AP Chemistry with Nicholas Lang at MEK
MEK’s Advanced Placement Course & Exam Prep classes are opening in January 2023. We’re offering small group virtual classes and private tutoring designed to give students the strategies and skills to ace their challenging AP classes and earn a 5 on the AP exam in May.
This Spring, we are offering AP Chemistry taught by expert instructor Mr. Nicholas Lang.
Mr. Lang is a Stockton University graduate and also a BCA graduate who teaches on the students’ level so they can reach their academic goals and enjoy learning along the way. He aims to help students understand relationships between different concepts in chemistry.
We interviewed Mr. Lang to get his insights as to what foundational skills students need going into AP Chemistry, actionable steps students can take to succeed in their AP Chemistry classes, and how students can build confidence in their chemistry skills.
Read on to see what he had to say to help students conquer this notoriously challenging AP course!
Course Objectives & Prerequisite Skills for AP Chemistry
What are the course objectives for AP Chemistry?
Lang: There are generally two extremes for AP sciences. On one end, we have Physics, which is all math. On the other end, we have Biology, which is based on concepts and uses very little math. Chemistry is the middle ground, a fusion of the two. Students must both use their math skills and understand the reason behind each concept, such as what an atom or molecule is doing. It is not enough to just be strong in math or just grasp concepts. Students need to understand the theories.
AP Chemistry is not linear and so units don’t need to be learned sequentially. However, free response questions on the exams draw on interconnections. Concepts are related to each other in many ways. As such, students have to retain knowledge of topics to apply them later for a certain property or atom structure. Essentially, they must apply theory to problem-solving.
What skills should students have going into their AP Chemistry classes?
Lang: Without a solid foundation in basic chemistry, students struggle and everything hits them at once like a brick. Most school districts offer at least honors chemistry for students. Better school programs lay out the foundation so students will have a few years of experience taking chemistry courses before the AP course.
MEK will take all students regardless of how much foundational knowledge they have. Based on their experience and performance, they can directly join the class or go into private tutoring.
Does having a strong understanding of AP Chemistry help students succeed in other AP science courses?
Lang: Yes. Chemistry is most related to Biology, which covers a few units of Chemistry and shares some material. Both subjects discuss nutrients, cells, and the chemical level of phenomena. Also, some parts of biology are dependent on chemistry. More generally, all STEM APs have the same AP exam and course structure, so taking AP Chemistry helps students with other STEM APs in that sense.
Why do some students find AP Chemistry to be a difficult subject?
Lang: Many students struggle with AP Chemistry. If they have a rocky foundation, they will have a more difficult time. Different school districts prepare students for chemistry at different levels. AP Chemistry is a very dense class with a ton of theories and concepts to understand. When students are starting out, they either prefer learning the concepts in a descriptive way or they are math-oriented and excel at equations. Students tend to skew in one of the directions, but students must master both to succeed in Chemistry. Unlike APs like Calculus AB, Chemistry never slows down for any unit.
How do you help students build confidence in their science skills?
Lang: For students whose first chemistry class is AP Chemistry, they will have a tough ride. But they can still do well. Their path to success is just harder and they must work harder than students with 3 years of chemistry under their belt. These students have a lot to learn at once, but it’s still possible for them to succeed and get a 5 on the exam.
MEK students will do better than non-MEK students at a national level. A goal I give my students is to be in the top 20%. They will do better than the students at the bottom. They just have to focus on doing better than the middle ground of students who might have taken foundational chemistry courses.
School districts hypothetically teach students the basics. Regardless, at MEK, we prioritize tutoring and directly teaching the student. I try to show them why each unit and concept matters. For some students who are struggling, I may only give them private tutoring or offer tutoring as well as having them join the group class. Teaching the material, giving lots of practice work, and directly showing how concepts work are all important ways to help students learn.
Progress & Skill Mastery
What are your specific teaching methods for student engagement?
Lang: Personally, I try to keep my classes less formal and more down-to-earth. I tell them what they should know and why. I am real with my students. I try to give students a perspective on their level based on what they’re doing and seeing on the test, more so than most other teachers.
How do you get kids to progress and master skills to succeed in AP Chemistry in both the course and on the exam?
Lang: What we need to do is not only teach the material but also how the CollegeBoard will phrase the material. It might not be obvious to students what to do for a question. They need to understand how CollegeBoard will ask them to apply the material they learn. Most programs focus too much on the material, but MEK shows students how to find buzz words and how the wording of questions can trick you. Results come from practice and recognition of the actual exam. A slight difference in wording can change the concept the student should use in the question. AP exams matter more than the course long-term because scoring 5s can save students time & money in college.
Actionable Steps to Success in AP Chemistry
What are actionable steps students can take to succeed in AP Chemistry?
Lang: Try to figure out how lab assignments, free-response questions at MEK, and topics in class all relate. Because AP Chemistry is dense, students must remember all the units. Parts of some units are dependent on others. Understand the purpose of the labs. Don’t just answer the questions but also focus on the reasoning behind them. Make a list or take notes every time you see relationships between concepts/components/units. Cross those wires. Make flash cards and word banks. Have a reference page or equation page to keep track of all the concepts.
AP courses are tough and may seem intimidating at first. AP Chemistry is considered one of the toughest AP STEM courses and many students will struggle to keep up with the dense curriculum. But with a solid study plan and good study habits, students can get high grades and ace the exams.
Many AP teachers focus on only the course material, leaving students underprepared for the actual 2-3 hour exam. At MEK, we take a two-pronged approach to AP Prep. Through providing students with both lectures by experienced teachers and practice exams, students gain a solid understanding of the material and learn test-taking skills to maintain their performance under time pressure.
Click here to learn more about our AP Course offerings for Spring 2023!
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