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Another five things for the AP Chemistry Czar to sort out

Tsar Mug
February 09, 2020

Here’s a follow up to this post where I asked what the point of an AP Chemistry Czar really is, and what he could do right now to make things better. That post gave him a top five list of priorities. Here’s batch #2.

1. Remove the ambiguity surrounding the significant figure point on the free response.

Yes, we know the one point on the free response section will be attributed to significant figures, and we know that the question that tests that point will not be flagged, BUT Paul Bonvallet (Chief Reader) confirmed at ChemEd19 that the College Board will continue to NOT commit to a declaration of whether the significant figures will need to be exact, or if a tolerance of +/-1 will be allowed. We are left hanging – again

2. Advocate for a lab exam that will be graded, and then form part of the AP score*.

I asterisk this for ONE reason – I don’t want him to do this! However, IF the College Board REALLY value lab work, then this is an absolute must, because it would eliminate them being ‘all mouth and no trousers‘. Without it, the College Board is simply FULL of hypocrisy.

3. Re-visit the colossal disadvantage that the exam from 2014 onward has placed on students without English as a first language.

At ChemEd17, the former co-chair of the test development committee stated publicly that the College Board had made a conscious decision to value the communication of chemistry much more highly than it had done in the past. That fact has had a couple of consequences. Firstly, FRQ answers have been subject to much tougher scrutiny in terms of their descriptive language. Secondly, the number of words and the amount of data presented in both MCQ’s and FRQ’s has risen dramatically. Both things have had a demonstrable, negative effect on students that have English as a second language, and flies in the face of the exam being ‘about chemistry’. Kids that are just as able in terms of chemistry are being penalized because of language.

4. Make a real effort to make it clearer, that encouraging diversity does/should NOT mean encouraging intellectual diversity.

In July of 2019 I had this, brief Twitter exchange with Trevor Packer (Senior VP, AP and Instruction).

Intellectual diversity has no place in AP chemistry. Open access to AP chemistry is plain wrong. Not all children can handle the rigor, it is literally failing students who do not have the intellectual horsepower to suggest they can. Placing intellectually unable children into an advanced chemistry class, does those students a disservice, and educators are failing in one of the main aspects of their job, i.e., guiding students to success.

5. Abandon, the meaningless, toothless, pointless audit.

It’s a MASSIVE waste of teacher’s time, and it’s disrespectful of that time to ask teachers to comply with this dog & pony show. Exam scores ARE a teacher’s audit.

More on the AP Chemistry Czar to come.



    I agree with all of these. The College Board, pretending this is good for “diversity”, changed their policies, requiring students to pay for the exam earlier, and refusing to refund that money should the kid back-out say, in January. I pointed out to their representative, who was trying to sell this to us, that we already see entire folders (20 exams) where the papers are completely blank, or never earn above 1 point on any question. Why are those students being subjected to this? I got very worked up. You know what it’s like to sit in a room for over 3 hours, knowing there is absolutely nothing worth your time that you can do? Feeling humiliated, inept, stupid … oh, but the College Board got their money, and can point to “Increased Access,” so it’s all worth while, right? Friends had to calm me down…

    • Adrian

      Thanks Paul, keep fighting from the inside for (and with) me!

  2. frank gasparro

    instead of audits – why not evaluate the percentage of passing scores?

    • Adrian

      Or more importantly, correlate AP scores with transcript grades, because that’s why the audit was introduced, to attempt to prevent transcript grades in AP chemistry of 95, being paired with 1’s on the exam!


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