AP Program

This course is designed to be the equivalent of the general chemistry course usually taken during the first college year. For some students, this course enables them to undertake, as freshmen, second-year work in the chemistry sequence at their institution or to register for courses in other fields where general chemistry is a prerequisite. For other students, the AP Chemistry course fulfills the laboratory science requirement and frees time for other courses.

AP Chemistry should meet the objectives of a good general chemistry course. Students should attain a depth of understanding of fundamentals and a reasonable competence in dealing with chemical problems. The course should contribute to the development of the students' abilities to think clearly and to express their ideas, orally and in writing, with clarity and logic. The college course in general chemistry differs qualitatively from the usual first secondary school course in chemistry with respect to the kind of textbook used, the topics covered, the emphasis on chemical calculations and the mathematical formulation of principles, and the kind of laboratory work done by students. Quantitative differences appear in the number of topics treated, the time spent on the course by students, and the nature and the variety of experiments done in the laboratory. Secondary schools that wish to offer an AP Chemistry course must be prepared to provide a laboratory experience equivalent to that of a typical college course.

The AP Chemistry course is designed to be taken only after the successful completion of a first course in high school chemistry. It is strongly recommended that credit in a first-year high school chemistry course be a prerequisite for enrollment in an AP Chemistry class. In addition, the recommended mathematics prerequisite for an AP Chemistry class is the successful completion of a second-year algebra course. The advanced work in chemistry should not displace any other part of the student's science curriculum. It is highly desirable that a student have a course in secondary school physics and a four-year college preparatory program in mathematics.

How Much Time Is Needed for an AP Chemistry Course?

To develop the requisite intellectual and laboratory skills, AP Chemistry students need adequate classroom and laboratory time. It is expected that a minimum of 290 minutes per week will be allotted for an AP Chemistry course. Of that time, a minimum of 90 minutes per week, preferably in one session, should be spent in the lab. (Time devoted to class and laboratory demonstrations should not be counted as part of the laboratory period.) In addition, students will probably need to spend at least five hours a week studying outside of class.

What's Needed to Teach AP Chemistry?

Ideally, the AP Chemistry teacher should have completed an undergraduate major program in chemistry including at least a year's work in physical chemistry. Teachers with such training are best able to present a course with adequate breadth and depth and to develop the students' abilities to use the fundamental facts of the science in their reasoning. Because of the nature of the AP course, the teacher needs time for extra preparation for both class and laboratory and should have his or her teaching load adjusted accordingly.

Topics Covered

The importance of the theoretical aspects of chemistry has brought about an increasing emphasis on these aspects of the content of general chemistry courses. Topics such as the structure of matter, kinetic theory of gases, chemical equilibria, chemical kinetics, and the basic concepts of thermodynamics are now being presented in considerable depth.

Chemistry is broad enough to permit flexibility in its teaching, and college teachers exercise considerable freedom in methods and arrangements of topics in the effort to reach the objectives of their courses. There is no desire to impose greater uniformity on the secondary schools than now exists in the colleges. Therefore, the list of topics for an AP course is intended to be a guide to the level and breadth of treatment expected rather than to be a syllabus.

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Last modified: 08/13/19