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5 things your AP chemistry teacher could do to maximize your score

March 04, 2018

Five things your AP chemistry teacher could do to maximize your AP score.

1. Finish the content that could be tested on the AP exam.

Right, sounds insane that anything else would happen, right? Who isn’t fulfilling that, absolutely fundamental, responsibility? Answer, a lot of AP Chem teachers aren’t. The reasons usually fall into one of two categories. Either incompetence which is sometimes born out of inexperience so may it be a little unfair to criticize, or the course being insufficiently catered to by the schools scheduling system.

2. Place less emphasis on lab work.

In terms of maximizing AP scores, lab work simply isn’t important. That’s not to say do no labs, but there has to be a sensible and balanced approach. A huge number of inexperienced AP chemistry teachers are placing way too much emphasis on lab work, causing themselves and their students huge stress, and all at the expense of maximizing scores.

3. Build in a period of review.

How many of you right now could honestly give a great answer to an AP question relating to material that you studied 4 months ago? The answer is not many of you, and you need time to revisit material. The review process is a crucial one as you lead up to the exam, as is a good review book.

4. Ignore educational fads.

No homework, SBG, inquiry, etc. all may have their place I suppose, but in an AP chemistry course there is simply not substitute for delivering great content in a traditional manner. AP chemistry is a serious, academic exercise and endeavor, and it benefits from a traditional, lecture style delivery.

5. Put you under time pressure in test situations.

The AP exam IS a timed exercise and not open-ended. Reacting to time pressure is a crucial part of the process, and learning test taking techniques alongside chemistry will help immensely.


  1. Katherine

    Do you have any idea what the score conversion will be for chemistry this year? In the past two years it has been high (around 80), so do you think it will continue to be high? In your opinion was this year’s test easier/harder than previous years? Do the international students have the same curve as in America?

    • Adrian

      Very, very difficult to say. Different versions of the exam have different grade boundaries.

      • Katherine

        Thanks I just had a couple of more questions:
        1) Do international and US exams have different grade boundaries? The IPE for last year was 79, but was this the same in the US?
        2) Are there 10 field questions in the multiple choice section which don’t count towards your final score?
        3) Were grade boundaries higher in the past two years because they made it harder to achieve high scores or because the test was easier in general?

        Thank you again!

        • Adrian

          1. Yes, all versions of the exam have their own grade boundaries set with a different statistical analysis.

          2. Yes. Your score is ultimately out of 50, but of course you have no idea which 10 questions are omitted.

          3. The test is criterion referenced meaning that *in theory* if 160,000 really great students took the test, then 160,000 students could all get 5’s! HOWEVER, the CB sets grade boundaries each year that *effectively* makes it at least look like the test is norm referenced. It’s odd!


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