UTC: Sunday, March 26th, 2017

A Brief History of the AP Chemistry Exam*

On this page you can read a brief history of the AP Chemistry exam as I currently understand it*. A few general notes;

  • The large discrepancy in the number of questions on the exam when comparing exams up to 1975 and then 1976 forward, is at least in part due to the fact that in the early years of the exam, the multiple net, ionic equation questions were numbered as separate questions (e.g., 4-12), rather than as sub-parts of a single question (e.g., 4(a)-(h))
  • In 1964-1967 the net ionic equations were presented in terms of formulas, NOT in terms of chemical names
  • Log tables were still given with the free-response up until 1992
  • In general, multiple-choice questions were presented with a periodic table only, and usually consisted of 75 questions labeled A-E. The only exception prior to 2014, was in 1984 when there were 85 questions on the MC. This anomaly occurred because Net Ionic Equation writing was incorporated into the multiple-choice, rather than the FRQ.
  • Up until 1996, calculators were allowed on the MCQ, but from 1996 forward they were not. In the released 1994 exam, the College Board took 10 of the 20 quantitative questions (16, 19, 24, 25, 31, 37, 59,60, 63 and 73) that appeared on the 1994 MCQ test, and re-wrote them in a style that allowed them to be answered without a calculator
  • I am fairly sure that the data presented here is incomplete, and that the it needs tightening in several places, and in a few instances I am not 100% sure of the facts. I have listed those uncertainties below;

I am not 100% sure that 1961 was the first exam It appears to me that 1974 marks the start of the, ‘Q1 will be about some aspect of equilibrium, i.e., Ka, Kb, Kc, Kw, Ksp or Kp’, which has actually persisted (without formal, College Board clarification as far as I know), through 2013. (We know that Q1 in 2014 was NOT such an equilibrium based question).

The notes below for the exams from 1961 to 1984 refer only to the free-response sections of the exam, but I am pretty sure (but not certain) that in ALL years listed, a multiple-choice section accompanied each, set of free-response questions. We know this was true in 1984, since this was the first year that a multiple-choice exam was released.

So, please contact me with corrections and suggestions.


1960 -1969


1961 Format unknown

1961 – The first AP Chemistry Exam. 18 free-response questions.

1962 Format unknown

1962 – 19 free-response questions.

1963 Part A, one question 15%, Part B choose one of two problems 15%, Part C choose one of two problems 20%, Part D choose five of eight NET IONIC equations (non-reactions possible) 10%, Part E choose three of six problems 20%, Part F choose one of two problems 20%.

1963 – 21 free-response questions.

1964 Part A, one question 15%, Part B choose one of two problems 15%, Part C choose one of two problems 20%, Part D choose five of eight NET IONIC equations 10%, Part E choose three of six problems 20%, Part F choose one of two problems 20%.

1964 – 21 free-response questions.

1965 Part A, one question 10%, Part B choose one of two problems 20%, Part C choose one of two problems 20%, Part D choose five of eight NET IONIC equations 10%, Part E choose three of six problems 20%, Part F choose one of two problems 20%.

1965 – 21 free-response questions.

1966 -1969 Part A, one question 15%, Part B choose one of two problems 20%, Part C choose one of two problems 15%, Part D choose five of eight NET IONIC equations 10%, Part E choose three of six problems 20%, Part F choose one of two problems 20%.

1966 – 21 free-response questions.

1967 – 21 free-response questions.

1968 – 21 free-response questions.

1969 – 21 free-response questions.


1970 – 1979


1970 Total time 2 hours, approx. 60 minutes for A, B, C and D and approx. 30 minutes each for D and E. Part A, one question 15%, Part B, one question 20%, Part C, one of two questions 15%, Part D choose five of eight NET IONIC equations 10%, Part E choose three of six problems 20%, Part F choose one of two problems 20%.

1970 – 20 free-response questions.

1971 Total time 110 minutes, approx. 60 minutes for A, B, C and D and approx. 50 minutes on E.

Part A, one question 15%, Part B, one question 20%, Part C, one of two questions 15%, Part D choose five of eight NET IONIC equations 15%, Part E choose four of six problems 35%.

1971 – 18 free-response questions.

1972 Total time 110 minutes, approx. 60 minutes for A, B, C and D and approx. 50 minutes on E.

Part A, one question 15%, Part B, one question 20%, Part C, one of two questions 15%, Part D choose five of eight NET IONIC equations 15%, Part E choose four of six problems 35%.

1972 – 18 free-response questions.

1973 -1975 Total time 100 minutes, approx. 50 minutes for A, B and C and approx. 50 minutes on D.

Part A, one question 20%, Part B, one of two questions 20%, Part C choose six of nine NET IONIC equations 20%, Part D choose four of six problems 40%.

1973 – 18 free-response questions.

1974 – 18 free-response questions.

1975 – 18 free-response questions.

1976-1979 Total time 90 minutes, approx. 50 minutes for A, B and C and approx. 40 minutes on D.

Part A, one question 25%, Part B, one of two questions 25%, Part C choose five of eight NET IONIC equations 15%, Part D choose three of five problems 35%.

1976 – 9 free-response questions.

1977 – 9 free-response questions.

1978 – 9 free-response questions.

1979 – 9 free-response questions.


1980-1989


1980-1982 90 minutes, CALCULATORS ALLOWED.

Compulsory Q1 (PART A), Choice of Q2 or Q3 (PART B). PART A is worth 25% of the free response score. PART B is worth 25% of the free response score. In PARTS A & B the questions are calculations (quantitative). Compulsory Q4 (PART C) (Net Ionic Equation Writing) PART C is worth 15% of the free response score. Choice of three questions from Q5, Q6, Q7, Q8 and Q9 (PART D) (Non-Calculations). Collectively, the questions in PART D are worth 35% of the free response score.

1980 – 9 free-response questions.

1981 – 9 free-response questions.

1982 – 9 free-response questions.

1983 75 minutes, CALCULATORS ALLOWED.

Compulsory Q1 (PART A), Choice of Q2 or Q3 (PART B). PART A is worth 30% of the free response score. PART B is worth 30% of the free response score. In PARTS A & B the questions are calculations (quantitative). Choice of three questions from Q4, Q5, Q6, Q7 and Q8 (PART C) (Non-Calculations). Collectively, the questions in PART C are worth 40% of the free response score.

1983 – 8 free-response questions.

1984 50 minutes to answer compulsory Q1 AND a choice of Q2 or Q3. Q1 is worth 30% of the free response score, Q2 or Q3 another 30%. Q1, Q2 and Q3 are calculation based, i.e. they involve quantitative aspects of chemistry.

40 minutes to answer a choice of three of Q4, Q5, Q6, Q7 and Q8. Q4, Q5, Q6, Q7, Q8 and Q9 are Non-Calculations (qualitative) and make up the remaining 40% of the free response score.

1984 – 8 free-response questions. In 1984 there was no net ionic equation writing on the free response, it was incorporated into the multiple choice. The multiple-choice section of this exam was released into the public domain following the exam. This was the first time this had happened, and the intention was that every 5 years the MCQ portion would be released.

1985-1989 50 minutes to answer compulsory Q1 AND a choice of Q2 or Q3. Q1 is worth 25% of the free response score, Q2 or Q3 another 25%. Q1, Q2 and Q3 are calculation based, i.e. they involve quantitative aspects of chemistry.

40 minutes to answer compulsory Q4 (the Net Ionic equation writing question where candidates must write five net ionic equations from a choice of eight sentences that describe chemical reactions) AND a choice of three of Q5, Q6, Q7, Q8 and Q9. Q4, Q5, Q6, Q7, Q8 and Q9 are Non-Calculations (qualitative). Q4 is worth 15% of the free response score, the remaining choices making up the remaining 35% of the free response score.

1985 – 9 free-response questions.

1986 – 9 free-response questions.

1987 – 9 free-response questions.

1988 – 9 free-response questions.

1989 – 9 free-response questions. Following the 5 year release pattern, the multiple-choice section of this exam was released into the public domain following the exam.


1990 – 1999


1990-1994 90 minutes, CALCULATORS ALLOWED. Compulsory Q1 (PART A), Choice of Q2 or Q3 (PART B). PART A is worth 20% of the free response score. PART B is worth 20% of the free response score. In PARTS A & B the questions are calculations (quantitative).

Compulsory Q4 (PART C) (Net Ionic Equation Writing) PART C is worth 15% of the free response score. PART D is worth 45% of the free response score and includes compulsory Q5 and then a choice of two questions from Q6, Q7, Q8 and Q9 (Non-Calculations).

1990 – 9 free-response questions.

1991 – 9 free-response questions.

1992 – 9 free-response questions.

1993 – 9 free-response questions.

1994 – 9 free-response questions. Following the 5 year release pattern, the multiple-choice section of this exam was released into the public domain following the exam.

1995 – 9 free-response questions.

1996 – 1997 90 minutes, CALCULATORS ALLOWED. Compulsory Q1 (PART A) (Net Ionic Equation Writing). PART A is worth 15% of the free response score. Compulsory Q2 (PART B). PART B is worth 20% of the free response score. Choice of Q3 or Q4 (PART C). PART C is worth 20% of the free response score. In PARTS B & C the questions are calculations (quantitative).

PART C is worth 15% of the free response score. PART D is worth 45% of the free response score and includes compulsory Q5 and then a choice of two questions from Q6, Q7, Q8 and Q9 (Non-Calculations).

1996 – 9 free-response questions. Q1 was the Net Ionic Equation writing.

1997 – 9 free-response questions. Q1 was the Net Ionic Equation writing.

1998 PART A – 40 minutes, CALCULATORS ALLOWED. Compulsory Q1, Choice of Q2 or Q3. Each question in PART A is worth 20% of the free response score. In PART A the questions are calculations (quantitative).

PART B – 50 minutes, NO CALCULATORS. Compulsory Q4 (Net Ionic Equation Writing) and Q5. Choice of two questions form Q6, Q7, Q8 or Q9 (Non-Calculations). Each question in PART B is worth 15% of the free response score.

1998 – 9 free-response questions. . The multiple-choice section of this exam was released into the public domain following the exam.

1999 PART A – 40 minutes, CALCULATORS ALLOWED. Compulsory Q1, Choice of Q2 or Q3. Each question in PART A is worth 20% of the free response score. In PART A the questions are calculations (quantitative). PART B – 50 minutes, NO CALCULATORS. Compulsory Q4, Q5 and Q6 (Non-Calculations), Choice Q7 or Q8 (Non-Calculations). Each question in PART B is worth 15% of the free response score. In Question 4 candidates must write five net ionic equations from a choice of eight sentences that describe chemical reactions. In Question 5 candidates are asked to call upon their laboratory experience.

1999 – 8 free-response questions. Following the 5 year release pattern, the multiple-choice section of this exam was released into the public domain following the exam.


2000 – 2009


From 2000 – 2006 90 minutes of Free Response with access to a periodic table and the equations and constants sheet, broken down thus; PART A – 40 minutes, CALCULATORS ALLOWED. Compulsory Q1, Choice of Q2 or Q3. Each question in PART A is worth 20% of the free response score. In PART A the questions are calculations (quantitative) PART B – 50 minutes, NO CALCULATORS. Compulsory Q4, Q5 and Q6 (Non-Calculations), Choice Q7 or Q8 (Non-Calculations). Each question in PART B is worth 15% of the free response score. In Question 4 candidates must write five net ionic equations from a choice of eight sentences that describe chemical reactions. In Question 5 candidates are asked to call upon their laboratory experience.

2000 – 8 free-response questions.

2001 – 8 free-response questions.

2002 – The multiple-choice section of this exam was released into the public domain following the exam. This was ahead of the 5 year release schedule, since a security breach meant that the exam was compromised for future use, and it as though helpful to teachers to release these questions for use in classrooms. Also, 2002 was the first year that the ‘B’ forms of the exam came into the public domain. This practice persisted through 2011.

2003 – 8 free-response questions.

2004 – 8 free-response questions.

2005 – 8 free-response questions.

2006 – 8 free-response questions.

2007 – 2009 In 2007 the format of the exam changed slightly. Choice in free-response questions was removed (causing the number of free-response questions on the exam to fall from 8 to 6), and the net ionic equation section was overhauled to both remove choice (no longer choose five from eight but rather there were now three, compulsory net ionic equations to write), and each net ionic equation had a follow-up question associated with it. In addition, the lab question was now unspecified (previously it was know to be question #5 in PART B of the exam), meaning that it could now appear in PART A (calculations), whereas in the previous exams it had only ever been in the PART B (the non-calculations). 90 minutes of Free Response with access to a periodic table and the equations and constants sheet, broken down thus;

PART A – 55 minutes, CALCULATORS ALLOWED. Compulsory Q1, Q2 AND Q3. Each question in PART A is worth 20% of the free response score. In PART A the questions are calculations (quantitative).

PART B – 40 minutes, NO CALCULATORS. Compulsory Q4, Q5 AND Q6 (Non-Calculations). Q4 is worth 10% of the free response score. In Question 4 candidates must write three balanced, net ionic equations from sentences that describe chemical reactions and answer a short, associated question about each reaction. Q5 and Q6 are worth 15% of the free response score each. In at least one question candidates are asked to call upon their laboratory experience.

2007 – 6 free-response questions. The first exam with the new Net Ionic Equation Writing section and the new format regarding the removal of choice and the re-positioning of the lab question in the free-response section.

March08 a full practice exam was released by the College Board.

2008 – 6 free-response questions. The multiple-choice section of this exam was released into the public domain following the exam.

February ’09 – Earliest known date (to me) of details of the new curriculum (first examined in May 2014) being in the public domain (discussed at HASTI Conference in Indianapolis).

2009 – 6 free-response questions.


2010 – Present


2010 – 2013 As 2007 – 2009, above.

2010 – 6 free-response questions.

2011 – 6 free-response questions. The release of the ‘B’ form was terminated.

August ’11 – The College Board releases the original Course and Exam Description (the new Acorn book) for the new course (first exam May 2014) which does NOT include any sample practice questions.

2012 – 6 questions. First year since 2002 that the ‘B’ form was not released.

September ’12 – International Exam from 2012 released as a ‘practice exam’ by the College Board

March ’13 – The College Board releases the official Course and Exam Description (the new Acorn book) for the new course (first exam May 2014) which DOES include some sample practice questions.

circa. June ’13 – The College Board releases a full length practice exam for the new course (first examination 2014), but it includes the questions already released into the public domain via the March 2013 Course and Exam Description document.

2013 – 6 free-response questions. The final exam of what has come to be known as the ‘legacy course‘.

June ’13 – New AP Inquiry Lab Manual released to teachers.

September ’13 – A ‘scrubbed’ (with questions that cannot be asked in May 2014 for the new curriculum removed) version of the 2013 International exam (i.e., the 2013B exam) is released.

2014 – present A brand new exam based upon a brand new curriculum. A complete overhaul of the curriculum including an introduction of new topics (PES, Mass Spec, biological references etc.) and the jettisoning of old topics (colligative properties, phase diagrams etc.), and a new emphasis away from prescriptive calculations and toward particulate diagrams, Coulombic interactions and inquiry labs. Multiple-Choice:  60 questions, 4 answer choices each, 50% of total grade. Up to 50% of the MCQ’s are delivered in ‘sets’ where a set of 2-6 questions follow a stimulus. Free-Response: 7 compulsory questions, 3 ‘long’, 4 ‘short’. No formal Net Ionic Equation writing question. At this point the old course became known as the ‘legacy course’.

2014 – 7 free-response questions. The first examination of the new AP Chemistry Curriculum.

August ’14 – The College Board releases a full length practice exam that they describe as a ‘modified version of the 2014 exam’, but that includes Free-response questions that have already been released as being part of the 2014 exam. Also, a revised Course & Exam and Description is released.

October ’14 – announcement of extra 15 minutes for the free-response section (in response to not enough time being allocated for the 2013 exam), making the new length of 105 minutes for that part of the exam and a revised, College Board Inquiry Lab Manual.

2015 As 2014, but with an extended period of 105 minutes for the free-response section (in response to not enough time being allocated for the 2014 exam).

February ’15 – Another updated version of the Course & Exam Description is released.

2015 – First exam with an extended time limit for the free-response section, now 105 minutes as opposed to the previous 90 minutes in 2014.

August ’15 – Another ‘Practice Exam’ is released by the College Board as a ‘secure’ exam.