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AP® Chemistry at a Glance

Updated: Oct 9, 2022

The Advanced Placement (AP®) Program® has enabled millions of students to take college-level courses and earn college credit, advanced placement, or both, while still in high school. AP Exams are given each year in May. Students who earn a qualifying score on an AP Exam are typically eligible, in college, to receive credit, placement into advanced courses, or both.

AP Chemistry teacher with students in lab

AP® Chemistry Course Overview

Course Pre-Requisites

Students should have successfully completed a general high school chemistry course and Algebra II.

The AP Chemistry course provides students with a college-level foundation to support future advanced coursework in chemistry. Students develop their understanding of chemistry through inquiry-based investigations, as they explore content such as: atomic structure, intermolecular forces and bonding, chemical reactions, kinetics, thermodynamics, and equilibrium. The AP Chemistry course is designed to challenge students with the same material they would face in a first-year college chemistry class.

The following big ideas serve as the foundation of the course, enabling students to create meaningful connections among concepts and develop deeper conceptual understanding:

  • Scale, Proportion, and Quantity: Quantities in chemistry are expressed at both the macroscopic and atomic scales, and relationships exist both within and between these two scales.

  • Structure and Properties: Properties of substances observable at the macroscopic scale emerge from the structures of atoms and molecules and the interactions between them.

  • Transformations: Chemistry is about the rearrangement of matter, both macroscopically and sub-microscopically.

  • Energy: Energy plays an important role in characterizing and controlling chemical systems.

AP® Chemistry Exam Overview

The AP Chemistry Exam assesses student understanding of the science practices and learning objectives outlined in the course framework. The exam is 3 hours and 15 minutes long and includes 60 multiple-choice questions and 7 free-response questions. Starting with the 2022-23 school year (spring 2023 exam), a scientific or graphing calculator is recommended for use on both sections of the exam. Students are provided with the periodic table and a formula sheet that lists specific and relevant formulas for use on the exam.

Exam Structure

The AP Chemistry Exam has consistent question types, weighting, and scoring guidelines every year, so you and your students know what to expect on exam day.

Starting with the 2023 exam, a scientific or graphing calculator is recommended for use on both sections of the exam.

Section I: Multiple Choice

60 Questions | 1 Hour 30 minutes | 50% of Exam Score

  • Questions are either discrete questions or question sets, in which students are provided with a stimulus or a set of data and a series of related questions.

Section II: Free Response

7 Questions | 1 Hour 45 Minutes | 50% of Exam Score

  • There are 3 long-answer and 4 short-answer questions. Long-answer questions are worth 10 points each; short-answer questions are worth 4 points each.

  • The questions assess all 6 of the course skills: models and representations, question and method, representing data and phenomena, model analysis, mathematical routines, and argumentation.

AP® Calculator Policy

Calculators are now allowed on both sections of the exam, starting with the 2023 exam, per the AP Exam Calculator Policy.

Make sure you and your students know what calculators are permitted.


Question Type

Number of Questions

Exam Weighting



Multiple-choice questions



90 minutes


Free-response questions



105 minutes

Long-answer questions (10 points each)


Short-answer questions (4 points each)


Breakdown of the Units

The AP® Exam also assesses the nine units of the course with the following exam weighting on the multiple-choice section


Exam Weighting

Unit 1: Atomic Structure and Properties


Unit 2: Molecular and Ionic Compound Structure and Properties


Unit 3: Intermolecular Forces and Properties


Unit 4: Chemical Reactions


Unit 5: Kinetics


Unit 6: Thermodynamics


Unit 7: Principles of Equilibrium


Unit 8: Acids and Bases


Unit 9: Applications of Thermodynamics


Preparing for AP® Chemistry

Here are some additional tips that will help you better prepare for the AP Chemistry exam and make your studying more efficient.

Female student studying for AP Chemistry

1. Start with a diagnostics test

Practice tests are available online, through your AP teacher, or in review books. You should aim to take your first full-length practice test around the beginning of your second semester, with the same time constraints as the real exam (1 hour 30 minutes for multiple choice questions and 1 hour 45 minutes for free response questions).

2. Memorize the Formulas

Remember all the formulas that are relevant to the test. Despite receiving a formula sheet, it will be much easier to complete the questions if you don't have to constantly consult it. Make sure you understand how each formula can be used and what other questions it will help you with.

3. Invest in quality study materials

There are many resources available online, however not everything out there is a great match for what you need. Look at the areas that you're struggling in or additional support. Whether it's a tutor, textbook, or an online bootcamp, identify which will give you the best return on your investment.

If you’re interested in tackling AP® Chemistry this upcoming year, check out our upcoming vRealm AP® Chemistry Bootcamp that will launch soon. Using exam-like practice questions, our team of experts created a powerful interactive learning experience to help you master AP® Chemistry. You will gain a better understanding of complex chemistry topics by watching more than 300 videos that simplify each concept.

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