AP® Chemistry Exam Format
All You Need to Know
What is the Format of the AP Chemistry Exam?The AP Chemistry exam has 2 main sections — a multiple-choice section (Section I) and a free-response section (Section II). This is similar in structure to most other AP exams. Each section accounts for 50% of the total points you can score on the exam. How long is the AP Chemistry Exam? The AP Chemistry exam lasts 3 hours and 15 minutes. Section I contains 60 multiple-choice questions, and you will have 1 hour and 30 minutes to complete this section. Section II of the exam consists of 7 free-response questions with a time limit of 1 hour and 45 minutes. You will be given a sheet with relevant formulas and a chart with the periodic table; use both to aid you in both sections of the exam. Calculator use is prohibited for the multiple-choice section of the exam. However, you will be allowed to use a scientific or graphing calculator in the free-response section of the exam.
|Question Type||Number of Questions||Score Weight||Total Time|
|Multiple-Choice||60||50%||1 hour 30 minutes|
|Free-Response||7||50%||1 hour 45 minutes|
Section I: Multiple-Choice Questions (MCQs)As you saw in the table above, this section of the exam lasts for 1 hour and 30 minutes, during which you will need to answer 60 multiple-choice questions. The questions are designed to test your knowledge of the various units in AP Chemistry as well as your skills in science practices. Questions in this section may be presented as discrete questions or as a set of questions based on a given passage. Discrete questions are individual multiple choice questions. In contrast, question sets will include 4 to 5 separate questions based on a given passage. Whether discrete or within a set, each question will have four answer choices for you to choose from. Given the total time you will have to complete this section, you would ideally want to read and answer each question within 1 minute and 30 seconds. However, if you manage to answer everything in less time, you will have extra time to review your answers. Allowing yourself some spare time before the end is always advisable. You can revisit answers you were unsure of, or skipped, or even just wanted to double-check. Also, remember that there is no scoring penalty for getting answers wrong. So be sure to give every question a shot, even if it’s guesswork! Like we mentioned earlier, the questions in this section will test your knowledge of the 9 units that comprise the AP Chemistry curriculum. Here is the weighting for each unit:
|Unit 1||Atomic Structure and Properties||7–9%|
|Unit 2||Molecular and Ionic Compound Structure and Properties||7–9%|
|Unit 3||Intermolecular Forces and Properties||18–22%|
|Unit 4||Chemical Reactions||7–9%|
|Unit 8||Acids and Bases||11–15%|
|Unit 9||Applications of Thermodynamics||7–9%|
|Models and Representations||8–12%|
|Question and Method||8–12%|
“Try to answer each question in one minute. If you think you’re exceeding that time limit, leave it and get back to it later. You don’t want to spend all your time on just one question.”If you would like to learn how to ace this section, you can check out our article on how to approach AP Chemistry multiple-choice questions.
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 content taught in the nine units of AP Chemistry. However, unlike the previous section, which only tests 5 of the 6 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%|
You must already be aware that the answers to free-response questions will need to be handwritten. You will not be given any hints or answer choices to choose from. However, do remember that all the information you need to answer each question can be found in the question itself. The formula sheet and periodic table chart that will be provided will also help you answer these questions.
Now let’s talk about the time you’ll have to answer these questions. We know that the total time allotted to complete this section is one hour and forty-five minutes. If the time is divided according to the question types, you should ideally be able to answer short-answer questions in five to ten minutes each and long-essay questions in fifteen to twenty minutes each. This will give you some spare time at the end to go through all your answers and address any questions that you may have left unanswered or unfinished.
|Type of Free-Response Question||Number of Questions||Total Points|
|Short-answer questions||Four||Four points each|
|Long-essay questions||Three||Ten points each|
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 Science Practices. The entire course is broken down into nine units, with multiple topics in each unit. The units are based on one or more of the Big Ideas and science practices.
Digital vs. Paper Format of the AP Chemistry ExamWith 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 format of the exam 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!