The AP Chemistry Exam: Introduction
By Roy Kim

I took the AP Chemistry Exam during the 1999-2000 school year. These are my experiences from the test and some of my suggestions.


The AP exam consists of two different portions: the multiple choice and the free response. You have a total of 180 minutes to complete the test. The multiple choice, in which you get 90 minutes to complete, counts for 45% of the grade, while the free response (which consists of 6 problems), counts for 55%.

Here it the secret to scoring high on the AP exam: Take old practice AP exams. These are the best type of preparation anywhere.

The topics that the College Board puts out for the AP Chem exam can be viewed here.

Multiple Choice

The multple choice consists of 75 problems that count towards your grade. I have heard that some years they will tag on ten extra questions which are "tested" for future use. The extra ten do not count towards your grade. However, you will not be able to tell which ten are the ones being tested, so you should answer all the questions.

For the multiple choice portion, they do not let you use a calculator but they give you a periodic table. Some years they give you formulas, but count on not having them. It's better to have them memorized anyway.

The multiple choice tend to be easy on the calculuations. Most of the time, you can make an educated guess as to what the actual answer is. Remember that for each question you get right, you get 1 point, and for each one you get wrong, you lose 1/4 of a point. (You do not get or lose any points for blank answers). If you can eliminate at least one answer, you're better off guessing, since statistically, you will end up "winning" in terms of points.

GUESSING: WARNING: USE AT YOUR OWN RISK!: Here is a "strategy" I picked up after way too many strandardized tests. Although this isn't always right, I've found it works about 65% of the time when randomly guessing. If you *like* to not leave stuff blank (even if you haven't eliminated one of the answers), here is my take on how to guess mathematical questions:

Look at this answer set:

(a) 0.04    (b) 2.10    (c) 9.34    (d) 4.00     (e) 4.25

You'll notice that two of the answers seem similiar. The nasty bastards who make the AP test like to make questions that have an "extra step" that they hope 60% of the kids won't catch on to. One of the answers is sure to be "before the step" and one of the answers (the right one) will be the one "after the step." The "step" I refer to is usually conversion between units. Sometimes they'll give you units in mL and will want answers in L.

To me, it seems that if you see an answer set, and two seem similiar (whether the decimal has moved or an answer is "half" of another), I would take a wild guess on one of them.

Again, this isn't a proven theory, but it's worked for me on multiple occasions. Use at your own risk!

NOTE: Do not spend too much time on one question. A lot of people run out time on this multiple choice portion; all the questions are worth the same amount. Also remember that you do not get taken off for any blank answers! If you skim the question, and have doubts on how to do it, SKIP IT! Do not hesitate. Avoid the "balancing" the reaction questions. Most of those questions are actually redox, and redox questions take a long time to do.

For more info on ....

Free Response

The free response can be broken down into three different sections: calculation, writing chemical reactions, and essays.

The calculation free response section consists of three questions. One will be required, which usually involved equilibrium, and you will have a choice between the other two to answer one. Both of the questions you answer count for 18 total raw points and you will get 40 minutes to answer them. Each question contains between four to six subquestions and you can receive partial credit.

When answering the calculation free response, be very careful and state the obvious. Writing the equation is sometimes worth as much points as getting the right answer. When putting answers, remember significant figures and units!! If you do NOT put units, you can lose a whole point (a point is a LOT)!

If you make a mistake on an early part, and this mistake carriers on through the other sections, you will not lose any more points than from the first section. Since this portion of the test is graded by humans, you can get a lot of partial credit.

The writing chemical reaction part, for me, was the easiest. However, this one is the hardest section to prepare for. The writing chemical reaction portion consists of 9 worded sentences. From this sentence, you must write out the full net ionic reaction, with the products and reactants correct. You have to do 5 of the 9 questions (your choice), and this counts for 15 raw points. Some years, they separate this as a separate timed section (10 minutes). However, for the year I took it (1999-2000), they combined it with the essay section.

The essays concentrate more on concepts. Sometimes two essays will be required, sometimes one. Either way, look forward to doing three total essays. Each of these essays are worth a total of 8 points with multiple part questions (partial credit granted).

Overall Scoring:

A= # of multiple choice correct
B = # of multiple choice incorrect
C = # of points earned on all calculation essay questions
D = # of points earned on writing chemical reactions
E = # of points earned on all essays

A - (0.25*B) = Points earned on MC


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