Is AP Chemistry Hard? 5 Key Factors Considered - Turito (2023)

If you are wondering about the question, ‘is AP chem hard?’, you are at the right place. AP Chemistry is quite challenging if you are unfamiliar with the material. You need to remember all these intimidating formulas with subscripts and superscripts, which is not fun! Also, it involves an unpleasant amount of math, as some students would view it. But the question is, how hard is AP chem? This article will discuss five key factors to determine how hard AP Chemistry is compared to other high-level courses. We will also discuss the factors that make AP chemistry hard.

Five key factors in determining if AP Chemistry is hard

Before we talk specifically about the topic of ‘is AP chemistry hard?’, below are five factors that determine the difficulty level of AP classes:

1. Passing rate:

If you observe the number of test takers who score three or higher on an AP exam, you will realize how easy or difficult it is. If a good number of students are scoring passing marks, it might indicate that the class is not that hard. However, it might also indicate that the particular class attracts well-prepared, higher-achieving students who tend to do better on tests. Therefore, apart from score averages, there are other factors we must consider, such as the actual difficulty level of the content and the perceptions of the students.

2. The five score rates:

Another factor that can be considered is the percentage of students earning the highest possible score, 5s, on the AP test. Even though students might pass an AP test in large numbers, only a small group earns the highest score. This means that it is hard to be a true master in the subject. In addition, getting a five on an AP test usually only requires the students to answer 60-70% of the questions correctly, which means that a five does not necessarily indicate complete comprehension of the test paper.

3. The difficulty level of the content:

The difficulty level of the content is, of course, a primary determining factor of the overall difficulty of an AP course. Even if the pass rate is reasonable, the class itself might be challenging because of the vast syllabus it covers or the complexity of the content. If this is the case, a high passing rate suggests that only very talented students take the class, and average students shy away from it.

4. How students perceive the class:

How students perceive an AP class also determines the difficulty level of an AP course. As already discussed, some classes have good passing rates because high-achieving students opt for those. However, it does not mean that these students think the course is easy. They are just more dedicated to working hard and achieving good scores. So, feedback from the students also provides a perspective on the difficulty level of the class.

5. When students take the class:

It is seen that students who take the class during high school are more likely to think of it as difficult. In contrast, those who take it in junior or senior high are more likely to feel comfortable with the content. Why is that? This is because, by the time students are in junior or senior high, they are adapted to the academic workload as they have already taken up their high school workloads. In addition, they have probably also already taken other AP classes.

Now that you are familiar with the five main factors that determine the difficulty level of an AP class, let us analyze all these factors in terms of the AP Chemistry class so that we reach a conclusion about its difficulty level and find the answer to the question, ‘is AP chem hard?’.

What do the statistics indicate about the AP Chemistry exam?

Let us consider the passing rates for AP Chemistry to understand how hard AP chemistry is. The passing rate (the number of students who scored three or more) was 55.5% in 2019. This rate is lower than that for the Biology test in the same year, which was equal to around 64.6%, and higher than the US History test, whose pass rate was 53.6%. After analyzing, we find that World History, Human Geography, US Government and Politics, US History, English Language and Composition, Physics, and Environmental Science are the only subjects with passing rates lower than the Chemistry test.

This data suggests that Chemistry tests are relatively difficult, but we observe an eclectic mix of various tests with low passing rates. Passing rates might not always represent the difficulty level of an AP test; instead, they indicate a combination of the objective complexity of the content covered and which types of students tend to enroll in the class. For example, AP Environmental Science does not contain a lot of challenging topics, but the students who take this class seem less dedicated.

Even after considering these factors, it is important to note that the low passing rates of AP Chemistry indicate its high difficulty level. It is generally seen that only the most dedicated students tend to attend the AP class, and still, many of them cannot pass the test.

Let’s not look at how many students achieve the highest score, five, on the test. For the AP Chemistry exam, the five rates are 11.5%. There are only nine other AP tests whose five rates are lower than this. This data is consistent with the position of the AP Chemistry passing rates among other AP tests. As the five rate and passing rates are consistent, we can conclude that AP Chemistry is on the spectrum’s difficult end.

The difficulty and low passing rates are because a lot of material is covered in the course. Additionally, it involves understanding difficult concepts, memorizing twisted principles, noticing interactions between tiny abstract things, and mastering complex mathematical concepts. It may be considered similar to AP Biology in some aspects, but it is even more challenging to understand if you lack a basic understanding of Chemistry intuitively.

Example to understand how hard AP chemistry is:

Take the example of this official AP Chemistry MCQ to understand how hard AP chem is:

Is AP Chemistry Hard? 5 Key Factors Considered - Turito (8)

If you have not attended AP Chemistry classes regularly, you won’t be able to solve it. It will be virtually incomprehensible to you if you have not taken any chemistry classes. If you are wondering, the answer to the question is D. Chemistry has its separate language, involving words and symbols that are rarely encountered in everyday life – unless you are a chemical engineer or a chemist, which you probably are not! Even though questions asked on an AP Biology test might be at an advanced level, the terms related to them are not as unfamiliar.


I hope the article helped you understand ‘how hard AP chem is.’ To conclude, you require a diverse skill set to succeed in AP Chemistry, and you will only be able to develop those skills if you strengthen your basics. In addition, you will have to get habitual with memorizing the properties of different chemical substances and develop an understanding of what they depend on and why these substances act in different ways under other conditions. This will help you to solve problems on the test quickly.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Do students think AP Chemistry is hard?

Most students perceive AP Chemistry as hard and keep complaining:‘how hard is AP chemistry. Certain factors depend on their APtitude for the material, the strength of their basics in Chemistry, their previous experience with the subject, and the quality of their teacher. If the student is dedicated and has the guidance of a good teacher, AP Chemistry will be a lot easier. On the other hand, understanding the concepts will be very challenging if the teacher is terrible and the student is not hard-working.

2. What are the skills required to ace AP Chemistry?

Almost every type of academic skill is required to ace the AP Chemistry exam as it involves problems, lab work, and memorization of chemical properties and formulas. Its math portion includes reaction balancing, unit conversions, and other stoichiometry problems. Therefore, Therefore, AP Chemistry will be easier for you if you have good mathematical skills.

3. What are the six main topics in AP Chemistry?

AP Chemistry has six main topics: atomic structure, Periodic table of elements, Kinetics, Equilibrium, Thermodynamics/electrochemistry, and Gases, liquids, and solutions.

4. Is memorizing the periodic table important for AP Chemistry?

Memorizing the periodic table is very important for AP Chemistry as many questions on the test are based on it. You should know the elements in every role and column, their physical and chemical properties, and other behaviors. You should also know how to use group numbers to determine the valence electrons, the number of bonds an element can form, and their main periodic trends.


Is getting a 5 on AP Chem hard? ›

The 5 rate for AP Chemistry is 11.5%.

Because the passing rate and the 5 rate are well aligned in this way, I'm inclined to conclude that AP Chemistry is a test on the difficult end of the AP spectrum.

What percentage do you need to get a 5 on the AP Chemistry exam? ›

It is also curved similar to other AP exams. In the case of AP chem, you will need to get roughly 75% of the questions correct to score a 5.

What makes AP Chem so hard? ›

AP Chemistry consistently ranks among the most difficult AP courses. The course covers many topics, while prioritizing essential scientific practices. AP Chemistry test data overlooks factors like the quality of teachers and schools. The AP Chemistry exam comprises both multiple-choice and written sections.

What is the hardest 5 Class AP? ›

Top 10 Hardest AP Classes by Exam Pass Rate
AP Class/ExamPass Rate (3+)Perfect Score (5)
1. Physics 151.6%8.8%
2. Environmental Science53.4%11.9%
3. Chemistry56.1%10.6%
4. U.S. Government and Politics57.5%15.5%
6 more rows

Is a 70% a 5 on the AP exam? ›

Usually, a 70 to 75 percent out of 100 translates to a 5. However, there are some exams that are exceptions to this rule of thumb. The AP Grades that are reported to students, high schools, colleges, and universities in July are on AP's five-point scale: 5: Extremely well qualified.

What is a 75% on AP test? ›

Here are the basics of the AP English exam: it has 55 multiple-choice questions, worth 45% of your score, and three essays, worth 55% of your score. Each essay is graded between 1 and 9.
Step 3: Use the Chart to Estimate Your Scaled Score.
Composite Score (0-100 or 0-150)Scaled Score (1-5)
2 more rows
Mar 21, 2020

What is the average grade in AP Chem? ›

The average rating for AP Chemistry was 8.3/10 (vs the average across all AP classes of 5.7/10).

How many people fail the AP Chem test? ›

All AP exams have a passing rate of at least 50%. The most failed AP exams are Physics 1 (failed by 48.4% of all students), Environmental Science (failed by 46.6% of all students), and Chemistry (failed by 43.9% of all students).

Is a 5 on AP Chem good? ›

Scores of 3, 4, or 5 are considered “passing” scores on the AP® Chemistry Exam. The College Board describes a 3 as 'qualified,' 4 as 'well qualified,' and a 5 as 'extremely well qualified.

What is considered the hardest AP? ›

AP Physics C – Electricity & Magnetism (E&M) is rated as the hardest AP test by real AP class alumnae, with an average difficulty rating of 8.1 / 10 (10 = hardest). Those who stay the course often score well, though, with a 2022 pass rate of 69%, and 30% of students earning a 5.

Is AP Chem one of the hardest APS? ›

United States History, Biology, English Literature, Calculus BC, Physics C, and Chemistry are often named as the hardest AP classes and tests.

What percent is passing on AP Chem? ›

AP Score Distributions
AP Chemistry12.5%22.5%
AP Environmental Science8.9%20.3%
AP Physics 17.9%29.6%
AP Physics 216.3%6.3%
3 more rows

How do you not fail AP Chemistry? ›

How to Survive AP Chemistry
  1. 1 Review all of your old notes from chemistry class.
  2. 2 Walk into AP Chemistry with some confidence.
  3. 3 Take notes and make flashcards of ideas and formulas.
  4. 4 Read the chapter at least 3 times before the test.
  5. 5 Keep in mind the fundamental properties of everything chemistry-related.

What is the easiest AP exam to get a 5? ›

Top 10 Easiest AP Classes by Exam Pass Rate
AP Class/Exam*Pass Rate (3+)Perfect Score (5)
1. Physics C: Mechanics84.3%41.6%
2. Calculus BC81.6%44.6%
3. Spanish Literature75.1%17.6%
4. Physics C: Electricity and Magnetism74.4%40.4%
6 more rows

Are AP exams curved? ›

In other words, AP scores are not graded on a curve but instead calculated specifically to reflect consistency in scoring from year to year.

What is an 80 on the AP scale? ›

AP Scale Grading
If you got a percentage of...If you got a raw score of... (For FINAL EXAM)Your letter Grade will be...
87% or above94-108A+
9 more rows

Are AP classes harder than college classes? ›

It depends on the rigor of your AP classes and your university classes. AP classes can definitely be more difficult than the introductory-level courses they represent, but once you advance further into the university's curriculum, that's no longer the case.

What grade is AP failing? ›

In general, colleges will usually give credit for a score of 3 or higher, although more competitive colleges may only give credit for a 4 or higher, depending on the exam. A passing score, then, is the minimum score a college will accept for credit.

What is a B+ in an AP class? ›

Honors English = B+ (3.8 x 1.0) = 3.8. Algebra II. = B+ (3.3 x 1.0) = 3.3. AP US History = B+ (4.3 x 1.0) = 4.3.

What is the easiest AP class? ›

The Three Easiest AP Classes
  1. AP Psychology. With a reputation as one of the easiest AP classes, it comes as no surprise that AP Psychology is also one of the most popular—292,501 students took the exam in 2021. ...
  2. AP Comparative Government and Politics. ...
  3. AP Environmental Science.
Feb 9, 2023

How much do AP classes boost your GPA? ›

While honors courses usually add 0.5 points to your GPA, AP classes often add 1 point. In other words, a 3.5 GPA would be boosted to a 4.0 in an honors class and a 4.5 in an AP class.

What is 67 percent on an AP? ›

Grade on the AP Test
Raw ScoreTotal %AP Score
80-9353% to 62%3
68-7945% to 52%2
0-67Below 45%1
2 more rows

What grade is 86 in AP? ›

Grading Scale
11 more rows

Is AP Bio or Chem harder? ›

However, our son thinks taking AP bio in junior year makes more sense since AP biology tends to be relatively 'easier' than AP chemistry for most kids and his next year classes are rigorous.

What is a good chemistry GPA? ›

Science majors tend to have lower GPAs on average, with chemistry being the major with the lowest average GPA.
GPAs by Major.
MajorAverage GPA
14 more rows
Oct 15, 2022

Is AP Chem worth it in high school? ›

AP Chemistry will teach you to think at higher levels. You will be forced to think and apply concepts to new situations, and even derive your own theories from application. This is excellent preparation for the higher levels of thinking required in college.

What is the most failed course in high school? ›

Can you name the most frequently failed high school course? It's a subject that students have called “difficult,” “challenging,” and, at times, “torture.” Yes. It's a math class.

Do colleges care if you don't take an AP exam? ›

Perhaps the test was too expensive, or they couldn't make the exam date. It could also be because none of their potential colleges accept AP credits. Either way, colleges will not look down on you for abstaining from taking the exam.

What is the most passed AP exam? ›

Chinese,Calculus BC, Japanese, Drawing, and Physics C: Electricity and Magnetism are the AP tests with the highest average scores, but they are all known to be quite difficult.

Do 5s on AP exams matter? ›

The majority of colleges award course credit for a score of 3 or above (out of 5) on AP Exams, while many highly selective colleges only award credit for 4s and 5s and/or limit the number of exams that qualify for credit.

What is an AP score of 5 equivalent to? ›

Extremely well qualified A+

What is the least taken AP class? ›

Many of the least popular AP exams are world language tests, as these exams generally target a more niche group of students. What's more, some languages are less commonly taught at high schools than others (e.g., Japanese and Italian courses are rarer than Spanish courses).

What is the lowest possible AP score? ›

AP® Score of 1

Since a 1 is the lowest score that you can get on an AP® exam, this is not desirable. Thankfully, not many students leave the exam with a 1 unless complications arise during the test and they need to leave, or they are just trying to take the exam without knowing any of the material.

What are the two hardest AP classes? ›

Consequently, both Physics C courses (Mechanics as well as Electricity & Magnetism) are regarded as two of the hardest AP classes that you can take in high school.

Is it impressive to get a 5 on AP test? ›

An AP® score of 5 is the best that you could have done on the AP® exam. If you earned a 5, then congratulations! Getting a 5 means that you have agonized over this exam, studying and working over all else.

How do you get 5 on AP Chem? ›

How Can I Get a 5 in AP Chemistry?
  1. Know the Exam Format 📚 Before preparing for the exam, it's good to know what exactly is on it. ...
  2. Study Throughout the Year 📅 Pacing is important! ...
  3. Do Practice Questions❓ ...
  4. Know your Strengths and Weaknesses when Studying. ...
  5. Read the Questions Carefully 🧐
Oct 1, 2021

What grade is a 5 on AP Chem? ›

AP Chemistry Scoring Table
AP Chemistry ScoreQualificationCollege Grade Equivalent
5Extremely well qualifiedA+ or A
4Very well qualifiedA-, B+, or B
3QualifiedB-, C+, or C
2Possibly Qualified
1 more row

What is a 75 on an AP test? ›

Here are the basics of the AP English exam: it has 55 multiple-choice questions, worth 45% of your score, and three essays, worth 55% of your score. Each essay is graded between 1 and 9.
Step 3: Use the Chart to Estimate Your Scaled Score.
Composite Score (0-100 or 0-150)Scaled Score (1-5)
2 more rows
Mar 21, 2020

Does Harvard accept 4 on AP? ›

Harvard only accepts AP® scores of 5 for course credit. If you have 4 scores of 5, you can opt to obtain Advanced Standing. You can use AP® credits to opt-out of lower-level classes. Harvard has general academic requirements that all students must take.

What is the least passed AP exam? ›

AP Physics 1

Despite a reputation as one of the most difficult AP classes, Physics 1 is also one of the most popular—144,526 students took it in 2022. Physics 1 has the lowest pass rate of any AP exam (43.3%) along with one of the lowest percentages of students scoring a 5 (just 7.9%).

What percentage of students get 5s on AP exams? ›

See how all AP students performed on the most recent exams. The score distribution tables on this page show the percentages of 1s, 2s, 3s, 4s, and 5s for each AP subject. Download a PDF version of the 2022 score distributions.
AP Score Distributions.
ExamAP Human Geography
8 more columns

What is the average grade for AP Chem? ›

The average rating for AP Chemistry was 8.3/10 (vs the average across all AP classes of 5.7/10). What is this?

How do you not fail AP Chem? ›

How to Survive AP Chemistry
  1. 1 Review all of your old notes from chemistry class.
  2. 2 Walk into AP Chemistry with some confidence.
  3. 3 Take notes and make flashcards of ideas and formulas.
  4. 4 Read the chapter at least 3 times before the test.
  5. 5 Keep in mind the fundamental properties of everything chemistry-related.

Does AP Chemistry look good for college? ›

AP Chemistry looks great on your transcript or on a letter of recommendation. More and more of the best colleges and universities are looking for ways that students have distinguished themselves in high school.


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