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Understand The Reactivity Series

Worksheet Overview

QUESTION 1 of 10

Metals have a lot of properties in common, but there are important differences between them. The reactivity series tells us which metals react quickly and violently, and which ones react slowly and gently.

If we put different metals in water, the different things seem to happen. Potassium fizzes violently, giving off hydrogen gas. Calcium also makes hydrogen gas, but much more slowly. Copper does nothing at all.

If we put copper in acid, it reacts very slowly. Iron in acid reacts faster, and calcium in acid reacts faster still. In fact, whatever reaction we do with metals, we see the same order of metals from violent reactions, through gentle reactions, to no reactions at all. This sequence of metals is called the reactivity series.

  

Some people like to use a mnemonic to remember the order. You could use:

Please Stop Calling MA Zebra I Collect Smart Goats

but you don't have to.

Displacement reactions and the reactivity series

This picture shows what happens when you put a piece of zinc metal (grey metal) into a solution of copper sulfate (blue solution).

The brown metal forming in the beaker is copper, because a chemical reaction has happened:

copper sulfate + zinc → zinc slufate + copper.

Zinc has replaced copper in the compound, leaving the copper to form metal atoms. This kind of reaction is called a displacement reaction, because the zinc has displaced (or pushed) the copper from the compound. The rule linking displacement reactions and the reactivity series is

The more reactive metal goes in the compound, and the less reactive metal stays as a metal.

So if you put aluminium in copper sulfate solution, this reaction happens:

copper sulfate + aluminium → aluminium slufate + copper (aluminium is more reactive than copper, so it goes into the compound)

If you put iron in magnesium nitrate solution, no reaction happens

magnesium nitrate + iron → magnesium nitrate + iron (magnesium is more reactive than iron, so it stays in the compound)

By trying lots of reactions like this, and noting which metals can make a reaction happen, we can sort metals into the reactivity series. The more reactions the metal does, the more reactive it is.

Which of these metals do not react with oxygen in air?

sodium

magnesium

zinc

iron

silver

gold

Platinum is also used for jewellery​, because it does not tarnish or corrode easily. Do you think it is near the reactive or unreactive end of the reactivity series?

reactive

unreactive

Which of these metals react vigourously with cold water?

magnesium

potassium

calcium

sodium

aluminium

iron

Sort these four metals into the right order from the reactivity series.

Column A

Column B

most reactive
copper
second most reactive
sodium
third most reactive
aluminium
least reactive
iron

Sort these four metals into the right order from the reactivity series.

Column A

Column B

most reactive
gold
second most reactive
magnesium
third most reactive
potassium
least reactive
calcium

What two chemicals would you expect to produce if you react copper nitrate and iron?

copper nitrate

iron nitrate

copper

iron

What two chemicals would you expect to produce if you react copper nitrate and silver?

copper nitrate

silver nitrate

copper

silver

Match these part equations to make complete chemical reactions.

Column A

Column B

copper sulfate + zinc →
magnesium nitrate + aluminium
aluminium nitrate + magnesium →
aluminium oxide + iron
silver nitrate + copper →
copper nitrate + silver
iron oxide + aluminium →
zinc sulfate + copper

Which of these pairs of chemicals show a chemical reaction? Tick the pairs which would show a change.

iron oxide + magnesium

magnesium chloride + copper

aluminium sulfate + copper

copper sulfate + aluminium

gold chloride + silver

The names of metals in this question aren't real. This question is about working out a reactivity series, not remembering or using the one you know.

Imagine you have three metals; kelsium, dovium and carpentinium. When you test their displacement reactions, you get these results;

kelsium chloride + dovium does not change

kelsium chloride + carpentinium → carpentinium chloride + kelsium

dovium chloride +  carpentinium →carpentinium chloride + dovium

Use this information to work out the reactivity series for kelsium, dovium and carpentinium.

iron oxide + magnesium

magnesium chloride + copper

aluminium sulfate + copper

copper sulfate + aluminium

gold chloride + silver

  • Question 1

Which of these metals do not react with oxygen in air?

CORRECT ANSWER
silver
gold
EDDIE SAYS
Silver and gold are very unreactive metals. This makes them useful for jewellery, since they stay shiny for a long time when worn. In terms of the reactivity series, they are near the bottom.
  • Question 2

Platinum is also used for jewellery​, because it does not tarnish or corrode easily. Do you think it is near the reactive or unreactive end of the reactivity series?

CORRECT ANSWER
unreactive
EDDIE SAYS
Platinum behaves in a similar way to gold and silver, so it ought to be in a similar part of the reactivity series.
  • Question 3

Which of these metals react vigourously with cold water?

CORRECT ANSWER
potassium
calcium
sodium
EDDIE SAYS
These metals are the ones at the reactive end of the reactivity series (most people learn it as the top or the beginning). Notice that they are in Group 1 or 2 of the Periodic Table.
  • Question 4

Sort these four metals into the right order from the reactivity series.

CORRECT ANSWER

Column A

Column B

most reactive
sodium
second most reactive
aluminium
third most reactive
iron
least reactive
copper
EDDIE SAYS
It really helps if you know the reactivity series by heart; it explains a lot of chemical reactions. Keep looking at it, and use the mnemonic if it helps you.
  • Question 5

Sort these four metals into the right order from the reactivity series.

CORRECT ANSWER

Column A

Column B

most reactive
potassium
second most reactive
calcium
third most reactive
magnesium
least reactive
gold
EDDIE SAYS
Another clue to learning the reactivity series is thinking about chemical reactions you've seen- the more violent they are, the more likely the metals involved are reactive.
  • Question 6

What two chemicals would you expect to produce if you react copper nitrate and iron?

CORRECT ANSWER
iron nitrate
copper
EDDIE SAYS
Iron is more reactive than copper, so iron goes into the compound and copper goes out of the compound.
  • Question 7

What two chemicals would you expect to produce if you react copper nitrate and silver?

CORRECT ANSWER
copper nitrate
silver
EDDIE SAYS
Silver is less reactive than copper, so copper stays in the compound and silver stays out of the compound.
  • Question 8

Match these part equations to make complete chemical reactions.

CORRECT ANSWER

Column A

Column B

copper sulfate + zinc →
zinc sulfate + copper
aluminium nitrate + magnesium ...
magnesium nitrate + aluminium
silver nitrate + copper →
copper nitrate + silver
iron oxide + aluminium →
aluminium oxide + iron
EDDIE SAYS
All these displacement reactions happen. The point is to get used to the pattern of these word equations. Think of them as "metal compound + metal makes metal compound + metal"; it's easier to imagine the metals swapping places (if that's what they do).
  • Question 9

Which of these pairs of chemicals show a chemical reaction? Tick the pairs which would show a change.

CORRECT ANSWER
iron oxide + magnesium
copper sulfate + aluminium
gold chloride + silver
EDDIE SAYS
Magnesium is more reactive than iron, so magnesium goes into the compound. Copper is less reactive than magnesium, so it cannot go into the compound. The same idea works for the other three examples.
  • Question 10

The names of metals in this question aren't real. This question is about working out a reactivity series, not remembering or using the one you know.

Imagine you have three metals; kelsium, dovium and carpentinium. When you test their displacement reactions, you get these results;

kelsium chloride + dovium does not change

kelsium chloride + carpentinium → carpentinium chloride + kelsium

dovium chloride +  carpentinium →carpentinium chloride + dovium

Use this information to work out the reactivity series for kelsium, dovium and carpentinium.

CORRECT ANSWER
EDDIE SAYS
Carpentinium always forms a compound, so must be the most reactive. Dovium never forms a compound, so must be the least reactive. Kelsium is displaced by carpentinium, but not by dovium, so must have middle reactivity. You will get exam questions were you don\'t recognise the names; the best thing to do is ignore this, and think what general rules apply.
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