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New and Recent Changes to the AP Chemistry Exam

Will the new Advanced Placement (AP) Chemistry curriculum change the way students and teachers learn?

Building off the the last post concerning changes in AP exams, AP Chemistry is another exam that has not seen changes in years until recently. The new curriculum was implemented effective Fall 2013 and the first AP exam for chemistry under the redesigned course was taken in 2014. Safe to say that the exam is still in its infancy and effectively finding a way to study and practice for the exam will take time. So for those not still familiar with the new changes, this post is for you.

What exactly is different on this new AP Chemistry exam?

According to College Board (CB), the course was redesigned in collaboration with the National Science Foundation and prestigious educators around the country. The point of the new exam is “to promote a balance between developing solid content knowledge and applying that knowledge to the practice of chemistry.” Similar to the AP Physics 1 and 2 redesign, the new chemistry course allows the students to have more time to focus on obtaining a deeper understanding of chemistry through a more hands on approach. The hands on approach to chemistry allows students to take risks, inquire about scientific changes in experiments, and be able to apply the concepts they learn in class to a tangible exercise.

“David Yaron, associate professor of chemistry at Carnegie Mellon University explains it best. “The redesigned course engages students in a broad range of scientific practices, such as experimental design and interpretation, estimation, and drawing connections across topics. “The goal is to promote and reward instruction that gets students to think more deeply about the material.”” This results in a few changes that I’ve noticed for the class and exam:

  • Reduction of 22 labs to 16 labs to spend more time on analysis
  • Standard reduction equations will be given to you, rather than having to search for them in a formula chart
  • A calculator can now be used on the entire free response section

So will it be any easier than the previous exams?

That seems to be the million dollar question. My analysis of the new setup reveals that it’s not any harder or easier than before. Seems like there will be less memorization and regurgitation of facts on the exam than before. However, it seems like The College Board is really focusing on the “critical thinking” aspect of the exam, forcing students to be able to connect concepts and evaluate ideas at a much deeper level than before. If you are a big picture thinker that is better at analyzing and connecting concepts, then maybe studying for it won’t be too bad. Regardless of how you study, you still have to have a deep, maybe even deeper understanding of the subject. In addition, the course has been redesigned to get students thinking more like inquisitive scientists rather than just “plug and chug” machines.

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