AP Chemistry

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Advanced Placement Chemistry (AP Chemistry or AP Chem) is a course and examination offered by the College Board as a part of the Advanced Placement Program to give American and Canadian high school students the opportunity to demonstrate their abilities and earn college-level credit. AP Chemistry has the distinction of having the lowest known test participation rate, with 49.5% of AP Chemistry students taking the exam in one study.[1] Another, smaller study found that 52.7% of students enrolled in AP Chemistry took their course's AP test.[2]

The course[edit]

AP Chemistry is a course geared toward students with interests in chemical and physical sciences, as well as any of the biological sciences. The course aims to prepare students to take the AP Chemistry exam toward the end of the academic year. AP Chemistry topics include atomic theory, chemical bonding, phases of matter, solutions, types of reactions, chemical equilibrium, reaction kinetics, electrochemistry, and thermodynamics.


The College Board recommends successful completion of High School Chemistry and Algebra II;[3] however, requirement of this may differ from school to school. AP Chemistry usually requires knowledge of Algebra II; however, some schools allow students to take Algebra II concurrently with this class. The requirement of regular or honors level High School Chemistry may also be waived, but usually requires completion of a special assignment or exam.

Topics covered[edit]

The exam covers most of the introductory chemistry topics (except organic chemistry), including:

Make-up of exam[edit]

  • Structure and Matter, 20%
  • States of Matter, 20%
  • Reactions, 35–40%
  • Descriptive Chemistry, 10–15%
  • Laboratory, 5–10%

The exam[edit]

The annual AP Chemistry examination, which is typically administered in May, is divided into two major sections (multiple-choice questions and free response essays).

Old test (2013 and earlier)[edit]

The old test was composed of two sections: a multiple-choice section consisting of 75 questions with five answer choices each, and a free-response section consisting of six essay prompts that required the authoring of chemical equations, solution of problems, and development of thoughtful essays in response to hypothetical scenarios.

  • Section I, the multiple-choice portion, did not allow the use of a calculator, nor did it provide any additional reference material, other than a periodic table. Each question contained five answer choices. 90 minutes were allotted for the completion of Section I. Section I covered the breadth of the curriculum.
  • Section II, the free response section, was divided into two sections: Part A, requiring the completion of three problems, and Part B, also containing three problems. Part A, lasting 55 minutes, allowed the use of calculators, while Part B, lasting 40 minutes, did not. The first problem in Part A concerned equilibrium related to solubility, acids and bases, or pressure/concentration. The first question of Part B was a chemical equation question in which 3 scenarios were presented and the student was required to work all 3 scenarios, authoring a balanced net ionic chemical equation for each scenario and answering questions about the equations and scenarios. If time permitted, students may have edited their responses from Part A during the time allotted for responding to Part B, though without the use of a calculator. The student needed to have completed all six questions.

While the use of calculators was prohibited during Section I and Section II Part B, a periodic table, a list of selected standard reduction potentials, and two pages of equations and conventions are available for use during the entirety of Section II.

New test (2014 and later)[edit]

The 2014 AP Chemistry exam was the first administration of a redesigned test as a result of a redesigning of the AP Chemistry course. The exam format is now different from the past years, with 60 multiple choice questions (now with only four answer choices per question), 3 long free response questions, and 4 short free response questions. The new exam has a focus on longer, more in depth, lab-based questions. The penalty for incorrect answers on the multiple choice section was also removed. More detailed information can be found at the related link.[4]

Grade distribution[edit]

AP Chemistry Test Grade Distribution:[5]

Score 2007[6] 2008[7] 2009[8] 2010[9] 2011[10] 2012[11] 2013[12] 2014[13] 2015[14] 2016[15] 2017[16]
5 15.3% 18.4% 18.0% 17.1% 17.0% 16.4% 18.9% 10.1% 8.4% 9.7% 9.2%
4 18.0% 17.5% 17.9% 18.5% 18.4% 19.3% 21.5% 16.6% 15.2% 15.1% 15.7%
3 23.0% 20.0% 20.2% 19.3% 19.5% 20.1% 18.8% 25.7% 28.1% 27.5% 26.1%
2 18.5% 14.3% 14.2% 12.7% 14.6% 15.0% 14.9% 25.8% 25.5% 25.3% 27%
1 25.3% 29.9% 29.8% 32.3% 30.4% 29.2% 26.0% 21.8% 22.8% 22.4% 22%
Mean 2.79 2.80 2.80 2.76 2.77 2.79 2.92 2.67 2.61 2.64
Number of Students 97,136 100,586 104,789 115,077 122,651 132,425 140,006 148,554 152,745 153,465


  1. ^ Warne, Russell T. (2017). "Research on the academic benefits of the Advanced Placement program: Taking stock and looking forward". SAGE Open. 7 (1): 9. doi:10.1177/2158244016682996. Retrieved 12 January 2017. 
  2. ^ Sadler, Philip M.; Sonnert, Gerhard; Hazari, Zahra; Tai, Robert. "The role of Advanced high school coursework in increasing STEM career interest". Science Educator. 23 (1): 6. 
  3. ^ AP Chemistry at collegeboard.com
  4. ^ "Exam Content". The AP Chemistry Exam. The College Board. Retrieved 3 September 2013. 
  5. ^ http://research.collegeboard.org/programs/ap/data
  6. ^ 2007 Score Distributions
  7. ^ 2008 Score Distributions
  8. ^ 2009 Score Distributions
  9. ^ 2010 Score Distributions
  10. ^ 2011 Score Distributions
  11. ^ 2012 Score Distributions
  12. ^ 2013 Score Distributions
  13. ^ 2014 Score Distributions
  14. ^ 2015 AP Exam Score Distributions
  15. ^ Total Registration. "2016 AP Exam Score Distributions". www.totalregistration.net. Retrieved 2016-07-01. 
  16. ^ Total Registration. "2017 AP Exam Score Distributions". www.totalregistration.net. Retrieved 2017-06-16. 

External links[edit]