March 22, 2021, by

This year’s AP Chemistry exams are back to their typical full length

As COVID – 19 continues to affect schools across the country, the College Board this year will be offering digital Advanced Placement exams in addition to its regular paper exams.

This year’s AP Chemistry exams are back to their typical full length of 3 hours for regular time and 4.5 hours with extended time.  There are some significant differences between the paper and digital exams for the AP Chemistry test this year, most notably that the digital version will include many more multiple-choice (MC) questions and fewer free response questions. Read on for test dates, details on the two test formats, and study tips, and know that Marks Education is here to help you as you prepare for these unusual AP exams and to best take advantage of what we know and have available to get you prepped for the test!


Test Dates

There are three dates this year for the AP Chemistry exam:

  • Friday May 7, 8am local time — Paper exam, in-school
  • Tuesday May 25, 8am local time — Paper exam, in-school
  • Thurs Jun 10, 12pm EDT – Digital exam, in-school or at-home

Paper Exam

Section I: Multiple Choice

  • 60 questions, 1 hr 30 minutes (50% of Exam Score)

Section II: Free Response

  • 7 questions, 1 hr 45 minutes (50% of Exam Score)

Digital Exam

Section I: Multiple Choice

  • 60 questions, 1 hr 30 minutes (50% of Exam Score)

Section II: Multiple Choice and Free Response

  • MC: 40 questions, 60 minutes
  • FRQ: 3 questions, 45 minutes
  • Total: 1 hr 45 minutes (50% of Exam Score)

Two other noteworthy differences between the paper and digital tests are that 1) students will not be allowed to submit handwritten answers for the FRQs on the digital test, and 2) students will not be able to move back and forth between questions on the digital test.  This second point is more significant, as it means that students will need to finalize and submit their answer to each question before moving on to the next question and won’t be able to revisit questions after completing the section.


Exam Content

Below is a table showing the topic distribution from previous years for the Multiple Choice section. The topics vary much more from year to year on the FRQs.


Preparing for the AP Chemistry Exam


Thankfully there is a lot of great material out there for students to use to prepare for AP exams, especially the FRQs.  Below is a list of tips for getting ready for the real test.

  1. Access the AP Chemistry course homepage in AP Classroom on the College Board website. There are MC and FRQ problem sets for every unit, and these are excellent review tools. They do need to be unlocked by your teacher, so if they are still locked, request that your teacher open those up to begin review.
  2. Know which topics are covered on the exam. Also, the AP Chemistry Course and Exam Description document has an overview of all covered topics on pg 22-24, and then much more in-depth info from pg 27-187. Consider a Barron’s or Princeton Review book or working with a tutor for specific topic review.
  3. Use the past FRQs and their scoring guidelines which the College Board provides on the AP Chem page (links below). These are some of the best resources you have. Attempt these questions after thorough content review, and work through them as if you were answering them on the real test. Compare you answers to the published scoring guidelines to approximate how many points you would earn.  Then study the correct answers!

2019 FRQ

2014 – 2018 FRQs:

Pre 2014:

FRQs from earlier than 2014 can be found in pdf form by a simple web search with the year, for example “AP Chemistry Free Response pdf 2012”.

  1. Learn your reactions! Keep a list to review, and know both general forms and common specific reactions.  For example:

General: Non-metal oxides plus water yield oxyacids

Specific: CO2 + H2O → H2CO3

  1. Know the periodic table inside and out.  This is your main tool and reference that holds so much information about each element, from its mass, to its electron structure, to its chemical and physical properties, just by virtue of its location on the table.  Also be sure to understand periodic trends and the forces behind them.

Test Taking Tips

  1. Be as neat and thorough in your practice work as you will need to be on the real test.  Since these are open ended free-response questions, they are graded by humans, who will need to be able to read and understand your answers and follow your calculations. Make it as easy as possible for them to award you all the possible points.  Also, don’t forget to include units!
  2. Pay attention to sig-figs! On Chemistry FRQs, students are given a grace of one significant figure in either direction, meaning if the answer to a problem should have 3 sig figs, answers with 2, 3, or 4 sig figs will be counted as correct.  However, it’s worth paying attention to these and making sure to round correctly to avoid losing any points!
  3. Attempt every part of the FRQs. Most questions have multiple parts, and there is no penalty for wrong answers, so make sure to put down something for every part of every question, even if it’s a guess. And if you are guessing, try to use your best logic and reasoning to get close to the correct answer, and include related terms and vocabulary for a shot at partial credit.

Take advantage of the resources available to get fully prepped for the AP Chem exam this year and get that 5!

Marks Education offers wide-ranging services in counseling and tutoring for students seeking admission to high schools, colleges and graduate schools.

For more information about changes to the 2020 AP exams, check out our blog post on the topic here.

If you would like help as you prepare for the AP Chemistry exam, check out the bios of our experienced AP Chemistry tutors here: Dan Bloss, Dan Hertz, Ian Perez, Ellie Koo

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