AP® Chemistry Labs
In the AP® Chemistry course, labs play an important role, and understanding experimental procedures is essential for the final exam. AP Chem Labs account for 25% of class time, making them an important element of the curriculum. Throughout the year, you will be expected to do at least sixteen hands-on lab experiments, six of which must be "guided inquiry" labs. According to the College Board® course description, "Increased lab time is linked to greater AP results."
This page contains all of the required information for the AP Chemistry Labs, including the requisite materials and a list of the labs.
Why are AP Chemistry Labs Important?
The AP Chemistry curriculum is geared toward helping students like you understand important chemical concepts as well as the scientific evidence that supports these concepts. The AP Chemistry course focuses on developing your conceptual understanding of chemistry, scientific reasoning, and quantitative skills.
To that end, the College Board requires that AP Chemistry teachers spend at least 25% of their instructional time doing lab investigations in the course. The AP Chemistry lab manual provides 16 inquiry-based labs that give students practice in designing experiments, collecting and analyzing data, and refining scientific explanations. The experience of “doing science” that students receive by conducting these kinds of labs plays a crucial part in preparing them for the AP Chemistry exam, which assesses student’s science practice skills as well as their content knowledge.
AP Chemistry Lab Materials
The equipment and materials required for AP Chemistry lab investigations are generally similar to those used in typical high school-level chemistry courses. However, access to some specialized equipment (eg, pH meters, spectrophotometers, etc) may be needed to carry out certain investigations. For each lab investigation, most lab manuals provide a list of materials and equipment required.
What labs are in AP Chemistry?
There used to be 22 labs that every AP Chemistry student was supposed to do. However, that is no longer the case. The AP Chemistry lab manual that is now used includes 16 inquiry-based lab investigations that are aligned with the AP Chemistry curriculum framework. However, teachers may substitute other labs that are inquiry-based and cover content within the curriculum framework.
The list of AP Chemistry labs consists of the following 16 labs from the lab manual:
Investigation 1: Spectroscopy
In this lab, students explore the relationship between different regions of the electromagnetic spectrum and the types of transitions (molecular and electronic) that are associated with different regions of the spectrum. Students will gain experience reading a UV-VIS spectrum, applying graphical information, and designing experimental procedures.
Investigation 2: Spectrophotometry
This lab investigation allows students to explain the relationship between the amount of light absorbed by a solution and the concentration of that solution. Students will get to practice using a spectrophotometer, identifying wavelengths, and determining the molarity of a specific solution. Students will also use computational skills to identify the percent by mass composition of an element in a solution.
Investigation 3: Gravimetric Analysis
Here, students will demonstrate their knowledge of quantity calculation using the mole concept and dimensional analysis skills. They will analyze the relationship between the composition of elements by mass and a pure substance’s empirical formula. Skills used in this lab include determining the relationship between microscopic and macroscopic behaviors of a solution and developing experimental protocols. Students also explore theoretical yield and the process of filtration.
Investigation 4: Titration
In this lab, students gain experience identifying the equivalence point in a titration. They will design a data collection procedure, including selecting appropriate lab equipment and acid-base indicator, represent their results with diagrams, and make predictions about a real-world application of the experiment.
Investigation 5: Chromatography
This investigation allows students to dive into the relationship between the solubility of compounds in different solvents and intermolecular forces. Students will practice the skills of improving experimental results, collecting data, evaluating a paper chromatograph, and making scientific claims. They will also create models to represent the attraction between molecules.
Investigation 6: Bonding in Solids
In this experiment, students explore the relationship between the type of bonding that occurs between elements and the properties of those elements. Students will dive into the relationship between a substance’s macroscopic properties, the microscopic structure of that substance, and particle interactions. They will practice designing an experiment, creating particulate models of bonds, analyzing data, and making scientific claims. Students will also design a flowchart applying what has been learned in the experiment to the identification of unknown solid compounds.
Investigation 7: Stoichiometry
In this lab, students learn to perform calculations on solutions including volume, molarity, and number of solute particles. Additionally, students will use a balanced reaction equation to explain changes in the amount of reactants and products. During this investigation, students will mimic activities in the peer-review process of science, including verification of an experiment that has been performed, checking calculations, and analyzing experimental findings.
Investigation 8: Oxidation-Reduction (Redox) Titration
Students will learn how to represent changes in matter with a balanced equation (chemical and net ionic) while conducting a redox titration. Students will perform calculations to determine the concentration of an unknown solution. They will also get to critically analyze the design of an experiment to find ways to improve upon it.
Investigation 9: Physical and Chemical Changes
In this investigation, students explore how to identify the pH of a buffer solution by using the concentrations and identities of the conjugate acid-base pair that was used to make the buffer solution. Students will gain practice designing a flowchart to the design of the experiment, inferring whether physical or chemical changes have taken place, and improving experimental design. They will also learn the basics of vacuum filtration and how to perform acid-base separation.
Investigation 10: Kinetics: Rate of Reaction
Here, students will explore the relationship between the specific parameters of an experiment and the rate of a certain chemical reaction. In this experiment, students will form a hypothesis, make modifications to an experimental procedure, and gain practice graphing data and drawing conclusions from data. Finally, students practice sound laboratory skills such as the accurate timing of reaction occurrence.
Investigation 11: Kinetics: Rate Laws
During this experiment, students relate experimental data to a rate law expression and practice identifying the rate law of a particular chemical reaction. Students will apply equations (eg, Beer’s law) to calculate rate laws. Graphing skills are used in this investigation, including how to perform a linear regression.
Investigation 12: Calorimetry
Students will practice calculating the heat absorbed or released by a particular system that is going through heating, cooling, a phase change, or a chemical reaction. In doing so, they will be able to explain a model in terms of chemical theories, evaluate data, and perform calculations to determine the heat of reaction. Students will also gain understanding of experimental errors and practice analyzing graphical data.
Investigation 13: Equilibrium
In this investigation, students use Le Châtelier’s principle to determine the response of a system at equilibrium due to a perturbation and identify perturbations that can cause a change to a given system. They will be able to predict the direction a reaction will proceed in order to reach its equilibrium. Students will gain further understanding of how to design and execute an experiment, as well as how to interpret data.
Investigation 14: Acid-Base Titration
Students will learn how to perform acid-base titrations and to explain the results of the titration in relation to the solution’s properties and components. In doing so, students will practice drawing models to represent the different protonation states of a titrant during a titration. Furthermore, students will gain practice with calculations of values including pH and pKa, choosing a testable question, analyzing titration curves, and collecting and comparing data.
Investigation 15: Buffering Activity
Here, students will investigate buffer solutions and how they stabilize pH. Students will practice experimental design, the accurate observation and collection of data, and graphical representation of obtained data. Students will also become familiar with estimating equivalence points and whether an unknown solution can act as a buffer.
Investigation 16: Buffer Design
In this final investigation, students learn how to prepare an effective buffer and how to test its buffering capacity. They will relate this information to the relative concentrations of the conjugate acid and conjugate base of a solution. Given a question from the instructor, students will design an experiment to test that question and brainstorm ways to improve upon their design.
You finally know why labs are an essential part of AP Chemistry. The more experience you have doing labs aligned to the AP Chemistry curriculum framework, the better prepared you will be for the AP Chemistry exam. To get a comprehensive plan with everything you need to know about the AP Chemistry exam, check out our guide on AP Chemistry Units and our AP Chemistry Study Guide. With these resources at your disposal, you have everything you need to reach your goals in AP Chemistry!
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