The final two years of high school are usually spent navigating through a barrage of standardized tests, including the ACT and the SAT.

These tests act as prerequisites for college application; however, AP exams are exceptional because they essentially affect your potential college coursework.

Appearing for AP exams can ensure your inclusion in high-level college courses. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that these tests are considered more challenging than other standardized tests.

The AP Chemistry curriculum primarily focuses on developing advanced reasoning and inquiry skills, including data collection plan design, data analysis, connecting concepts across different areas, and applying mathematical routines.

A girl wearing a lab coat is working in the chemistry lab
The chemistry curriculum includes a diverse range of topics that need to be covered in order to attempt the AP chemistry exam. There are multiple resources available to help you with that (Source: Pixabay)

Furthermore, it requires candidates to master the conceptual understanding of the field and its supporting content rather than rote-learn.

This structuring is all because every passing year, the scientific knowledge base continually increases through ever-increasing research and discovery.

Hence, keep reading to find out how the AP chemistry grading structure aligns itself with these changes in mind:

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AP Chemistry Exam Tips – Structure Of Exam

Just like all the other AP exams, the AP chemistry practice tests and exams also comprise of two sections:

  • Multiple Choice Questions
  • Free-Response Questions

In both of these sections, you will have access to AP chemistry resources: the periodic table of elements and a chart containing a list of all the constants and formulae required for calculations.

Multiple Choice Question Section

The exam comprises sixty questions with four answer choices each. The time limit of this portion is one hour and thirty minutes, and it is worth 50% of the total of your AP chemistry exam.

Furthermore, the use of a calculator is not allowed in this section.

Keep in mind that some of the questions will be presented as question groups, connected to the last question you answered; whereas, there will also be standalone questions.

Free-Response Question Section

The free-response question section of the AP chemistry exam consists of four questions requiring short responses and three long-response ones.

The time allowed for this section is one hour and forty-five minutes, and it is also worth 50% of your overall score. However, the use of calculators is permitted in this section.

Question Topics In The AP Chemistry Exam

The AP chemistry course description comprises of these critical topics:

  • Analysis of data and identification of patterns
  • Analytical and logical pathways for problem-solving
  • Experimental design
  • Expression and translation amongst data representations
  • Creation and analysis of molecular and atomic views for explaining observations

AP Chemistry Grading Scale

It may sound tough to master your AP chemistry attempt; however, most students can do well enough to pass, which requires a score of 3 or greater.

Remember that your advanced standing and credit according to AP scores differ significantly in every school.

Even though a score of 3 is considered a passing score, it is not enough to count as credit in most cases.

According to College Board, in 2019, more than 2.8 million students from grades 9th to 12th took their AP exams. However, of these students, only 55.6% scored 3 or higher.

Good AP Chemistry Grading Scale Score

As mentioned, the passing scores in AP Chemistry are between 3 and 5. According to College Board, a score of 3 is termed as 'qualified,' a score of 4 is 'well-qualified,' and 5 is termed 'extremely qualified.'

Scoring 3 or a bit higher might even qualify you for college credit; however, most high-ranking universities have a strict policy of only accepting scores of 4 and 5.

And if you want to check, you can search for the AP credit policy framework for your prospective university or college by going to the College Board website.

AP chemistry practice exams are shaped just like the real thing and can sometimes mirror past exams
AP chemistry grading scale ranges from 1 to 5, and even though a score of 3 is considered a passing score, it is still not enough to get you an acceptance letter from a reputable college (Source: Pixabay)

Average AP Chemistry Score

There is sometimes a fluctuation in AP chemistry scores, and the structure has only changed by a small percentage in recent years.

The exam was redesigned for the school year 2013-2014. This saw a low return of scores 1, 4, and 5, as opposed to the higher numbers of 2 and 3.

Hence, since 2014, 2.80 has been the average score for the AP chemistry exam.

Curved AP Chemistry Scores

The AP exams are curved every year by the College Board to maintain a set standard and create a normal variation in difficulty levels.

AP chemistry is a challenging college-level exam; therefore, the curve is designed considering the difficulty.

Furthermore, it provides an accurate assessment of each candidate's knowledge and skill, in line with the AP chemistry curriculum.

Getting A Score 5 On An AP Chemistry Exam

The only way to get a five on an AP chemistry exam is by studying smart. This fact is further amplified by the fact that only 10% of students attain a 5 on the AP chemistry exam.

However, you can become part of this 10% if you achieve the perfect combination of:

  • Pronounced study habits
  • Reflective practices
  • Applied learning

In recent years, the focus of AP Science exams has shifted towards Science practices, emphasizing conceptual understanding and skills over rote learning and memorization.

Don't get us wrong; there are still elements to memorize, but students must also understand the association amongst the facts and learn to address the broader scientific ideas.

Practicing For The Multiple-Choice Questions Sections

The first step is to practice theory, but the way to secure points is to practice the grid-in and multiple-choice questions.

There are many AP Chemistry practice tests available online if you want to practice the multiple-choice section.

Furthermore, you can also find test review questions on various websites offering AP chemistry practice exams. The purpose is to time yourself while you answer questions, staying inside the time limit.

Furthermore, the College Board has an entire set of AP chemistry exam tips and strategies for the multiple-choice section on its website.

The AP chemistry course description also has multiple-choice practice questions with an answer key to help you work back from the answer

As you are going through these questions, keep track of the areas you are still struggling with, and don't hesitate to revisit the theory if you find yourself confused.

Just focus on understanding what the questions are asking and maintain a running list of any concepts that you still have trouble understanding.

Practicing For The Free-Response Questions Section

The AP chemistry exam's free-response section primarily emphasizes comprehensive problems and essay writing.

Furthermore, it also expects candidates to know how to apply their learning according to the situation presented to them.

The first thing you should remember when solving the free-response section is to pay close attention to all the task verbs employed.

The most common task verbs used in the AP chemistry exam include:

  • Justify
  • Explain
  • Describe
  • Predict

One of the most critical aspects of solving AP chemistry questions is understanding precisely what these words ask you to do.

It may be beneficial to underline every section of the question, encircle the task verb, and then start checking them off once you start writing.

Most students lose their points just because they forget to include a single part of the multipart question.

Purple liquid being poured into a beaker
AP chemistry practice tests are divided into two parts; the multiple-choice questions and the free-response questions. There are several resources available online to help you with your AP chemistry exam (Source: Unsplash)

Additionally, candidates must remember to keep an eye on the time once they get to the free-response section.

Even though you would be reminded of the remaining time by the exam proctor, you won't be forced to move onto the next question.

Ideally, you should spend around 3-10 minutes on the short answers and 20-25 minutes on the long answer.

Ensure that you do not shy away from addressing all the sections of every question. And remember that no points are given for questions left unanswered.

Prospective candidates can find several official AP chemistry practice tests for free-response questions on the College Board website.

These practice exams are perfect for candidates who want a feel of what the questions will look like. Some people go the extra mile and emulate the same environment of the AP chemistry exam to replicate the pressure.

Furthermore, the practice tests also provide a comprehensive understanding of the answers the College Board is looking for.

Prepare For The AP Chemistry Exam With The Help Of A Private tutor

The AP chemistry course description is wholly focused on developing your reasoning and advanced inquiry skills.

It is designed to test your mastery over the conceptual framework rather than focusing on the rote learning aspects of the subject.

The grading system in the AP exams is relatively straightforward, too; however, simplicity does not mean that it is easy to score.

YouTube, learning guides on the internet, and past papers can only help you so much. If you are looking to score a 4 or a 5 in your AP chemistry exam, it is better to contact a tutor.

Superprof provides you with hundreds of experienced AP exam tutors. Private tutors at Superprof will help you practice for the test, make a personalized learning schedule, and compile resources perfectly molded to your needs.

Get in contact with hundreds of tutors and find one near you so you can ace that AP chemistry exam and get into any college you want!

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