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Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Acids, alkalis, and salts

Example questions are taken from past papers.

4.1 describe the use of the indicators litmus, phenolphthalein and methyl orange to distinguish between acidic and alkaline solutions

Colour in Acid
Colour in Neutral Solution
Colour in Alkali
Universal indicator
pH 0-3: Red (Strong)
pH 4-6: Yellow (Weak)
Green (pH 7)
pH 8-10: Blue (Weak)
pH 11-14: Purple(Strong)
Red litmus
Blue litmus
Methyl orange
Red (Sometimes pink is accepted)

Example question: State the colour of methyl orange in water contaminated with a small amount of nitric acid. (1m)
Mark scheme: Red (allow pink)

4.2 understand how the pH scale, from 0-14, can be used to classify solutions as strongly acidic, weakly acidic, neutral, weakly alkaline or strongly alkaline

pH 0-3: strongly acidic
pH 4-6: weakly acidic
pH 7: neutral
pH 8-10: weakly alkaline
pH 11-14: strongly alkaline

Example question: Suggest a possible pH value for water contaminated with a small amount of nitric acid. (1m)
Mark scheme: Any value in range 1-6.9. 

4.3 describe the use of universal indicator to measure the approximate pH value of a solution

pH 0-3: Red  (strongly acidic)
pH 4-6: Yellow  (weakly acidic)
pH 7: Green  (neutral)
pH 8-10: Blue  (weakly alkaline)
pH 11-14: Purple  (strongly alkaline)

Example question: Suggest why universal indicator is more suitable than methyl orange for comparing the acidities of samples of water. (1m)

Mark scheme: more than one colour in acid / indicates pH/ shows strongly or weakly acidic / shows how acidic the water is
Do not accept just more than one colour

My answer: Universal indicator can measure across the full pH scale and has colour change depending on acidity of the sample; but methyl orange is red in all acidic solutions, regardless of how acidic it is. 

4.4 define acids as source of hydrogen ions, H+, and alkalis as source of hydroxide ions, OH-
Example question: Hydrogen bromide and hydrogen chloride have similar chemical properties. 
(i) A sample of hydrogen bromide is dissolved in water.
A piece of blue litmus paper is placed in the solution. State, with a reason, the final colour of the litmus paper. (2m) 

Colour: Red/pink
Reason:  Hydrobromic acid formed/ H+ ions present

My answer: Red. They hydrogen atoms in hydrogen bromide dissociate in water to from Hions, which give the solution its acidity, thus forming hydrobromic acid. 

NB: Remember, it is the  Hions that are responsible for acidic properties. Hydrogen bromide by itself does not have  Hions, so it is not an acid.   

(ii) A sample of hydrogen bromide is dissolved in methylbenzene. 
A piece of blue litmus paper is placed in the solution. State, with a reason, the final colour of  
the litmus paper. (2m)

Colour: Blue
Reason:  No acid formed / no reaction / no Hions

My answer: Blue. Hydrogen bromide does not dissociate in organic solvents to from  Hions, so the solution is not acidic, and no acid is formed. 

4.5 predict the products of reactions between dilute hydrochloric, nitric and sulphuric acids; and metals, metal oxides and metal carbonates (excluding the reactions between nitric acid and metals)

Acid + alkali à salt + water (NEUTRALISATION REACTION)
  • Hydrochloric acid + sodium hydroxide à sodium chloride + water

Acid + base (metal oxide) à salt + water (NEUTRALISATION REACTION)
  • Sulphuric acid + copper oxide à copper sulphate + water

Acid + metal carbonate à salt + water + carbon dioxide
  • Nitric acid + sodium carbonate à sodium nitrate + water + carbon dioxide

Acid + metal à salt + hydrogen
  • Hydrochloric acid + magnesium à Magnesium chloride + hydrogen
4.6 recall the general rules for predicting the solubility of salts in water:
i. all common sodium, potassium and ammonium salts are soluble 
ii. all nitrates are soluble
iii. common chlorides are soluble, except silver chloride
iv. common sulphates are soluble, except those of barium and calcium
v. common carbonates are insoluble, except those of sodium, potassium and ammonium 

NB: any group 1 metal compound is soluble--they are alkali metals--dissolve in water to form alkalis!

4.7 describe how to prepare soluble salts from acids

acid + metal/metal oxide/metal carbonate
  • Add acid to the excess metal/oxide/carbonate (NB: By using an excess of the metal or metal compound, you ensure that there is no acid left in the solution after reaction, so the filtrate will be a pure solution of the salt.)
  • Stir
  • Filter to remove excess solid
  • Gently heat to evaporate the water to saturation point
  • Dry the crystals with a paper towel/oven or in a dessicator 
4.8 describe how to prepare insoluble salts using precipitation reactions

Preparation of an insoluble salt:
  1. Add the sodium salt solution of the anion to the nitrate salt solution of the cation until no more precipitate forms.
  2. Filter to collect the residue
  3. Wash the residue with cold water
  4. Leave residue to dry on filter paper/dry in a warm oven
Example: Describe how to prepare a dry solid sample of silver chloride, AgCl, a salt which is insoluble in water. 
Sodium chloride + silver nitrate à silver chloride + sodium nitrate
NaCl (aq) + AgNO3 (aq) à AgCl (s) + NaNO3 (aq)
  1. Add dilute sodium chloride (chloride is the anion) solution to dilute silver nitrate (silver is the cation) solution until no more precipitate forms. 
  2. Filter.
  3. Wash residue with cold water.
  4. Dry in a warm oven. 

4.9 describe how to carry out acid-alkali titrations

  1. fill the acid up to the mark in the burette
  2. pipette 25.0cmsodium hydroxide into a conical flask
  3. add a few drops of methyl orange indicator
  4. add acid from the burette drop wise with swirling of flask
  5. stop when colour change is permanent (turns pink/red)
  6. note burette readings
  7. repeat until concordant results are obtained (results are within 0.1 of each other)
  8. take average of results

If they ask you how to prepare a soluble salt using an acid and an alkali, titration must be used. You first carry out a normal titration, and find out the exact amount of acid needed to neutralise the alkali. Then you repeat it without an indicator so that the salt is not contaminated with its colour. You remove the salt from the neutralised solution by evaporation, then you dry it. 


  1. its such a good blog..i learnt many things i have never thought of at all and i will continue using it until my exams and maybe later also..THANK YOU SOO MUCH!! :D :D

  2. good work..lots to learn from this

  3. this helped me so much please dont ever remove this blog

  4. this is amazing! thanks so much!

  5. what does this à <-- stand for??

    1. Hey, it's meant to be an arrow, but if you're not on a computer the formatting shows up weird like that. :/ :)

  6. BEST EVER!!!!!!!!!!!!!


  7. THIS IS SO GOOD! thank you so much, this is such a help and I love you forever for it xo

  8. How is your IB going on?

  9. thank you very much. this helps a lot

  10. Thanks michelle for some really excellent study notes! Your blog has helped me ALOT :) Good luck with your IB ! wish you all the best!

  11. h michelle, how were your results? i got 3a*s and 5as and one is pending, do oyu think thats good enough? i got an a* in chemistry though thnks

  12. Well done!! Sorry, I don't think I have the right to judge and I wouldn't know what 'good enough' is! I'm happy you got that A* in Chem though!! :)

  13. AHH. I LOVE YOU. you just saved my life. lol thanx

  14. where is section 3 michelle


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Note: This blog will no longer be updated as I finished IGCSEs in 2012. Sorry! :( If you are interested in buying IB notes though, please contact me. :)