The following notes were written for the previous IB syllabus (2009). The new IB syllabus for first examinations 2016 can be accessed by clicking the link below.

IB syllabus for first examinations 2016

Kinetics (sl)

6.1 - Rates of reaction

Rate of reaction is concerned with how quickly a reaction reaches a certain point. It can be defined as the decrease in concentration of the reactants per unit time or the increase in concentration of the products per unit time.

A graph may be plotted of concentration against time, with time on the x-axis and some measure of how far the reaction has gone (ie concentration, volume, mass loss etc) on the y-axis. This will produce a curve and the rate at any given point is the gradient of the tangent to this curve.

More information on rates of reaction  

6.2 - Collision theory

Collision theory -- reactions take place as a result of particles (atoms or molecules) colliding and then undergoing a reaction. Not all collisions cause reaction, however, even in a system where the reaction is spontaneous. The particles must have sufficient kinetic energy, and the correct orientation with respect to each other for them to react.

Activation energy

This is the minimum energy that particles colliding must have in order to produce successful reaction. It is given the symbol Ea (Energy of Activation). The energy of particles is expressed by their speed.

Changing the conditions

Increasing the temperature of a substance increases the average speed (Energy) of the particles and consequently the number of particles colliding with sufficient energy (Ea) to react. At higher temperatures there are more successful collisions and therefore a faster reaction.

At higher concentrations there are more collisions and consequently a faster reaction.

Catalysts lower the activation energy by providing an alternative mechanism for the reaction/ greater probability of proper orientation. This results in a faster reaction.

In hetrogeneous reactions (where the reactants are in different states) the size of the particles of a solid may change reaction rate, since the surface is where the reaction takes place, and the surface area is increased when the particles are more finely divided (therefore smaller solid particles in a hetrogeneous reaction tend to produce a faster reaction).


Most reactions involve several steps, which can be individually slow of fast, and which, all together, make up the complete reaction. The slowest of these steps is called the rate determining step, as is determines how fast the reaction will go. It is also not necessary that all the reactants are involved in ever step, and so the rate determining step may not involve all the reactants. As a result, increasing the concentration (for example) of a reactant which is not involved in the rate determining step will not change the overall reaction rate.


Condition Effect on rate Explanation
Temperature increasing the temperature increases the rate of a reaction Two reasons:
1. There are more particles with sufficient energy to react (most important) - more successful collisions
2. There are more collisions
Concentration Increasing the concentration of a reactant increases the rate of the reaction (usually) There are more collisions as there are more particles in closer proximity
Particle size The smaller the particles the faster the reaction. (note: the solute particles in solutions have the smallest particle size possible. and so solutions react fastest) Collisions occur at the surface of particles. The larger the particle size the smaller the surface area and the fewer collisions can occur.
Catalysts The presence of a catalyst increases the rate of a reaction Catalysts provide an alternative mechanism with a lower activation energy
More information on collision theory  



factors affecting the rate of reaction

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