Chemistry 111A/112A

The General Chemistry sequence (111A/112A) is recommended for students who have taken AP Chemistry or two years of chemistry in high school OR students who have taken one year of chemistry and one year of physics in high school.

General Chemistry I (111A)

In the early 1900s, the periodic table of the elements hung in laboratories and classrooms around the world, nearly as it appears today, and no one could explain why it was arranged as it was. That explanation required the discovery of the mysterious, dual wave-particle behavior of the electron, which forms the basis for most of modern chemistry. This course traces the story of the electron and the strange behavior resulting from its dual wave-particle character – from free electrons, to electrons in atoms, to electrons in molecules. The electron and its properties will be shown to be responsible for atomic structure, atomic orbitals, atomic spectroscopy, chemical periodicity, the arrangement of the periodic table, chemical bonding, molecular geometry, and intermolecular forces. Students will achieve a strong foundation in molecular structure, chemical bonding, and introductory quantum mechanics.

Prerequisite skills:

  • Proficiency in algebra and trigonometry
  • Proficiency with simple quantitative word problem solving
  • Proficiency with unit analysis

Knowledge-based prerequisites:

  • Familiarity with kinetic energy, potential energy, forces (F = ma), velocity, and a conceptual idea of momentum
  • Understanding of vectors and how to graph them

General Chemistry II (112A)

This course covers chemical equilibrium, thermodynamics, and kinetics, and their roles in describing and determining chemical processes. The key concepts of chemical equilibrium for gas-phase reactions, heterogeneous (multi-phase) reactions, acid-base reactions, and solubility equilibria are introduced first. The next section of the course describes chemical thermodynamics with a focus on heat, work, internal energy, enthalpy, entropy, and Gibbs free energy. Key connections are made between equilibrium and thermodynamics, and students learn how to predict the spontaneous direction of a reaction from thermodynamic data, as well as being introduced to phase diagrams, fractional distillation, and colligative properties. Electrochemistry – the study of the interconversion of chemical and electrochemical energy – is presented as a practical application of thermodynamics. Chemical kinetics is the final topic, with a focus on the factors that influence the rate of a chemical reaction.  The content is similar to that in Chem 106, but with a strong emphasis on advanced applications.

Prerequisite skills:

  • Proficiency in algebraic manipulation of equations and relationships
  • Proficiency with simple quantitative, multi-step word problem solving
  • Proficiency with unit analysis
  • Understanding of how to interpret graphical data and information
  • Familiarity with integrals and derivatives

Knowledge-based prerequisites:

  • Proficiency with (1) stoichiometry, balancing chemical equations, determining the limiting reagent;  (2) compounds, chemical formulas; (3) unit conversions, including grams to moles; (4) determining molarity and dilution calculations; (5) states of matter; (6) fundamental acid/base reactions in water; (7) writing net ionic equations; and (8) balancing redox reactions
  • Familiarity with (1) mechanical energy and work (force × distance); (2) thermal energy and heat; and (3) the ideal gas law and Dalton’s law of partial pressures

Required Materials


Principles of Modern Chemistry (8th edition) by D. Oxtoby, H. Gillis, and L. Butler. Both the electronic version and the hardback version of the text are acceptable.


Only the following models of electronic calculator will be allowed during quizzes and exams: TI-30 XS Multiview (preferred 4-line model), TI-34 Multiview (preferred 4-line model), TI-30Xa (acceptable 2-line model), TI-30X IIs (solar 2-line model). Allowable calculators must be four-line or two-line, non-programmable, non-graphing calculators. This policy will be strictly enforced with no exceptions. Acceptable calculators are available from the WU bookstore as well as Amazon, Walgreens, Staples, Office Depot, and other office supply stores.

Online Homework

All students must have access to the OWL (version 2) online homework platform that is interfaced with Canvas. Access codes are available for purchase through the campus bookstore. NOTE: Problems from earlier versions of the textbook will often be numbered differently.

Diagnostic Exam

If you're a first-year student registering for Chem 111A in the fall, you need to take the online diagnostic exam.

Diagnostic Exam

Recitation Subsections

Recitation Subsections

Every student who registers for Chemistry 111A and 112A must register for a lecture section that meets MWF, as well as a recitation subsection that meets on Thursdays.  These subsections follow the POGIL (Process Oriented Guided Inquiry Learning) method and are designed to enhance your understanding of the topics introduced in lecture through specifically-designed question packets that are completed with a small group and discussed thoroughly each week.   

Recitations: Recitation sections are 1.5 hours long and include a quiz during the first 15 minutes of class.  Following the quiz and a brief summary of the week’s topic(s) by the trained recitation leader, students will work in small, structured groups on guided-inquiry problem sheets that have been written specifically for Washington University Chemistry 111A and 112A topics.  These problem sets are designed to help develop self-teaching and problem-solving skills, as well as to call attention to crucial concepts discussed in lecture through exploration and analysis of challenging example problems.

The custom-designed exercises and selection of problems include an emphasis on conceptual aspects of the topic. This format is designed to help you gain a deeper understanding of the concepts underlying problems.


Example Problem for a Specific Topic: The Bohr Equation

Problem: What is the wavelength (in nm) of the photon absorbed by a Li2+ ion when the ion is excited from the 2nd excited state to the 4th excited state?

After a brief review of the topic “The Bohr Equation,” students are prompted to address key concepts involved in the problem and guided through the problem-solving process. The group-work format provides a structured environment for students to discuss with their peers and ask questions of the recitation leader who is circulating around the room – to guide their discussion, not provide a specific answer.  By articulating their opinions and communicating with peers using scientific language, the students’ understanding of certain concepts becomes polished. In general, students’ confidence and communication skills are strengthened through practice and discussion of the problems.

To ultimately answer the question posed above, the students are guided through a series of questions that first address key underlying concepts. Such questions would include: 

  1. What is the value of Z for the Li2+ ion? What feature of the Li2+ ion allows it to be analyzed using the Bohr model? Could Li+ be used instead?
  2. What are the values of n for the initial and final states described above?\
  3. Was a photon absorbed or emitted in this process? Explain your answer.
  4. Calculate the energy of the transition in part c.
  5. Describe how the transition energy of the Li2+ ion is related to the energy of the photon involved in the process.
  6. Calculate the wavelength of the photon absorbed by this ion (note: this is the same question first posed).

Research studies show that the POGIL-style recitation is extremely beneficial for students in an introductory STEM course, especially when developing self-teaching, self-learning, and problem-solving skills.