The course and its content Advanced Placement (AP) chemistry is a course that is designed to be the equivalent of a first year, general chemistry college course. As such, the course is suitable only for high school students who are (or will be) particularly able in chemistry. This is especially true of AP chemistry students at The Westminster Schools, since the overwhelming majority of high schools in the United States only deliver the AP chemistry program to juniors or seniors who have already been exposed to a first year, high school chemistry course. In addition, the AP chemistry course is designed by the College Board (CB) specifically to be a second year course to be taken after an introductory course in chemistry. Since the AP chemistry students at The Westminster Schools are sophomores receiving their first high school chemistry course, they need to exhibit unusually high levels of commitment, motivation, intellectual capacity and academic maturity.
As such, there are two consequences of the ‘close to unique’ and inexperienced circumstances that the AP chemistry students at The Westminster Schools find themselves in. Firstly, students are expected to play an active role in their studies by reading around the subject and taking an enthusiastic and proactive approach to all of their work. This helps to build general chemical knowledge around the fundamentals they will learn from the course, helps to avoid the accumulation of problems over time. Secondly, the AP chemistry course and examination will most likely present students with some problems that they find very difficult to solve, and in most cases the AP chemistry course will provide some of the greatest intellectual challenges of students’ high school and early college career.
A couple of logistical notes; if a student intends to use their AP chemistry score for college credit then it is his or her responsibility to research if the college(s) of their choice will accept it since colleges have widely differing policies in relation to this matter ranging from complete acceptance to total disregard. Secondly, although there is a lot of overlap, my AP course is not specifically designed to prepare students for the SAT subject test in chemistry, nor any chemistry examination other than the AP. Having said that, with some extra preparation between the AP chemistry exam in early May and the SAT subject test in early June, most AP students score very highly on the latter.
Textbook and other resources I do not insist that students buy a textbook since I don’t ask them to specifically refer to one. However, should students feel the need to have one to refer to, the College Board has produced a list of suitable texts. I will ask students to purchase my AP Crash Course book at the beginning of the second semester.
The AP chemistry exam is sponsored by the CB and administered and operated by the Educational Testing Service (ETS). The specific Big Ideas, Enduring Understandings, Essential Knowledge, Learning Objectives and Science Practices relating to the AP chemistry course, can all be found in the AP chemistry course description published by the College Board.
You will also find a lot of information about the AP chemistry course and exam in the AP chemistry section of the College Board website.
The course notes The notes amplify the content of the whole course. They are vitally important to students as they form a permanent, hard copy record that summarizes all of the knowledge and understanding that students require in order to perform well in the AP chemistry examination. Each set of notes should be used and annotated however the student sees fit. They must be used as the basis for study.
My website All the materials for the course can be downloaded from my website. It is the student’s responsibility to visit the site to get materials as and when they are needed. In addition to the course material you will find a very large amount of other helpful information there. You are required to visit regularly; almost certainly, that will mean daily!
The expectations In order for us all to have a successful year we have to work together. There are two sides to this partnership;
- Student obligations. I hope it goes without saying that attendance, punctuality, courtesy and good behavior of the highest levels are expected at all times. On the occasions when it is unavoidable that a class is missed, it remains the responsibility of the student to catch up with any material missed. Laboratory safety is always of paramount importance. Exemplary behavior and observance of safety procedures is required at all times. The very nature of the AP chemistry program, attempting as it does to mimic a college chemistry course, requires students to learn and apply college style learning skills. More specifically taking the initiative for one’s own learning and being prepared to think around problems to find solutions. Please seek help and use office hours if you are having difficulties.
- My commitment. I will always grade and return work to you as soon as possible and will be happy to review any problems that arise from it. I am always happy to speak to students and parents outside of class time, as and when time permits.
The assessment The course will be assessed in four areas.
- Testing. Students will be tested on a regular basis. The tests will make up 60% of the final FIRST semester grade and 60% of the final SECOND semester grade. All tests have two sections; a multiple–choice section and a free-response section.
- Homework. Homework will be set on a regular basis and deadlines must be met. The homework will make up 20% of the final FIRST semester grade and 40% of the final SECOND semester grade.
- Quizzes. Each quiz, although taken under test conditions, only counts as the equivalent of a homework grade.
- Examination. All material studied up to the middle of December of the FIRST semester will be assessed in a written examination in December 2015. The exam will make up 20% of the final FIRST semester grade. There is no internal, SECOND semester examination. This is replaced by the ULTIMATE assessment, i.e., the AP chemistry examination itself, in May of 2016.
The AP chemistry examination format The AP chemistry exam is divided into two sections. Much more on this later, but for now;
Section I: (90 minutes, 50% of the total grade)
60, multiple-choice questions. Select the best answer from a choice of four (A-D).
In this section of the exam NO CALCULATOR is allowed but access to the periodic table and equations & constants sheet (found here AND on pages 160-162 of the course description). 1 point is awarded for a correct answer, 0 points (without penalty) for a wrong answer, and 0 points for any question left unanswered.
Section II: (105 minutes, 50% of the total grade)
Seven, free-response questions. (3 ‘long’ questions & 4 ‘short’ questions).
In this section of the exam a calculator is allowed along with access to the periodic table and equations & constants sheet.