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When determining the number of unpaired electrons in an atom do we look at whether electrons in the entire valence shell (n=3,n=4, etc) is full or not or whether electrons in a particular orbital (3s, 4p, 5f, etc) is full or not?
You would look at the electrons in the highest sub shell. Everything below the highest sub shell will fill first so any unpaired electrons will be at the top. These are your valence electrons. Remember the rule that electrons are parallel to each each other before two can fill up an orbital. You can do your electron configuration and count the amount that aren't paired with a down spin.
Only count the valence electrons when determining whether they are unpaired or not, as the subshells below the valence will be full and therefore every electron will be paired. As an example, in this image, the element has 1 unpaired electron, which is easy to visualize on an aufbau diagram.
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