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2024 AP Chemistry
Released FRQ Reflections and Answers

May 12, 2024

The 2024 AP Chemistry FRQs were released on the CB web site as usual i.e., 48 hours after the exam that took place on Monday of this past week. I used to be in the habit of publishing my answers to, and reflections on, them as fast as was humanly possible. Those days are long gone for various reasons, and I think it’s for the best. Knee-jerk reactions are seldom the most insightful, and perhaps (just perhaps) I would overstate the plummeting decline in the rigor of the exam.

Well here we are, several days later than normally speedily written comments, and I’m confident in reporting that the 2024 released FRQs might be the weakest, most disappointing set of AP exam questions in the history of AP Chemistry. Reflecting on them carefully for a few days still led me to exactly the same conclusion that might have been reached within a few minutes.

I have written my own answers to the 2024 FRQs, if to do nothing other than to give a sense of completeness to the resources that you can find here, but it’s hard to be motivated to do that task when I feel that any insight that I might have just isn’t much needed – the questions were just too easy. I don’t know that I could inform a good AP chemistry student, much less AP Chemistry teachers. Here are my thoughts on the FRQs themselves.

Question 1

(b) I know that FRQs have opening parts that allow kids to ‘get into the question’ (although I’ve never really understood why that is necessary), and I know that the calculation of molarity is a legitimate question in and of itself, but why not a question about the practical, lab procedure? More involved than this, and of course it would play into the CB’s obsession with lab work. I thought that they’d love that. Also, is it thought that AP chemistry students aren’t capable of deriving molar masses from the periodic table any longer?

I guess 1(b) could be the sig fig question, but there are several other candidates.

(c) and (d)(i) and (d)(ii) The utter obsession with pH being larger or smaller than pKa in buffer solutions, and the extension of the same into particulate diagrams is now complete! It’s a fixation with the CB. This is to say nothing of 2(g), which then reverts back to a blatant plug and chug on HH which we have supposed to have moved away from. I just don’t get the strategy here. At all.

Speaking of predictable, formulaic, simple to coach, unimaginative questions, we get plug and chug q, divide by moles to get ∆H, and then the “error” question in (e). HIGHLY predictable and just so high school (not college) chemistry.

What a disappointing question.

Question 2

(a) Another question for the 8th graders!

(b) This is another beautiful example of the handholding that I hate, and that has become so prevalent in modern FRQs. Why not ask (ii) without the massive hint of (i)? I mean it’s basically giving the answer away. I find this level of breakdown and hinting to be simply out of step with what is supposed to be a “college” exam. It’s kind of pitiful actually.

(c) The limiting reactant problem here is a regular chemistry question, and AP questions could be ones where, once again, the reference to the answer is not given. Just give the numbers and ask how much product is produced, without a big red flag waving in the air that says, “this is a LR problem kids, don’t forget!” Same problem as 2(b).

(f) is math, not chemistry, and the funny thing about that is that one of the mantras surrounding the AP chemistry exam has always been, “we are not examining math”. This is one of the reasons that quadratics in equilibrium problems have been shunned.

(g) See my comments relating to this in Q1.

Question 3

(a) Should be more complicated. What about asking for the balanced half-reaction to show the change in the oxidation number of the Ag species? More imaginative, harder, and would be a better question.

(b)(i) Interesting. This will actually lead to a very small tweak in my notes. The question here is, what is “similar”, and also what is (substantially) different in terms of radius? Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think there is any doubt about the correct answer here, but at what point does the size difference switch from the obvious to the less obvious? Some simple examples in my notes will clear this up for the future. In one way, I’m surprised that we don’t see some different shaded circles here to illustrate size – that would be so ‘particulate’!

(ii) I don’t think that Coulombic attraction is really required to explain the difference in size. Obviously since the question asks this there will be a possible requirement to include it, but I feel as though valence shells 5 versus 4 and their relative average distance from the nucleus should be sufficient. Is that because of Coulombic attraction? Sure, but all this does cement the CB’s obsession with it. It’s so obvious and so predictable.

(c) Another, simple, non-contextual moles calculation for no reason? Why? Giving the molar mass? Using the word “tarnish” will confuse ELL students as well.

Question 4

(a) One for the 6th grade crowd.

(b) I don’t understand the need to ask about the relationship between speed and temperature via a stupid particulate diagram. WHY? Why can’t this just be a regular question?

(c) Blatant plug and chug, and then … wait for it … repeated in (d)! That’s THREE q = m c ∆T plug and chug questions on the AP Chemistry Free Response. WOW, just WOW!

Question 5

(b)(i) MORE particulates. The obsession continues. This question is INSANE. Having asked the student to do the (chemistry) math of the equilibrium expression, the CB are now asking the student to effectively “color in a picture” to show that they know that 2 = 2 molecules of HI. It’s the kind of thing you’d ask an elementary school child to do.

(ii) It’s a somewhat torturous way to ask about an equilibrium shift. Why the plot?

Question 6

(a) Assuming that simply referring to the linear nature of the reciprocal graph will get the point, there are so many more creative ways to ask this question. For example something like, “Use an integrated rate law equation to show why the reaction is considered to be second order wrt NO2).”

Question 7

(a) That’s ANOTHER low level, moles calculation right there. OK, have ONE, but FOUR, on a single exam … ?

(c) There so little that be asked about chromatography that I wonder why we even bother with it in the course.

So deeply disappointing. A recent exchange from an, “about to retire” AP Chemistry veteran and me on Adrian Dingle’s Chemistry Pages Facebook Page, went like this.

Him: … and I am seeing the level of difficulty plummet. That just makes my job easier at getting kids to pass the test. The parents are happy, the kids are happy, the school admins are happy, most teachers are happy, and the AP is happy that it’s making $$. The teachers who like high standards are unhappy

Me: …  but is that OK? Is it really? Is this the future?

Him: I am indifferent to the lowering of the standards. It is the future, and I can’t change it. I taught kids things on my own tests that were above and beyond the level of difficulty of the actual AP exam so that when it came time to review for the test, I told them that the AP exam will only have the “easy things” on it, not the hard things. Teaching above the level of rigor makes reviewing for the AP exam easier. My students are ready for college chemistry and they were ready to do well on the AP exam.

He is of course, in the context of his own circumstances, pragmatically quite right, BUT HOW CAN this be an acceptable situation to larger group? It’s not up to teachers to uphold the standards, it’s up to the body in charge. NONE of the rigor should be placed in the hands of the teachers, it should be forced onto them by the exam itself. This is all backwards.

Another comment from another veteran teacher: Really the easiest test I have ever seen Retired in May after 50 yrs with 24 yrs in AP Chemistry.

I think that 2024, together with last year’s revelation that 38% would get a student a 3 on the exam, has sent us over the top in terms of the de-valuing of AP. Frankly it’s broken as a challenging academic exercise. Once the “Gold Standard” of high school chemistry, now a sham. How do these people sleep at night? I couldn’t.

10 Comments

  1. Dan Reid

    I used to get excited when the exam questions were released. I would look to see if I taught everything that was on the test, and if not, I would add that to my curriculum. I would also be interested to see if I could get all of the questions correct. Now, because the rigor is gone, I’m no longer excited. Truth be told, it’s just disappointing and I am underwhelmed. Of course I covered everything! Nothing was new/original/thought-provoking. I read through the exam and had to stop and think for a minute about what the answer was to only 2 parts/questions. Everything else was the bare basics. How can the AP determine who really “knows chemistry” if nearly all the questions are softballs?

    Your comment about the repetitiveness of this exam was spot-on! One q = m c ∆t calculation is sufficient. One mole conversion is sufficient. Why they repeated so much on the FR is beyond me!!

    Reply
    • Adrian

      The ‘lack of excitement’ about the exam is why I haven’t bothered to write out my answers yet. I mean, why would I bother? Who wants to see how I work three, utterly formulaic, q = m c ∆T problems? There’s just no need for my input.

      Reply
      • Sofia Bouley

        Genuine question, why are you giving input then? It seems highly negative to those who worked hard to study for the exam. Not all AP students are on par with a pretentious middle aged AP chem teacher. Maybe lay off the internet for a little! 🥳

        Reply
        • Adrian

          Genuine answer forthcoming …

          … AP chemistry represents a very large part of my professional life. I have a deep interest in the chemical education of children, and have vast experience in the field, but I guess that you know that since you’re here. My opinion is more valid than most others – not all, but most. Who are you?

          Regardless of anything written above, how hard anyone has worked has NOTHING to do with my accurate analysis of the AP chemistry exam in 2024. Those two things are non-sequiturs. Even so, IF a person has “worked hard”, and has committed to the AP course and exam, then that person should be absolutely appalled that another person, who had NOT worked nearly as hard, could easily do as well as the hard worker, since the exam was so pathetic.

          Thanks for commenting, please hang around for more my commentary and feel free to join in. I’m as committed to this part of the internet as the student that you describe was (apparently) committed to AP chemistry. See you in the comments!

          Reply
          • Carlo Polisena

            Love this reply so much. I’m a senior and took the AP Chem exam last year. I prepared a ridiculous amount trying to learn the intricacies and nuances of the material (exceptions to periodic trends and intermolecular forces, etc.) and was disappointed when I sat down and took the exam because it felt like all my prep was for nothing and I could’ve gotten by on my Chem Honors education.

            Personally, I read your review last year and this year and trust your opinions. I feel like the one redeeming thing about the FRQs this year was they tested some material that a lot of students glaze over in their review (chromatography, electroplating, etc.)?

          • Adrian

            The FRQs this year (and to various extents in recent years past), are an insult to anyone who values AP Chemistry as an intellectual exercise. Presumably that would include students who worked extremely hard on preparing themselves for the AP exam. As you say, there are multiple questions here that kids in much lower classes would find simple.

  2. Paul Cohen

    This was the worst AP exam I have seen in 50 years. Meaningless particle diagrams, high school level questions, a lack of both depth AND breadth, questions on types of alloys and chromatography instead of gas stoichiometry? Our best first year chem students could get a 3 without TAKING AP chem!

    Reply
    • Adrian

      This was the worst AP exam I have seen in 50 years.

      That’s all that needs to be said.

      Reply
  3. Grant Colijn

    I agree wholeheartedly with much of what’s been said here. It seems that questions written with the intent of authentically assessing a deep understanding of the AP curriculum have given way to questions written with the intent of being marked easily and/or quickly. The exam used to expect students to analyze information, draw a conclusion based upon that information, then support that conclusion. Now, more often than not, the conclusion is already made for them. Rather than ask students to explain why a reaction is second order, why not ask them to determine the reaction order first? Rather than asking them to explain why an entropy change is positive, why not ask them to first make a statement about the nature of the entropy change? All too often, I feel this type of question leads many students towards an answer that they otherwise may not have been able to come to. I used to look forward to the AP exam and its challenge with great excitement, but that excitement seems to dwindle more and more each year.

    Reply
    • Adrian

      Things have been deteriorating for a long time. It really all started with the introduction of inquiry and particulate diagrams at the re-design. The single good thing to come out of that was changing the word spontaneous to thermodynamically favored – the other gazillion hours and dollars spent on it was a total waste of time and money.

      The exam has go downhill more and more since then, and last year’s reduction of the % (38) to get a three seemed like the final straw to me. It signaled that the CB had finally given up; finally given in completely to the theoretical, educational bullshit, and just thrown in the towel. Of course their motivation is PURELY financial in terms of the growth of numbers and most definitely not based in academics, but the nevertheless …

      … they broke AP Chemistry.

      Reply

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