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I only just looked this up on wikipedia, so someone please correct me if I'm wrong, but it says that the formula is that the nth shell can hold up to 2(n^2) electrons, so that would mean it is possible to have more than 8 valence electrons.
Elements that are exceptions to the octet rule include P, S, Cl. This is because they are located in period 3 on the periodic table, meaning that they have l= 0,1,2. This corresponds to the s, p, and d orbitals. Hence, in their valence shell, they have d-orbitals that can accomadate additional e-. The octet rule stems from the format of the orbitals s2p6.
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