AP® Chemistry Exam Format
All You Need to Know
Section II: Free-Response Questions (FRQ)
Section II is the longest section of the AP Chemistry exam. It lasts one hour and forty-five minutes. You will be expected to answer 3 long-essay questions and four short-answer questions. Questions in this section usually come in sets of 2 or more. Each question set will be linked to a given passage.
The long-essay questions in this section are worth 10 points each, while the short-answer questions are worth up to four points each. Similar to Section I, this second section will also test your knowledge of the content taught in the nine units of AP Chemistry. However, unlike the previous section, which only tests 5 of the 6 six science practices, this section will test your skills in all six science practices.
Let’s take a look at the weight distribution of each of the science practices in this section.
|Models and Representations||2–4%|
|Question and Method||10–16%|
|Representing Data and Phenomena||8–16%|
Free-response questions require you to demonstrate your mastery of both the topics and the scientific practices covered you learned and applied during the course. While there are no answer choices, remember that the question contains all the information you need to craft your essays. The formula sheet and periodic table chart provided will also help you answer these questions.
Now let's talk about the time you'll have to answer these questions. We know the total time allotted to complete this section is one hour and forty-five minutes. If we divide the allotted time according to the question types, you should ideally be able to answer short-answer questions in five to ten minutes and long-essay questions in fifteen to twenty minutes. This approach provides time to review your answers and address any questions you may have left unanswered or unfinished.
|Type of Free-Response Question||Number of Questions||Total Points|
|Short-answer questions||4||Four points each|
|Long-essay questions||3||Ten points each|
Answering free-response questions takes practice. It's also essential to learn how to approach these questions correctly. Since you will need to draft your own answers, learning to frame them to include the relevant information and science practices is crucial. To help you better prepare for this section, we've put together some tips and pointers in our article on how to approach AP Chemistry free-response questions.
What Do You Need to Study to Ace AP Chemistry?
The syllabus for AP Chemistry rests on two foundational aspects — the four big ideas and the six science practices. The entire course contains nine units, with multiple topics in each unit. Each unit covers one or more of the big ideas and science practices.
To do well in the exam, you will need to design a study plan that covers all nine units of the syllabus. Keep the AP Chemistry exam format in mind while creating your study plan. The weight of the science practices in each section indicates how much time you will need to spend on each unit. You can read more about what concepts you will need to study in our article on AP Chemistry’s Unit Guides.
Digital vs. Paper Format of the AP Chemistry Exam
With the introduction of the digital exam due to the COVID-19 pandemic, one of the most frequently asked questions is — What’s the difference between the digital and paper format of the AP Chemistry exam?
To help answer this, we’ve put together a table of the key points of difference between the two exam formats below.
|*Digital Exam Format||Pen & Paper Exam Format|
|Answers to free-response questions will need to be keyed in.||Answers to free-response questions will need to be handwritten.|
|Once an answer is submitted, you will not be allowed to go back and make edits. You will need to finalize each answer before submitting it||You can move back and forth between questions in the exam.|
Now that you know everything there is to know about the format of the AP Chemistry exam, it’s time to put it to use in your study plan. You also want to make sure you take practice tests. This is the best way to familiarize yourself with the exam format and also ensure you have practiced with real exam timing. This will give you insight into the pace you’ll need to maintain while going through each section of the AP Chemistry exam.
If you’re looking for a platform to take practice tests with AP-level questions, you can check out UWorld’s online AP Chemistry practice tests. We have over 500 questions that are at the same difficulty level as those you might encounter on the exam. In addition, all our practice questions come with detailed explanations and educational illustrations for all concepts in the AP Chemistry course.
You can also make flashcards and use our digital notebook feature to make customized notes as you go through each practice question. So what are you waiting for? Give it a go and get ready to ace AP Chemistry with UWorld!