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A redesigned AP Chemistry course and exam launched in fall 2013. The new course is equivalent to a two-semester introductory college chemistry course. This redesign to the course and exam is a reflection of our commitment to continually enhance AP’s alignment with current best practices in college-level learning. Learn more about the AP course and exam redesign.

Foundations of the Redesign

A 2002 report issued by the National Research Council, Learning and Understanding: Improving Advanced Study of Mathematics and Science in U.S. High Schools, formed the basis for the redesign of AP science exams, including Chemistry. The report recommended the following improvements to the AP science program:

  • The primary goal of AP should be to help students develop a deep understanding of the unifying concepts, principles, and science practices in each scientific discipline.
  • Curricula for advanced study should emphasize depth of understanding over exhaustive coverage of content.
  • Instruction in advanced courses should engage students in inquiry by providing opportunities to experiment, analyze information critically, make conjectures and argue about their validity, and solve problems.

Course and Exam Overview


The key concepts and related content that define the AP Chemistry course and exam are organized around underlying principles called the Big Ideas. They encompass core scientific principles, theories, and processes that cut across traditional boundaries and provide a broad way of thinking about the particulate nature of matter underlying the observations students make about the physical world. The curriculum is fully described in the Course and Exam Description.

Chemistry Big Ideas

  • The chemical elements are the building blocks of matter, which can be understood in terms of the arrangements of atoms.
  • Chemical and physical properties of materials can be explained by the structure and the arrangement of atoms, ions, or molecules and the forces between them.
  • Changes in matter involve the rearrangement and/or reorganization of atoms and/or the transfer of electrons.
  • Rates of chemical reactions are determined by details of the molecular collisions.
  • The laws of thermodynamics describe the essential role of energy and explain and predict the direction of changes in matter.
  • Bonds or attractions that can be formed can be broken. These two processes are in constant competition, sensitive to initial conditions and external forces or changes.

Science Practices

Students establish lines of evidence and use them to develop and refine testable explanations and predictions of natural phenomena. The focus on these disciplinary practices promote a more engaging and rigorous experience for AP Chemistry students. These practices include:

  • Use representations and models to communicate scientific phenomena and solve scientific problems;
  • Use mathematics appropriately;
  • Engage in scientific questioning to extend thinking or to guide investigations within the context of the AP course;
  • Plan and implement data collection strategies in relation to a particular scientific question;
  • Perform data analysis and evaluation of evidence;
  • Work with scientific explanations and theories; and
  • Connect and relate knowledge across various scales, concepts, and representations in and across domains.


This course requires that 25 percent of the instructional time provides students with opportunities to engage in laboratory investigations. This includes a minimum of 16 hands-on labs, at least six of which are inquiry based. The lab manual is available for college faculty review. To receive a copy, email [email protected].


To see the exam format and sample exam questions, visit the AP Chemistry AP Chemistry exam information page.