5 Ways to Get the Most Out of Your AP Chemistry Class
Advanced Placement (AP) Chemistry is a college level class offered to high school students that combines the conceptual aspects of AP Biology with the mathematical components of AP Physics.
Like all AP courses, there is an AP Chemistry exam in May. The exam consists of two sections, the multiple choice section and the free response section, that are both worth 50 percent of your test grade. During the multiple choice section, you will have an hour and a half to answer 60 multiple choice questions without a calculator. And during the free response section, you will have an hour and forty-five minutes to answer three long questions and four short questions using your calculator. If you earn a 5 on the exam, you will be eligible to receive college credit.
While earning a 5 on the exam in May is important, acing the class is equally as important. Your grade in your AP class dictates your GPA, your class rank, and your impression on college admissions officers.
Coming into AP Chemistry with a strong understanding of Algebra is crucial, but a strong foundation in Algebra isn’t the only key to succeeding in AP Chemistry.
Here are the top 5 tips for thriving in your AP Chemistry class and earning a top score on the exam!
1. Know that Every Topic is Connected
In AP Chemistry, every unit builds on the one before it. That means that in order to understand the later and more challenging units, you must have a strong understanding of the units covered at the beginning of the school year.
For example, you’ll have trouble understanding Unit 9 on the Applications of Thermodynamics if you’ve forgotten everything you know about Unit 1 on Atomic Structure and Properties.
The best way to avoid forgetting units that were covered at the beginning of the school year is to set time aside every week to review. Reviewing previous units will help keep the information fresh in your mind and give you a strong foundation for understanding why certain things are occurring in later units.
For more information about the units you’ll cover in AP Chemistry, check out the CollegeBoard website.
2. Stay on Top of the Vocabulary
There are a lot of words in AP Chemistry that have similar meanings. For example, the terms atom, molecule, and ion may seem interchangeable. However, they are not.
Each term applies to problems differently. And if you are solving a problem for one term when you should be solving for another, you’re going to end up with an incorrect answer.
The best way to stay on top of AP Chemistry terms is to keep a separate section in your notebook or binder dedicated to vocabulary. Make sure to define each word and to note the differences between words that seem similar.
Another way to stay on top of AP Chemistry vocabulary is to annotate your problems. Underline any key words and define them in the margins. This will help you focus on what you need to solve for.
3. Know Your Calculator
Your calculator is a valuable tool in helping you solve problems. But if you don’t know how to use your calculator, then you could end up with a wrong answer.
Since Algebra is a large part of AP Chemistry, it is important that you know the order of operations and how to layer your parentheses using a calculator.
Knowing your calculator is all about practice. All of the problems you’ll solve throughout each of the units is practice for the test in May. Therefore, you should consider every class an opportunity to get comfortable with your calculator. Learn how to navigate each function of the calculator from parentheses to exponents, so you feel confident come test day.
4. Practice Your Algebra
As stated earlier, a strong knowledge of Algebra is essential for success in AP Chemistry.
Many of the AP Chemistry problems will force you to manipulate equations to get a response. Very rarely will a problem ask you to find the actual solution. Instead, you will most likely solve for a variable within the equation.
That’s why it’s important to keep practicing your Algebra skills. Set aside time each week to review the foundational elements of Algebra and make note of how those elements apply to the current unit you’re studying.
5. Follow the Clues
AP Chemistry is the perfect combination of concept and math. When solving a problem, you always want your answer to be correct. But in AP Chemistry, the process of getting the right answer is just as important as solving the problem correctly.
For example, if you’re given the results of an experiment for a free response and come up with an answer whether correct or incorrect, you need to be able to track how you got that answer.
Since AP Chemistry is all about the bigger picture of a problem, it is important that you experience lab work. Experiments are a step-by-step process. They are hands-on problem solving. If you can’t do your own hands-on experiments, then watch YouTube videos to get the experience. The goal is for you to understand the process of why the experiment is being done.
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