AP Chemistry

AP Chemistry Course Overview

The AP Chemistry course provides students with a college-level foundation to support future advanced course work in chemistry. Students cultivate their understanding of chemistry through inquiry-based investigations, as they explore topics such as: atomic structure, intermolecular forces and bonding, chemical reactions, kinetics, thermodynamics, and equilibrium.


This course requires that 25 percent of the instructional time engages students in lab investigations. This includes a minimum of 16 hands-on labs (at least six of which are inquiry based), and it is recommended that students keep a lab notebook throughout.

AP Chemistry Course Content

The key concepts and related content that define the AP Chemistry course and exam are organized around underlying principles called the Big Ideas. They encompass core scientific principles, theories, and processes that cut across traditional boundaries and provide a broad way of thinking about the particulate nature of matter underlying the observations students make about the physical world.

The following are Big Ideas:

• The chemical elements are the building blocks of matter, which can be understood in terms of the arrangements of atoms.

• Chemical and physical properties of materials can be explained by the structure and the arrangement of atoms, ions, or molecules and the forces between them.

• Changes in matter involve the rearrangement and/or reorganization of atoms and/or the transfer of electrons.

• Rates of chemical reactions are determined by details of the molecular collisions.

• The laws of thermodynamics describe the essential role of energy and explain and predict the direction of changes in matter.

• Bonds or attractions that can be formed can be broken. These two processes are in constant competition, sensitive to initial conditions and external forces or changes.

Inquiry-Based Investigations

Twenty-five percent of instructional time is devoted to inquirybased laboratory investigations. Students ask questions, make observations and predictions, design experiments, analyze data, and construct arguments in a collaborative setting, where they direct and monitor their progress.

Science Practices

Students establish lines of evidence and use them to develop and refine testable explanations and predictions of natural phenomena. Focusing on these disciplinary practices enables teachers to use the principles of scientific inquiry to promote a more engaging and rigorous experience for AP Chemistry students. Such practices require that students:

• Use representations and models to communicate scientific phenomena and solve scientific problems;

• Use mathematics appropriately;

• Engage in scientific questioning to extend thinking or to guide investigations within the context of the AP course;

• Plan and implement data collection strategies in relation to a particular scientific question;

• Perform data analysis and evaluation of evidence; • Work with scientific explanations and theories; and

• Connect and relate knowledge across various scales, concepts, and representations in and across domains.

AP Chemistry Exam Structure


Assessment Overview

Exam questions are based on learning objectives, which combine science practices with specific content. Students learn to

• Solve problems mathematically — including symbolically;

• Design and describe experiments;

• Perform data and error analysis

• Explain, reason, or justify answers; and

• Interpret and develop conceptual models.

Students have a periodic table of the elements and a formula and constants chart to use on the entire exam. In addition, students may use a scientific or graphing calculator on the free-response section.

Format of Assessment

Section I: Multiple Choice | 60 Questions | 1 Hour, 30 Minutes | 50% of Exam Score

Multiple-Choice: 63 Questions

• Discrete Questions

• Items in sets

• A calculator is not permitted on Section I

Section II: Free Response | 7 Questions | 1 Hour, 45 Minutes | 50% of Exam Score

Three long- and four short-answer questions. The seven questions ensure the assessment of the following skills: experimental design, quantitative/qualitative translation, analysis of authentic lab data and observations to identify patterns or explain phenomena, creating or analyzing atomic and molecular views to explain observations, and following a logical/analytical pathway to solve a problem. )