What You Need to Know About the AP Chemistry Exam - Set Up Your Study Program - 5 Steps to a 5: AP Chemistry 2017 (2016)

5 Steps to a 5: AP Chemistry 2017 (2016)


Set Up Your Study Program

CHAPTER 1 What You Need to Know About the AP Chemistry Exam

CHAPTER 2 How to Plan Your Time


What You Need to Know About the AP Chemistry Exam


Summary: Learn what topics are on the test, how the ETS scores the test, and basic test-taking information.

Key Ideas

Most colleges will award credit for a score of 4 or 5.

Multiple-choice questions account for half of your final score.

Points are not deducted for incorrect answers to multiple-choice questions. You should try to eliminate incorrect answer choices and then guess; there is no penalty for guessing.

Free-response questions account for half of your final score.

There is a conversion of your composite score on the two test sections to a score on the 1-to-5 scale.

Background of the Advanced Placement Program

The College Board began the Advanced Placement program in 1955 to construct standard achievement exams that would allow highly motivated high school students the opportunity to receive advanced placement as first-year students in colleges and universities in the United States. Today, there are 34 courses and exams with more than 2 million students from every state in the nation and from foreign countries taking the annual exams in May.

The AP programs are for high school students who wish to take college-level courses. In our case, the AP Chemistry course and exam involve high school students in college-level chemistry studies.

Who Writes the AP Chemistry Exam?

A group of college and high school chemistry instructors known as the AP Development Committee creates the AP Chemistry exam. The committee”s job is to ensure that the annual AP Chemistry exam reflects what is taught in college-level chemistry classes at high schools.

This committee writes a large number of multiple-choice questions, which are pre-tested and evaluated for clarity, appropriateness, and range of possible answers.

The free-response essay questions that make up Section II go through a similar process of creation, modification, pre-testing, and final refinement, so that the questions cover the necessary areas of material and are at an appropriate level of difficulty and clarity. The committee also makes a great effort to construct a free-response exam that will allow for clear and equitable grading by the AP readers.

It is important to remember that the AP Chemistry exam undergoes a thorough evaluation after the yearly administration of the exam. This way, the College Board can use the results to make course suggestions and to plan future tests.

The AP Grades and Who Receives Them

Once you have taken the exam and it has been scored, your test will be graded with one of five numbers by the College Board:

  • A 5 indicates that you are extremely well-qualified.
  • A 4 indicates that you are well-qualified.
  • A 3 indicates that you are adequately qualified.
  • A 2 indicates that you are possibly qualified.
  • A 1 indicates that you are not qualified to receive college credit.

A grade report, consisting of a grade of 1 to 5, will be sent to you in July. You will also indicate the college to which you want your AP score sent at the time of the exam. The report that the college receives contains your score for every AP exam you took that year and the grades you received in prior years, except for any that you request withheld. In addition, your scores will be sent to your high school.

Reasons for Taking the AP Chemistry Exam

Why put yourself through a year of intensive study, pressure, stress, and preparation? Only you can answer that question. Following are some of the reasons that students have indicated to us for taking the AP exam:

  • Because colleges look favorably on the applications of students who elect to enroll in AP courses
  • To receive college credit or advanced standing at their colleges or universities
  • To compare themselves with other students across the nation
  • For personal satisfaction
  • Because they love the subject
  • So that their families will be proud of them

There are other reasons, but no matter what they are, the primary reason for your enrolling in the AP Chemistry course and taking the exam in May is to feel good about yourself and the challenges that you have met.

While there may be some idealistic motivators, let”s face it: most students take the exam because they are seeking college credit. This means you are closer to graduation before you even start attending classes. Even if you do not score high enough to earn college credit, the fact that you elected to enroll in AP courses tells admission committees that you are a high achiever and serious about your education.

Questions Frequently Asked About the AP Chemistry Exam

What Is Going to Appear on the Exam?

This is an excellent question. The College Board, having consulted with those who teach chemistry, develops a curriculum that covers material that college professors expect to cover in their first-year classes. Based upon this outline of topics, the multiple-choice exams are written such that those topics are covered in proportion to their importance to the expected chemistry understanding of the student. Confused? Suppose that faculty consultants agree that environmental issues are important to the chemistry curriculum, maybe to the tune of 10 percent. If 10 percent of the curriculum in an AP Chemistry course is devoted to environmental issues, you can expect roughly 10 percent of the multiple-choice exam to address environmental issues. Remember this is just a guide and each year the exam differs slightly in the percentages.

How Is the Advanced Placement Chemistry Exam Organized?

Table 1.1 summarizes the format of the AP Chemistry exam.

Table 1.1

The exam is a two-part exam designed to take about three hours. The first section has 60 multiple-choice questions. You will have 90 minutes to complete this section.

The second part of the exam is the free-response section. You will begin this section after you have completed and turned in your multiple-choice scan sheet. There will be a break before you begin the second section. The length of this break will vary from school to school. You will not be able to go back to the multiple-choice questions later.

You will receive a test booklet for the free-response section of the test. You will have 105 minutes to answer seven questions. These questions may cover any of the material in the AP Chemistry course. The free-response section consists of two parts. In both parts, you may use a calculator. There will probably be two lab questions—one an experimental design question and the other question an analysis of data or observations. There will be two questions involving representations of molecules—one involving a conversion between different types of representations, and the other requiring an analysis or creation of an atomic or molecular view explaining a representation. Finally, there will be a quantitative question involving reasoning to solve a problem.

Who Grades My AP Chemistry Exam?

Every June a group of chemistry teachers gathers for a week to assign grades to your hard work. Each of these “Faculty Consultants” spends a day or so in training on a question. Each reader becomes an expert on that question, and because each exam book is anonymous, this process provides a very consistent and unbiased scoring of that question. During a typical day of grading, there is a selection of a random sample of each reader”s scores for crosschecking by other experienced “Table Leaders” to ensure that the graders maintain a level of consistency throughout the day and the week. Statistical analysis of each reader”s scores on a given question assure that they are not giving scores that are significantly higher or lower than the mean scores given by other readers of that question. All these measures assure consistency and fairness for your benefit.

Will My Exam Remain Anonymous?

Absolutely. Even if your high school teacher happens to read your booklet, there is virtually no way he or she will know it is you. To the reader, each student is a number, and to the computer, each student is a bar code.

What About That Permission Box on the Back?

The College Board uses some exams to help train high school teachers so that they can help the next generation of chemistry students to avoid common mistakes. If you check this box, you simply give permission to use your exam in this way. Even if you give permission, no one will ever know it is your exam.

How Is My Multiple-Choice Exam Scored?

You will place your answers to the multiple-choice questions on a scan sheet. The scan sheet is computer graded. The computer counts the number of correct responses. There is no penalty for incorrect answers or for leaving an answer blank.

How Is My Free-Response Exam Scored?

You are required to answer seven free-response questions. The point totals will vary, but there is an adjustment of the points to match the assigned weighting of the question. For example, question #1 may be on a scale of 10 points, while question #2 may be on a scale of 7 points, and question #3 on a scale of 5 points. Since these questions are to count equally, a multiplier will be used to adjust the points to the same overall value.

So How Is My Final Grade Determined and What Does It Mean?

Your total composite score for the exam is found by adding the value from the multiple-choice section to the score from the free-response section and rounding that sum to the nearest whole number.

Keep in mind that the total composite scores needed to earn a 5, 4, 3, 2, or 1 change each year. A committee of AP, College Board, and Educational Testing Service (ETS) directors, experts, and statisticians determines these cutoffs. The same exam that is given to the AP Chemistry high school students is given to college students. The various college professors report how the college students fared on the exam. This provides information for the chief faculty consultant on where to draw the lines for a 5, 4, 3, 2, or 1 score. A score of 5 on this AP exam is set to represent the average score received by the college students who scored an A on the exam. A score of 3 or 4 is the equivalent of a college grade B, and so on.

How Do I Register and How Much Does It Cost?

If you are enrolled in AP Chemistry in your high school, your teacher is going to provide all of these details. You do not have to enroll in the AP course to register for and complete the AP exam. When in doubt, the best source of information is the College Board”s website: www.collegeboard.com .

Students who demonstrate financial need may receive a refund to help offset the cost of testing. There are also several optional fees that are necessary if you want your scores rushed to you, or if you wish, to receive multiple grade reports.

What Should I Do the Night Before the Exam?

Last-minute cramming of massive amounts of material will not help you. It takes time for your brain to organize material. There is some value to a last-minute review of material. This may involve looking over the Rapid Review portions of a few (not all) chapters, or looking through the Glossary. The night before the test should include a light review, and various relaxing activities. A full night”s sleep is one of the best preparations for the test .

What Should I Bring to the Exam?

Here are some suggestions:

  • Several pencils and an eraser that does not leave smudges.
  • Black- or blue-colored pens for use on the free-response section.
  • A watch so that you can monitor your time. You never know if the exam room will, or will not, have a clock on the wall. Make sure you turn off the beep that goes off on the hour.
  • A calculator that you have used during your preparation for the exam. Do not bring a new or unfamiliar calculator.
  • Your school code.
  • Your photo identification and social security number.
  • Tissues.
  • Your quiet confidence that you are prepared and ready to rock and roll.

What Should I NOT Bring to the Exam?

It”s probably a good idea to leave the following items at home:

  • A cell phone, beeper, PDA, or walkie-talkie.
  • Books, a dictionary, study notes, flash cards, highlighting pens, correction fluid, a ruler, or any other office supplies.
  • Portable music of any kind.
  • Clothing with any chemistry on it.
  • Panic or fear. It”s natural to be nervous, but you can comfort yourself that you have used this book and that there is no room for fear on your exam.

You should:

  • Allow plenty of time to get to the test site.
  • Wear comfortable clothing.
  • Eat a light breakfast and/or lunch.
  • Remind yourself that you are well prepared and that the test is an enjoyable challenge and a chance to share your knowledge.
  • Be proud of yourself!
  • Review the tip sheet on avoiding “stupid” mistakes at the back of this book.

Once test day comes, there is nothing further you can do. Do not worry about what you could have done differently. It is out of your hands, and your only job is to answer as many questions correctly as you possibly can. The calmer you are, the better your chances of doing well.