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AP Chemistry: How to Succeed on the Exam

Advanced Placement (AP) exams are incredibly beneficial for high school students. Succeeding on an AP exam can give a student college credit. It will also demonstrate ability and dedication to education during the college application process. 

However, AP exams are also challenging. Properly studying for these exams is vital, especially for math and science exams. 

AP Chemistry is one of the most challenging exams with an average score of 2.80 and a passing rate of 56% . This may seem daunting, but preparation can help students succeed and get college credit for their knowledge in chemistry. 

Here is a comprehensive guide on how to succeed on the AP Chemistry exam. 

Understand the Exam

AP Chemistry :The first step to success is knowing what is expected of you. The College Board has written an extensive summary of what is covered on the AP Chemistry exam. All the topics are divided into Six Big Ideas:

1. Chemical elements are fundamental building materials of matter and all matter can be understood in terms of arrangement of atoms. 

2. Chemical and physical properties of materials can be explained by the structure and arrangement of atoms, ions, or molecules.

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

4. Rates of chemical reactions are determined by details of molecular collisions. 

5. The laws of thermodynamics describe the essential role of energy and explain the direction of changes. 

6. Any bond or intermolecular attraction that can be formed can be broken.

That is it. If a topic does not fall under one of these big ideas, it will not be on the exam. This includes topics like quantum numbers, molecular orbital theory, and phase diagrams, among others. 

It is recommended to download a complete list of topics covered on the exam from the College Board to streamline the studying process. 

It is also important to understand the exam format. Each AP Chemistry exam consists:

  • Multiple choice and a free response section
  • Each weighted at 50 percent of the final score.
  • The multiple choice section consists of 60 questions to be completed in an hour and 30 minutes.
  • The free response section has 7 questions to be completed in an hour and 45 minutes.
  • A calculator is only permitted during the free response section.

Know What it Takes to Score Well

It is important to recognize that AP exams are scored on a curve. That means that the specific percentage score needed to pass changes slightly each year. Generally, though, a 45% on the exam is enough to pass with a 3 and around a 70% correlates with a 5. 

Because each university has its own AP exam acceptance policy, it is also important to check and see what score to aim for. While a 3 is passing, some schools will waive more credits for a 4 or a 5 or will not accept an exam in a student’s major. 

High Yield Tips for Studying

As apparent by the 6 Big Ideas, there are a lot of things to know for the AP Chemistry exam. Because of this, starting early is vital. Many students start studying two months before exam day. 

Building a study timeline can be very helpful. This allows for study sessions to be organized and can eliminate the stress of not knowing what to study on a given day. 

High School student taking notes in classroom

Before studying, it is also essential to collect study resources. This should include class notes and any resources provided by teachers. Look for books modeled after the Big Ideas that also include practice exams. Stutorialz has an extensive AP chemistry Learning management system complete with course content and practice tests.

Remember that the AP exam is over three hours long. The vast majority of students do not have experience taking exams this long. Practicing exams that emulate this length are key. Most teachers will have practice exams available for students and test prep companies generally sell them along with their review materials. The College Board also has free-response questions from past exams available for students to practice with as well 

Because of the high volume of material to know for the exam, spaced repetition is vital. This study technique uses increasing intervals of time while studying to maximize memorization while minimizing the time required. You can learn more about spaced repetition and other high yield study techniques here.

Specific Things to Focus On in Chemistry

One of the most critical parts of the AP Chemistry exam is units, particularly in the free response section where students can lose points for not including them. Be sure to memorize units when learning formulas. It is also beneficial to learn how to manipulate units when converting numbers. 

Conversions are also vital to stoichiometry. Going from grams to moles and back is a key skill in chemistry and is sure to be tested on the AP exam. As with many things, practice makes perfect with stoichiometry, so ensure enough time is put into this topic. 

Finally, when writing free response answers, graders are looking for the correct use of scientific language. Explaining chemical phenomena in clear and accurate language is what can make the difference between a 1 and a 5. 

Know When to Get Extra Help

Perhaps one of the most crucial parts of the studying process is knowing when to get extra help. AP Chemistry is a broad subject and understanding of everything is critical to getting a high score. However, many students excel in only a few subjects on the exam. 

Getting a tutor can help ensure that your student goes into the exam with detailed knowledge of every Big Idea. Stutorialz offers a highly personalized online learning platform supported by qualified tutors to help any student get the score they want on the AP exam. You can learn more about Stutorialz’s chemistry services here chemistry help.

AP Chemistry is a challenging exam, but with proper preparation a passing score is achievable. Just remember to start early and focus on improving weak areas to get the best outcome on test day. Stutorialz can help make those last crucial week count –Get Exam ready.

Stutorialz - A Virtual Tutoring Centre for High school Math and Sciences.

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