Chemistry - Elements and Compounds (AQA Syllabus A)

A basic understanding of the fundamental ideas in chemistry is a necessity for students in GCSE Science. This is the last of seven quizzes going over these fundamental ideas and it looks specifically at elements and compounds and the differences between them.

Knowing the differences between elements and compounds is essential to your understanding of science - and of chemistry in particular. You will have started to learn about these quite early on in your studies. You will probably have been told about scientists like Lavoisier, Dalton and others who came up with various ideas and lists of elements and compounds - but the story began long before that. The Greeks came up with the idea that everything is made of various combinations of the '4 elements' earth, water, air and fire. They knew about certain metals like gold, copper, tin and iron and believed there was a substance that could be put with a pile of any metal and after two centuries, it would have turned into gold.

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Luckily for us, in the Middle East, Muslim scientists started to work more methodically and developed the scientific method as they practised their alchemy. For many, it was still a search for the incredible substance that would turn base metals into gold but they turned alchemy from an art into a science that we now call chemistry. Not only did they start to identify elements and compounds, they also developed many processes you use in science today like distillation

European scientists picked up on a lot of the words and processes and took understanding forward. Early attempts at devising a periodic table of the elements were bound to fail as only a small proportion of the elements had been discovered. The early definition of an element was a substance that could not be broken down any further. Until the discovery of electricity and the experiments in electrolysis carried out by Humphrey Davy, many compounds could not be broken down. This meant that scientists were sometimes talking about compounds as if they were elements.

Find out what you know about elements and compounds in this quiz, including the differences between them. (It would be useful to have your periodic table handy) ...

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  1. Which of the following is the correct definition of a compound?
    The first answer is completely wrong - it describes and element.
    The second and third answers are only partly correct - they don't go far enough
  2. Which of the following best describes the atoms of an element?
    This is one of the basic definitions in chemistry
  3. Which of the following is a compound containing non-metals only?
    Methane is a hydrocarbon and contains no metal atoms
  4. Which of the following lists contains the missing words from the following passage in the right order?

    There are over a __________ different types of atom, called __________. The atoms of a particular element are ___________ to each other. They cannot be changed ____________ into any different element. _________ are substances that contain atoms of at least two elements chemically combined.
    Make sure that you know and understand the differences between elements and compounds for the exam. One way or another, your knowledge of these basic concepts will be tested
  5. Elements normally exist as atoms but they can form charged particles called ions. How do they do this?
    This is what happens during ionic bonding between metals and non-metals
  6. Which of the following lists contains only metallic elements?
    The first answer is designed to test if you recognise that the symbol for an element has only one capital letter. CO is a compound of carbon and oxygen, some of you may have thought it was the metal, cobalt (symbol Co)
  7. All elements and compounds are made from what?
    Molecules are made by joining atoms together
  8. In chemical equations the atoms of each element are represented by what?
    A chemical symbol always begins with a capital letter. Co (cobalt) is VERY different to CO (carbon monoxide)
  9. Elements are listed on the periodic table and can be classified as metals and non-metals. Where are they found on the periodic table?
    The elements on the left of the dividing line between metals and non-metals are called metalloids (sometimes they are referred to as semi-metals)
  10. When atoms join together to form molecules what happens to their electrons?
    This is covalent bonding and it occurs only when non-metallic elements combine

Author: Kev Woodward

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