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CCDC Bite-Sized Learning & Teaching Resources


PDF | Multiple Files | Year 12-13

These resources are designed for A-Level Chemistry students to use in self-directed study or revision, and to support Chemistry teachers with learning and teaching of topics involving 3D structures of molecules and TM complexes. These resources were all peer-produced in collaboration with the Cambridge Crystallographic Data Centre (CCDC), a worldwide research database.

These project resources are peer-produced. The objective of the project was to develop resources primarily for either student self-study or to support learning and teaching of topics in post-16 chemistry courses.

These resources were developed in collaboration wih the Cambridge Crystallographic Data Centre (CCDC), a worldwide research repository of X-ray crystal structures. X-ray crystallography is a spectroscopic technique which allows the 3D structures of molecules to be determined.

Our resources cover a range of topics that require the use of 3D structures of molecules and complexes. The structures can be viewed using the CCDC’s Access Structures webpage, which is free to access online without needing a CSD licence.

Some of our initial resources were based on the undergraduate teaching exercises developed between the CCDC and Prof Greg Ferrence from Illinois State University, Normal, IL, USA. The resources are also used by Dr Hoare for on-campus outreach sessions.


These resources were developed between 2011-2014 by year 12 Nuffield Bursary (now called Research Placement) students, two undergraduate outreach summer interns, and two stage 4 MChem project students.

The students who were involved in producing resources for this project were:

  • Hollie Staward, Heworth Grange School, Gateshead – Nuffield Bursary project student, summer 2011
  • Mumena Ali, Sacred Heart RC High School, Newcastle – Nuffield Bursary project student, summer 2012
  • Gabriel Bramley, St Robert of Newminster RC School, Washington – Nuffield Bursary project student, summer 2012
  • Emma Burnett, St John’s Catholic College and 6th Form Centre, Bishop Auckland – Nuffield Bursary project student, summer 2012
  • Kate Leary – School of Chemistry outreach summer intern, summer 2012
  • Steven Carman – stage 4 MChem project student, spring 2013 and then CCDC intern, summer 2013
  • Leticia Prince – stage 4 MChem project student, spring 2014
  • Aaron Bourne – MChem graduate 2013 and School of Chemistry outreach summer intern, summer 2014


Download our resources, and find out how to use them.

Other Resources

If you are studying or indeed teaching post-16 chemistry and/or biology, you may also be interested in our collaborative project with the Protein Data Bank in Europe, part of the EMBL-EBI, also based near Cambridge, UK on the Wellcome Genome Campus at Hinxton. These resources are aimed at post-16 biology and chemistry courses and cover topics including amino acids, proteins, enzymes, mode of drug action and DNA.

You can find the resources at

We developed sheets for each topic with basic and extension activities. Each sheet is a maximum of two sides of A4, with a theory sheet and at least one linked worksheet at each level.

We developed sheets for each topic with basic and extension activities. Each sheet is a maximum of two sides of A4, with a theory sheet and at least one linked worksheet at each level. 

Each resource has a:

  • theory sheet – covering the basics of major post-16 specification requirements
  • worksheet
  • extension theory sheet – greater detail than required for post-16 specifications
  • extension worksheet

We recommend reading sheet Introduction to Access Structures before attempting any of the exercises.

There are also some short video clips below the exercises (section V) explaining how to use the key features of the WebCSD free teaching subset (these will shortly be replaced by videos explaining how to use the Access Structures facility).

Technical details

The original WebCSD Free Teaching Subset website used the JMol molecular viewer, which required Java installed on the host device. This meant it would not run on any Apple devices, or on Windows devices where Java had been blocked by your institution’s protocols.

In 2016 this was replaced by the CCDC’s Access Structures facility on their main website. This uses a JSMol/HTML5 viewer which is compatible with most devices and removed the Java dependency.

Access Structures allows access to the full CSD database. It will be possible for teachers (and students) to access any structure in the full database if you know the six letter refcode – which are freely available via databases such as ChemSpider (please refer to sheet A3 – Finding a Refcode Using ChemSpider for help with this).


We welcome feedback on any of the sheets, in terms of their suitability, ease of use, level of difficulty, etc. Use our feedback form to get in touch.

Download our free resources

You will need to open the Access Structures webpage before you can try any of the exercises. Please read and follow sheet A2 – Introduction to Access Structures – link below – before attempting any of the exercises.

If you wish to display a particular structure, please check the Refcodes List of commonly used ones in the Resources tab or to find out how to seach for refcodes for specific structures using ChemSpider please use sheet A3.


A – How to use the Access Structures Viewer

A2 – Introduction to Access Structures (PDF: 907KB)
A3 – Finding a Refcode Using ChemSpider (PDF: 1411KB)

H – Identifying Organic Functional Groups

H0 – Functional Groups Lesson Powerpoint (PPT: 1034KB)
H1 – Functional Groups Theory Sheet (PDF: 483KB)
H2 – Functional Groups Worksheet (PDF: 352KB)

D – Structural isomerism

D0 – Structural Isomers Lesson PowerPoint (PPT: 1056KB)
D1 – Structural Isomers Theory sheet (PDF: 463KB)
D2 – Structural Isomers Worksheet (PDF: 286KB)

D10 – Skeletal Formulae Lesson Powerpoint (PPT: 989KB)


E – Geometric

E0 – Geometric Isomers Lesson PowerPoint (PPT: 1502KB)
E1 – Geometric Isomers (PDF: 542KB)
E2 – Geometric Isomers Worksheet (PDF: 203KB)
E3 – Geometric Isomers Extension Theory Sheet (PDF: 488KB)
E4 – Geometric Isomers Extension Worksheet (PDF: 368KB)

F – Optical

F0 – Optical Isomers Lesson PowerPoint (PPT: 1096KB)
F1 – optical isomers theory sheet (PDF: 703KB)
F2 – Optical Isomers worksheet (PDF: 270KB)

FE – Optical Isomers Extension Lesson Powerpoint (PPT: 1814KB) (assigning chiral centres as R or S)
F3 – Optical Isomers Extension Theory Sheet (PDF: 500 KB) (assigning chiral centres as R or S)
F4 – Optical Isomers Extension Worksheet (PDF: 337KB) (assigning chiral centres as R or S)

G – Transition metal complexes

Sheets G1 to G6 have been specifically written to match the transition metal content requirements of the major UK examination boards.

Sheets G7 – G16 are generic transition metal sheets.

G0 – Transition Metal Complexes Lesson Powerpoint (PPT: 1318KB)
G1 – Transition Metals introduction (PDF: 452KB)
G2 – Transition Metals – Questions Basic (PDF: 179KB) 
G3 – Transition Metals – Questions and Basic Answers (PDF: 257KB)
G4 – Transition Metals – Ligand Stability and Chelation (PDF: 604KB) 
G5 – Transition Metals – Questions Extended (PDF: 256KB) 
G6 – Transition Metals – Questions Extended Answers (PDF: 391KB)

G11 – Transition Metals Theory sheet (PDF: 527KB) 
G12 – Transition Metals Worksheet (PDF: 291KB) 
G13 – Transition Metals Extension Theory Sheet – Complex Isomers (PDF: 361KB) 
G14 – Transition Metals Extension Worksheet – Complex Isomers – Isomers (PDF: 320KB)
G15 – Transition Metals Extension Theory Sheet – Macrocycles (PDF: 499KB)
G16 – Transition Metals Alternative Theory Sheet (PDF: 410KB)

I – VSEPR theory aka Shapes of Molecules

I0 – Using VSEPR to Predict Shapes of Molecules Lesson PowerPoint – coming soon
I1 – Using VSEPR to predict shapes of molecules theory sheet (PDF: 568KB)
I2 – Using VSEPR to predict molecular shapes worksheet (PDF:724KB)
I3 – Using VSEPR to predict shapes of molecules answers (PDF: 448KB)
I4 – Identify the shapes of the molecules worksheet (PDF: 639KB)
I5 – Identify the shapes of these molecules answers (PDF: 421KB)
I6 – VSEPR Effect of lone pairs theory sheet (PDF: 606KB)
I7 – VSEPR effect of lone pairs worksheet (PDF: 577KB)
I8 – VSEPR – effect of lone pairs answers (PDF: 658KB)
I9 – VSEPR Multiple Bonds Theory Sheet (PDF: 522KB)
I10 – VSEPR Multiple Bonds Worksheet (PDF: 509KB)
I11 – VSEPR Mulitple Bonds Answers (PDF: 684KB)

K – Aromaticity

K0 – Benzene/Aromaticity Lesson PowerPoint – coming soon
K1 – Benzene Aromaticity Tutorial (PDF: 285KB)
K2 – Aromaticity Basic Theory Sheet (PDF: 431KB)

O – Refcode Guide

These are guides to some molecules in the free subset not included in the sheets. They show what topics they can be used to demonstrate.

This was frequently requested by students and teachers during the trial.

O0 – Selected Ref codes sheet – coming soon
O1 – Selected Ref codes sheet (PDF: 317KB)
O2 – CSD FTS Selected Refcodes Searchable Excel Spreadsheet (PDF: 214KB) – coming soon
O3 – CSD FTS Selected Refcodes Searchable Access Database (PDF: 214KB) – coming soon

Video tutorials

We also produced several short video clips showing how to use the various functions of the WebCSD Free Teaching Subset.

They are available on our dedicated YouTube channel CCDC Learning & Teaching Resources.

You can also use the individual links below:

V1 – overview of the WebCSD Free Teaching Subset (4:54)
V2 – how to access the WebCSD Free Teaching Subset online (1:02)
V3 – how to view molecules in 3D (0:43)
V4 – how to measure a bond length (0:36)
V5 – how to measure a bond angle (0:35)
V6 – how to measure a torsion angle (planarity) (0:37)
V7 – how to view a pair of enantiomers (optical isomers) (1:24)
V8 – how to identify hydrogen bonding (1:40)

We are currently (March 2020) working on a complementary set of videos showing how to use the functions of Access Structures:

V11 – overview of Access Structures
V12 – how to access Access Structures online
V13 – how to view molecules in 3D
V14 – how to measure a bond length
V15 – how to measure a bond angle
V16 – how to measure a torsion angle (planarity)
V17 – how to view a pair of enantiomers (optical isomers)
V18 – how to identify hydrogen bonding

V21 – how to find a refcode using ChemSpider

Further Trial Resources

We have more resources available as drafts on our trial page.

The topics include basic guides to skeletal formulae and x-ray crystallography, reaction mechanisms, macrocycles, conformers of cyclohexane, hydrogen bonding and amino acids.

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