CIE IGCSE Chemistry

Revision Notes

4.1 Stoichiometry

Symbols & Formulae of Elements & Compounds

Element symbols

  • Each element is represented by its own unique symbol as seen on the Periodic Table e.g. H is hydrogen
  • Where a symbol contains two letters, the first one is always in capital letters and the other is small, eg. sodium is Na, not NA
  • Atoms combine together in fixed ratios that will give them full outer shells of electrons
  • The chemical formula tells you the ratio of atoms
  • Eg. H2O is a compound containing 2 hydrogen atoms which combine with 1 oxygen atom
  • The chemical formula can be deduced from the relative number of atoms present
  • Eg. if a molecule contains 3 atoms of hydrogen and 1 atom of nitrogen then the formula would be NH3
  • Diagrams or models can also be used to represent the chemical formula


Ammonia-Displayed-Formula, IGCSE & GCSE Chemistry revision notesThe ammonia molecule consists of a central nitrogen atom bonded to 3 hydrogen atom


Chemical formulae

  • The structural formula tells you the way in which the atoms in a particular molecule are bonded. This can be done by either a diagram (displayed formula) or written (simplified structural formula)
  • The empirical formula tells you the simplest whole-number ratio of atoms in a compound
  • The molecular formula tells you the actual number of atoms of each element in one molecule of the compound or element e.g. H2 has 2 hydrogen atoms, HCl has 1 hydrogen atom and 1 chlorine atom


Example: Butane

  • Structural formula (displayed)

Butane-Displayed-Formula, IGCSE & GCSE Chemistry revision notes


  • Structural formula (simplified)
  • Molecular formula
  • Empirical formula


Deducing formulae by combining power

  • The concept of valency is used to deduce the formulae of compounds
  • Valency or combing power tells you how many bonds an atom can make with another atom
  • Eg. carbon is in Group IV so a single carbon atom can make 4 single bonds or 2 double bonds
  • The following valencies apply to elements in each group:

Stoichiometry table, IGCSE & GCSE Chemistry revision notes


  • We can use the combining power of each atom to work out a formula
  • Example: what is the formula of aluminium sulfide?
    • Write out the symbols of each element and write their combining powers underneath:
    • Al         S
      3          2
  • The formula is then calculated by cross multiplying each atom with the number opposite, hence the formula for aluminium sulfide is Al2S3
Extended Only

Deducing Formulae of Ionic Compounds

  • The formulae of these compounds can be calculated if you know the charge on the ions.
  • Below are some common ions and their charges:

Ion, Formula And Charge table, IGCSE & GCSE Chemistry revision notes


  • For ionic compounds you have to balance the charge of each part by multiplying each ion until the sum of the charges = 0
  • Example: what is the formula of aluminium sulfate?
    • Write out the formulae of each ion, including their charges
    • Al3+ SO42-
  • Balance the charges by multiplying them out:
    Al3+ x 2 = +6 and SO42- x 3 = -6; so +6 – 6 = 0
  • So the formula is Al2(SO4)3

Writing Word Equations & Balanced Equations

Word equations

  • These show the reactants and products of a chemical reaction using their full chemical names
  • The arrow (which is spoken as “goes to” or “produces”) implies the conversion of reactants into products
  • Reaction conditions or the name of a catalyst can be written above the arrow


Names of compounds

For compounds consisting of 2 atoms:

  • If one is a metal and the other a nonmetal, then the name of the metal atom comes first and the ending of the second atom is replaced by adding –ide
    • Eg. NaCl which contains sodium and chlorine thus becomes sodium chloride
  • If both atoms are nonmetals and one of those is hydrogen, then hydrogen comes first
    • Eg. hydrogen and chlorine combined is called hydrogen chloride
  • For other combinations of nonmetals as a general rule, the element that has a lower Group number comes first in the name
    • Eg. carbon and oxygen combine to form CO2 which is carbon dioxide since carbon is in Group 4 and oxygen in Group 6


For compounds that contain certain groups of atoms:

  • There are common groups of atoms which occur regularly in chemistry
  • Examples include the carbonate ion(CO32-), sulfate ion (SO42-), hydroxide ion (OH) and the nitrate ion (NO3)
  • When these ions form a compound with a metal atom, the name of the metal comes first
  • Eg. KOH is potassium hydroxide, CaCO3 is calcium carbonate


Writing and balancing chemical equations

  • These use the chemical symbols of each reactant and product
  • When balancing equations, there needs to be the same number of atoms of each element on either side of the equation
  • The following nonmetals must be written as molecules: H2, N2, O2, F2, Cl2, Br2 and I2
  • Work across the equation from left to right, checking one element after another
  • If there is a group of atoms, for example a nitrate group (NO3) that has not changed from one side to the other, then count the whole group as one entity rather than counting the individual atoms. For example:
    • NaOH + HCl → NaCl + H2O
  • There are equal numbers of each atom on either side of the reaction arrow so the equation is balanced
Extended Only

Equations with State Symbols & Deducing Balanced Equations

Using state symbols:

State symbols are written after formulae in chemical equations to show which physical state each substance is in:

Using state symbols table, IGCSE & GCSE Chemistry revision notes


Example 1

Aluminium (s)  +   Copper (II) Oxide (s)  
Aluminium Oxide (s)  +   Copper (s)

Unbalanced symbol equation:    

Al     +     CuO     →     Al2O3     +     Cu

ALUMINIUM: There is 1 aluminium atom on the left and 2 on the right so if you end up with 2, you must start with 2. To achieve this, it must be 2Al

2Al     +     CuO     →     Al2O3     +     Cu

OXYGEN: There is 1 oxygen atom on the left and 3 on the right so if you end up with 3, you must start with 3. To achieve this, it must be 3CuO

2Al     +     3CuO     →     Al2O3     +     Cu

COPPER: There is 3 copper atoms on the left and 1 on the right. The only way of achieving 3 on the right is to have 3Cu

2Al     +     3CuO     →     Al2O3     +     3Cu


Example 2

Magnesium Oxide (s)  +  Nitric Acid (aq)  
Magnesium Nitrate (aq)  +   Water (l)

Unbalanced symbol equation:  

MgO   +   HNO3   →   Mg(NO3)2   +   H2O

MAGNESIUM: There is 1 magnesium atom on the left and 1 on the right so there are equal numbers of magnesium atoms on both sides so these are kept the same

MgO   +   HNO3   →   Mg(NO3)2   +   H2O

OXYGEN: There is 1 oxygen atom on the left and 1 on the right so there is an equal number of oxygen atoms on both sides. It is therefore kept the same (remember that you are counting the nitrate group as a separate group, so do not count the oxygen atoms in this group)

MgO   +   HNO3   →   Mg(NO3)2   +   H2O

HYDROGEN: There is 1 hydrogen atom on the left and 2 on the right. Therefore you must change HNO3 to 2HNO3

MgO   +   2HNO3   →   Mg(NO3)2   +   H2O


Balancing ionic equations

  • In aqueous solutions ionic compounds dissociate into their ions, meaning they separate into the component atoms or ions that formed them
  • g. hydrochloric acid and potassium hydroxide dissociate as follows:
    • HCl →H+ + Cl-
    • KOH → K+ + OH-
  • It is important that you can recognise common ionic compounds and their constituent ions
  • These include:
    • Acids such as HCl and H2SO4
    • Group I and Group II hydroxides e.g. sodium hydroxide
    • Soluble salts e.g. potassium sulfate, sodium chloride
  • Follow the example below to write Error: you must enter a valid popover post ID



Write the ionic equation for the reaction of aqueous chlorine and aqueous potassium iodide.

Step 1:   Write out the full balanced the equation:     

2KI(aq)     +     Cl2(aq)     →
2KCl(aq)    +     I2(aq)

Step 2:   Identify the ionic substances and write down the ions separately:

2K+ (aq) + 2I-(aq)     +     Cl2(aq)     →
2K+(aq) + 2Cl-(aq)    +     I2(aq)

Step 3:   Rewrite the equation eliminating the ions which appear on both sides of the equation (Error: you must enter a valid popover post ID) which in this case are the K+ ions:

2I-(aq)     +     Cl2(aq)     →
2Cl-(aq)    +     I2(aq)

Exam Tip

When balancing equations you cannot change any of the formulae, only the amount of each atom or molecule. This is done by changing the numbers that go in front of each chemical species.

You need to be able to identify the products which are not ions in ionic equations. These are usually molecules such as water or bromine but they may also be precipitated solids.

Relative Atomic Mass & Relative Molecular Mass

Relative atomic mass

  • The symbol for the relative atomic mass is Ar
  • This is calculated from the mass number and relative abundances of all the isotopes of a particular element


Mass number and atomic number, IGCSE & GCSE Chemistry revision notesSymbol, mass number and atomic number of chlorine



4.1-Relative Atomic mass equation

The top line of the equation can be extended to include the number of different isotopes of a particular element present.

Example for Isotopes:

The table shows information about the Isotopes in a sample of rubidium

Example for Isotopes table, IGCSE & GCSE Chemistry revision notes


 ( 72   x   85 )   +   ( 28   x   87 ) ÷ 100  =  85.6

Relative Atomic Mass = 85.6


Relative formula (molecular) mass

  • The symbol for the relative molecular mass is Mr and it refers to the total mass of the molecule.
  • To calculate the Mr of a substance, you have to add up the Relative Atomic Masses of all the atoms present in the formula


Substance, atoms present table, IGCSE & GCSE Chemistry revision notes

Author: Morgan

Morgan’s passion for the Periodic Table begun on his 10th birthday when he received his first Chemistry set. After studying the subject at university he went on to become a fully fledged Chemistry teacher, and now works in an international school in Madrid! In his spare time he helps create our fantastic resources to help you ace your exams.

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