Ah, yet another node about one course from College Board's plethora of Advanced Placement courses. This node will tell you what curriculum is covered, what the structure of the exam is like, some generalities about the course itself, and some good resources for practice and/or study.

1. The curriculum

The AP Chemistry curriculum is pretty in-depth, as you probably expected. So you go over a bunch of info. Let's see what you go over, and the relative percentages of coverage on the exam (info courtesy of College Board).

  1. Structure of matter (20%)
    1. Atomic theory and atomic structure
      1. Evidence for the atomic theory (I think this is basically a history lesson. Know people like Rutherford, Bohr, Planck, &c. and know what they did)
      2. Atomic masses; determination by chemical and physical means (In otherwords, know that the atomic mass number is a weighted average of isotope mass)
      3. Atomic number and mass number, and isotopes (pretty easy. Know what these are. There was one FRQ that once asked, "What's the difference between the two stable isotopes of Selenium?" and all they were looking for was a recognition that they differed in atomic mass.)
      4. Electron energy levels: atomic spectra, quantum numbers, and atomic orbitals (good idea to know the names of the four quantum numbers)
      5. Trends in the periodic table (atomic radii, ionization energies, electron affinities. Also, know the oxidation states for various metals and nonmetals)
    2. Chemical bonding
      1. Binding forces
        1. Types of binding forces, including ionic, covalent, metallic, hydrogen bonding, van der Waals, and London dispersion forces
        2. Relationships to states, structures, and properties of matter
        3. Polarity of bonds and electronegativities
      2. Molecular models
        1. Lewis structures
        2. Valence bonds: hybridization of orbitals, resonance structures, and sigma and pi bonds.
        3. VSEPR theory
      3. Geometry of molecules and ions, structural isomerism of simple organic molecules and coordination complexes; dipole moments of molecules; relation of these properties to the structure
    3. Nuclear chemistry: nuclear equations, half-lives, radioactivity (in otherwords, know how atoms decay); chemical applications
  2. States of Matter (20%)
    1. Gases
      1. Laws of ideal gases
        1. Equations of state for ideal gases (Charles, Avogadro, Boyle, Amontons, Combined, ideal or PVNRT)
        2. Partial pressures
      2. Kinetic molecular theory
        1. Interpretation of ideal gas laws on the basis of this theory
        2. Avogadro's hypothesis and the mole concept
        3. Dependence of kinetic energy on temperature
        4. How real gases deviate from ideal gases, and which ones deviate more
    2. Liquids and solids
      1. Liquids and solids from the kinetic-molecular viewpoint
      2. Phase diagrams of one-component systems
      3. Changes of state, including critical points and triple points
      4. Structure of solids and lattice energies
    3. Solutions
      1. Types of solutions and factors affecting solubility
      2. Methods of expressing concentration (note: normalities aren't used)
      3. Raoult's law and colligative properties
      4. Nonideal behavior (qualitative aspects
  3. Reactions (35%-40%)
    1. Reaction types
      1. Acid-base reactions; concepts of Arrhenius, Bronsted-Lowry, and Lewis; coordination complexes; amphoterism
      2. Precipitation reactions (know your solubility rules)
      3. Redox reactions
        1. Oxidation number
        2. The role of the electron in redox
        3. Electrochemistry: electrolytic and galvanic cells; Faraday's law; standard half-cell potentials; Nernst equation; prediction of the direction of redox equations
    2. Stoichiometry
      1. Ionic and molecular species present of chemical systems; net ionic equations
      2. Balancing equations, including redox reactions
      3. Mass and volume relations, with emphasis on the mole concept; empirical formulas and limiting reactants
    3. Equilibrium
      1. Concept of dynamic equilibrium, physical and chemical; Le Chatelier's principle; equilibrium constants
      2. Quantitative treatment
        1. Equilibrium constant for gaseous reactions: Kp and Kc
        2. Equilibrium constants for reactions in solution
          1. Constants for acids and bases; pK; pH
          2. Solubility product constants and their application to precipitation and the dissolution of slightly soluble compounds
          3. Common ion effect; buffers; hydrolysis
    4. Kinetics
      1. Concept of reaction rate
      2. Use of experimental data and graphical analysis to determine reactant order, rate constants, and reaction rate laws
      3. Effect of temperature change on rates
      4. Activation energy; the role of catalysts
      5. The relationship between the rate-determining step and a mechanism (no, I don't yet know what this means)
    5. Thermodynamics
      1. State functions (For example, enthalpy)
      2. First law: change in enthalpy; heat of formation; heat of reaction; Hess's law; heats of vaporization and fusion; calorimetry
      3. Second law: entropy; free energy of formation; free energy of reaction; dependence of change in free energy on enthalpy and entropy changes
      4. Relationship of change in free energy to equilibrium constants and electrode potentials
  4. Descriptive chemistry (10%-15%)
    1. Chemical reactivity and products of chemical reactions
    2. Relationships in the periodic table: horizontal, vertical, and diagnol, with examples from alkali metals, alkaline earth metals, halogens, and the first series of transition elements
    3. Introduction to organic chemistry: hydrocarbons and functional groups (structure, nomenclature, chemical properties)
  5. Laboratory (5%-10%)
    • Making observations of chemical reactions and substances
    • Recording data
    • Calculating and interpreting results based on quantitative data obtained
    • Communicating effectively the results of experimental work

PHEW! Okay, so uh... yeah. That was mostly from college board. Now, onto information about the exam!

2. The AP Exam

Ah, the lovable little package of booklets collectively known as the AP Exam. You love them and you hate them. For $88, you get to take the AP Chemistry exam, structured like so:

  1. The Multiple-Choice section
    • 90 minutes long
    • 45% of final grade
    • 75 multiple choice questions
    • Calculators are NOT permitted, because you can store information and that would give you an unfair advantage over other students.
  2. The Free-Response Sections
    • For the first 50 minutes, you are asked to answer various comprehensive chemistry problems. YOU MAY USE AN APPROVED CALCULATOR!!
    • For the final 40 minutes, you do a set of reaction predictions (e.g. "Aluminum metal is added to a container of nitric acid", and you have to give the net ionic equation unbalanced), and some 'essay' questions. NO CALCULATORS ALLOWED!
    • FRQ section is 55% of the exam

3. About the class

So far, I've had one semester of experience in AP Chem. One generality about AP Chem that my school practices and that College Board recommends is that a student have taken a course in chemistry before taking AP Chem. This is generally a good practice, as it allows for people to get a feel for chem before diving into the more complex issues in AP Chem. Thus, class time is mostly free time, by working on problem sets or labs or whatever. The teacher gives an occasional lecture but we learn from the book. And mostly, it's just expanding upon what we learnt in regular Chemistry.

Another notable generality is that of rigorous lab work at least once every week. College Board recommends it, and again, our school follows it. We do one lab weekly, outside of class time. Usually, though, we must finish the lab sometime in class. We keep our lab writeups in journals; we copy down objectives, procedures, and all that good stuff, and put our data in the book. The book has carbon-copy paper, so we can keep a journal and also turn in a copy of stuff to the instructor. I've found this to be a Good Thing, because it forces me to think about what I'm doing in the lab. My own strategy has been to read the lab, write down procedures, and try to understand what's going on every step of the way, and then figure out how to manipulate our data to get whatever we wanted to measure in the first place. Also, if you keep a good journal of your labs, and you then go to college, you could be exempted from taking a lab course if you have those journals. So don't have a bonfire once you're all done with the course.

One of the things my teacher always says about 'good AP questions' is that they test one basic concept. One chemical concept, with a bit of a 'twist' that makes you think. I've generally found this true. They don't try to throw in numerous concepts and make you synthesize them. The heart of the question is one, maybe two, chemical concepts. So keep that in mind.

4. Some good resources

My favorite source for practice stuff is AP Central.


You may have to sign up with apcentral.collegeboard.com to see those. Uh... I don't think it'd be wrong if you signed up as a teacher. That site has FRQs from 1999 to 2005, so if you need some practice, there's a very good place right there.

More on this general subject later...

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