will find more details about my calculations book on its own page on this site with a further link to Amazon if you are interested.


These suggestions cover UK-based Chemistry courses for 16-18 year olds, including A level, IB and Scottish Highers. If you want to make life as easy as possible for yourself, I think there is a lot to be said for using books designed especially to cover your particular syllabus. The content is then exactly what you need - and no more.

The alternative is to use a short revision guide for all the facts, and to get your explanations in detail from a website like Chemguide. I'm not going to give you details for general revision guides - you need to look at these in a bookshop so that you can see how easy they are to follow. They are very variable - some are much more confusing than others.

Books for specific syllabuses

UK A level syllabuses

Important: UK A level syllabuses sometimes undergo major changes.

If you happened to be starting a course when one of these changes takes effect, then you must be aware that a textbook covering the previous syllabus won't necessarily cover everything in the new one.

Where there are major changes, new syllabuses are usually published perhaps 18 months before the new courses start, and this gives publishers enough time to produce new books if they want to.

So if you are caught up in this, I suggest you go for the most recently published book you can. Anything published more than about a year before you start the course may not cover all you need.

You need to talk to your teacher to find out whether there have been any big syllabus changes for the exam you will be taking. Alternatively, you can check yourself by downloading the correct syllabus from your Exam Board. Find your syllabus using the link to "Download syllabuses" from the Main Menu.

Changes to a syllabus are commonly marked with a thick vertical line opposite the affected statement. (But check the beginning of the syllabus to make sure that is how your Exam Board does it.)

Each of the following displays is a simplified window onto the Amazon.co.uk site, and in each case, I have used a search term mostly in the form (exam group) level chemistry. This should pick up all the relevant AS and A level texts for that particular syllabus. Clicking on any of the books will take you to a normal Amazon page where you can read the reviews.

In case you notice it, the "Get Widget" button at the bottom of each window leads you to a page where you can set up a similar window for your own website. There doesn't seem to be any way of getting rid of that, so just ignore it!

Click on the link below to take you to the right window for your syllabus.

Note:  I can't guarantee that the rest of this page will work properly in all browsers. If it doesn't work in your browser, it is most likely to be due to your browser settings. For example, it doesn't work on my iPad unless I switch off the "Block pop-ups" setting (Settings - Safari - slide "Block pop-ups" switch to the off position). Confusingly it works perfectly well on my Mac with the same setting switched on.

If you don't find working windows into the Amazon site in the rest of the page, please see the bottom of the page where I will apologise properly and provide an alternative.







Other A level-equivalent syllabuses

Cambridge International (CIE) A level Chemistry

International Baccalaureate (IB)

Scottish Highers




(Care! Don't get confused with the Salters syllabus also produced by OCR. That is also known as OCR Chemistry B. The list below excludes books designed for Salters.)





Make sure that you only look at editions published from 2007 onwards to allow for syllabus changes.

Scottish Highers

You will find lots of references below, but some are quite old. Treat this with some care, and take advice from your teachers and other people who are following the same course.

Cambridge International (CIE) A level Chemistry

CIE A level chemistry is now on a new syllabus, and textbooks have been updated. There are major changes between the new and the old syllabuses, and so it is essential that you get the right book.

Cambridge International AS and A Level Chemistry Coursebook with CD-ROM

If you come across copies of the older CIE A level chemistry books, ignore them, however cheap they might be - they don't match the current syllabus. The same applies to accompanying revision guides - a new version is being released in November 2015. Anything you find with a publication date before that is useless to you.

Apologies if the page doesn't work in your browser!

In order to get reliably up-to-date lists of books without me having to trawl through Amazon every few weeks, I decided this time to make use of code provided by Amazon to open windows into their site. It simply makes life a great deal easier for me, and provides a better service to most of my audience. Obviously, Amazon will provide code which works on the majority of current browsers - but that's not much consolation if you use a less common one, and so I apologise.

There is a way around it, although in not such an elegant way . . .

Copy and paste the following search phrases into the keywords box:

for AQA: aqa level chemistry

for Edexcel: edexcel level chemistry

for OCR: ocr -salters -B level chemistry

for Salters: salters level chemistry

for WJEC: wjec chemistry

for CCEA: ccea level chemistry

for IB: ib diploma chemistry

for Scottish Highers: scottish higher chemistry

Note:  If you don't see an Amazon search box here, it is probably because you are using ad-block software. The simplest way around this is to disable it temporarily and then reload this page.

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© Jim Clark 2008 (last updated May 2017)