- 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.
AP Chemistry consistently ranks as one of the hardest AP classes. In May 2020, less than 60% of students passed the AP Chemistry exam.
But even in the face of serious academic rigor, more than 145,000 students enroll in AP Chemistry each year. Why? AP classes can boost transcripts, prepare students for college, and can help offset the cost of college through earned credits.
BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.
Ready to Start Your Journey?
On this page, we explore what content AP Chemistry covers and what makes the class difficult. We also highlight the ins and outs of AP test scoring. Continue reading to see if AP Chemistry is right for you.
What Does AP Chemistry Cover?
This course introduces learners to the topics and skills that are the foundation of college-level chemistry classes. Students in AP Chemistry classes tackle a curriculum reviewed and approved by a college professor. Keep reading to review additional examples of AP Chemistry course content.
- Atomic Structure and Properties
- Molecular and Ionic Compound Structure and Properties
- Intermolecular Forces and Properties
- Chemical Reactions
- Acids and Bases
- Applications of Thermodynamics
What Determines the Difficulty of AP Chemistry? 3 Key Factors
Prospective students should consider various factors and questions before enrolling in an AP course, including the subject's level of difficulty. Continue reading as we highlight three key factors determining the difficulty of AP Chemistry.
The Pass Rate
One useful factor when determining the difficulty of an AP course involves cold, hard data: the pass rate. In 2020, students who completed AP Chemistry courses had an overall pass rate of about 56% — 15% below the 71% pass rate of all AP classes that year.
Additionally, fewer students obtain perfect scores on AP chemistry exams than on other AP tests.
The lower numbers for both pass rates and perfect scores indicate that AP Chemistry is significantly more challenging than other AP classes. Review the table below for AP Chemistry pass rate data.
|AP Class/Exam||Pass Rate (3 or Higher)||Perfect Score (5)|
|All AP Classes||71.13%||19.57%|
Source: College Board
While data can offer a window into a particular course's difficulty, raw numbers without context fail to provide the full picture. The strength of a school and the competency of a teacher can dramatically impact a student's success in an AP Chemistry course.
Access to student support services like tutoring and online test preparation programs can also influence testing outcomes.
The Course Material
The difficulty of an AP class often depends on the amount of course content that a curriculum covers. Not only do AP Chemistry students grapple with theoretical concepts, but they also spend a considerable amount of instructional time applying theory in a lab-based environment.
Students typically tackle nine units during their AP Chemistry class while developing science practices, including model analysis, models and representation, and representing data and phenomena. Additionally, AP students utilize mathematical knowledge to solve chemistry problems.
Your Subject Skills
Another key factor when determining difficulty is a student's set of subject skills — recommended prerequisites include high school coursework in both chemistry and algebra II.
Students who typically excel in math and science classes should feel relatively comfortable in AP Chemistry.
Throughout this course, students design experiments, test theories, and learn to produce effective graphs and models to present chemistry-based ideas. AP Chemistry students also learn to balance chemical equations and develop scientific claims backed by evidence.
When Should You Take AP Chemistry?
AP Chemistry is one of the more difficult AP classes. Students often complete the class during their junior or senior year to ensure that prospective colleges review the grades and exam scores during the application evaluation process.
A solid grade in the class and passing score on the exam can demonstrate a student's ability to handle complex and rigorous college-level coursework.
While not barred from enrolling in an AP Chemistry class, first- and second-year high school students may not have completed the required prerequisite classes in chemistry and algebra II.
As AP Chemistry is challenging, students should have developed competency and comfortability with various math and science topics. Due to its challenging nature, students are not encouraged to complete other AP classes alongside AP Chemistry.
AP Chemistry Exam: What You Need to Know
Thousands of students take the AP Chemistry exam, and a significant percentage pass the test and earn college credit. Review the table below to see how students perform on the AP Chemistry exam.
|Exam Score||Number of Students||Percentage of Students|
Source: College Board
How Is the AP Chemistry Exam Structured?
During the more than three-hour AP Chemistry exam, students complete questions in two distinct formats. The test contains 60 multiple choice questions and seven free-response essay questions.
Test-takers have 90 minutes to complete the multiple-choice section and 105 minutes to complete the written section. Test proctors encourage students to bring a graphing calculator, and they provide students with a list of applicable formulas and a copy of the periodic table.
- Section I: 60 Multiple-Choice Questions (90 Minutes)
- Section II: Seven Free-Response Questions (105 Minutes)
How Is the AP Chemistry Exam Scored?
Individuals evaluating AP tests grade on a scale of 1-5. A score of 3 or higher is considered a passing grade. The two sections of the AP Chemistry exam — multiple-choice and free-response — each makes up 50% of a student's score.
When preparing for the AP Chemistry exam, students should consider which test section feels more comfortable. Students who may struggle with the written portion of the exam may want to dedicate more study time to that area.
|3 Long-Answer Questions (10 Points Each)||32.6%|
|4 Short-Answer Questions (4 Points Each)||17.4%|
Source: College Board
AP Chemistry: What Score Do I Need for College Credit?
Whether or not AP Chemistry test scores translate into college credit varies depending on the college or university. Some schools do not accept test scores for college credit, while others are more generous.
Generally, a grade of 4 or 5 is the key to securing college credit for an AP class. However, some schools accept grades of 3 or higher, so be sure to reach out to prospective schools to confirm their AP test policy.
Due to its inherent difficulty, most schools require a score of 3 or 4 when offering college credit. When in doubt, you can refer to this AP credit policy search tool.
Should I Take AP Chemistry?
When considering which AP classes to take, students should recognize that workload and academic strengths can help determine which test is a good fit. Not every student can handle every discipline, but those with STEM skills and science and math prerequisites may want to try this challenging AP course.
In addition to evaluating certain factors, prospective AP students may want to reach out to teachers and past students to get a feel for what to expect in an AP Chemistry class. Science and math teachers may also have insight into whether or not AP Chemistry is a good fit.
Frequently Asked Questions About AP Chemistry
Is AP Chemistry worth taking?
For students with strong math and science skills, enrolling in an AP Chemistry class can be worth it. The course introduces learners to college-level chemistry, while offering them the chance to earn college credit. Students gain essential chemistry knowledge that they regularly apply in a lab setting during this class.
AP tests are more challenging than standard high school classes. However, enrolled students can gain first-hand experience with college-level coursework with the possibility of saving money on tuition in the form of college credit. AP Chemistry can be a valuable investment for many college-bound students.
Is AP Biology harder than AP Chemistry?
While AP Chemistry has a reputation as one of the more demanding AP courses and exams, a closer look at the data is a bit more complex.
About 84% of AP Biology students scored in the 2-4 range in May 2020, while fewer than 70% of AP Chemistry test-takers fell in that same range. Additionally, nearly 20% of AP Chemistry test-takers earned a score of 1, while only 7% of AP Biology students earned the lowest score.
Furthermore, AP Chemistry has a higher percentage of students earning a score of 5 than those taking the AP Biology test. This data underscores the value of taking AP classes that mirror academic skills and experience.
Do colleges care about AP Chemistry?
Colleges are aware of the varying difficulty levels of AP courses and tests. As a result, students who secure top grades in their classes and pass the AP Chemistry exam can help boost their academic transcripts.
AP Chemistry consistently ranks as one of the toughest AP exams, and students who get through it unscathed reveal both STEM talent and college readiness. That said, AP Chemistry is not a requirement for college. Students who possess other strengths can find ways to boost their college resume through both academic and non-academic activities.
Feature Image: Portra / DigitalVision / Getty Images
What Is the AP Chemistry Pass Rate 2022? The AP Chem 2022 pass rate was 53%, lower than the all-AP average.Is Chemistry the hardest AP class? ›
Top 10 Hardest AP Classes by Exam Pass Rate.
|AP Class/Exam||Pass Rate (3+)||Perfect Score (5)|
|1. Physics 1||51.6%||8.8%|
|2. Environmental Science||53.4%||11.9%|
|4. U.S. Government and Politics||57.5%||15.5%|
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). For a full chart of the hardest AP exams (those with the lowest passing rate), check out this site.What will be on the AP Chemistry exam 2022? ›
The 2022 AP Chemistry exam will test students on the whole course content, so be prepared to answer questions on these topics: Unit 1: Atomic Structures and Properties. Unit 2: Molecular and Ionic Compound Structure and Properties. Unit 3: Intermolecular Forces and Properties.Why do people say AP Chem is 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 average grade for AP Chem? ›
Since 2014, the average AP® Chemistry scores have been around 2.80.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.Is AP bio or chem easier? ›
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.Which APS are the easiest? ›
- 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. ...
- AP Comparative Government and Politics. ...
- AP Environmental Science.
United States History, Biology, English Literature, Calculus BC, Physics C, and Chemistry are often named as the hardest AP classes and tests.
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 second hardest AP class? ›
The second hardest AP class is environmental science, with a passing rate of 53.4%. This class is often known for students underestimating the course.
The simple truth is that AP® Chemistry is a difficult class, but if you know what you're getting yourself into and plan accordingly, it is possible to pass the AP® Chemistry exam with a high score.What percent do you need to get on the AP Chem exam to get a 5? ›
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.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.
Atomic Structure and Properties (7-9%) Molecular and Ionic Compound Structure and Properties (7-9%) Intermolecular Forces and Properties (18-22%) Chemical Reactions (7-9%)Is AP Chem or physics C harder? ›
In terms of content, Physics C is definitely harder than Chemistry.What grade is a B+ in an AP class? ›
|Letter Grade||Percentage||AP/IB GPA|
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.
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.What is the hardest year of high school? ›
While junior year is often the hardest year of high school, the transition from middle school to 9th grade can also be tough. To make it easier, don't feel afraid to reach out to your teachers and counselors, and take advantage of the support resources that are available.What percentage of high schoolers fail? ›
In particular, American Indian/Alaska Native high school students have the highest high school dropout rate at 9.6% (NCES, 2021). This is much higher compared to the overall average dropout rate of 5.1% (NCES, 2021).What college class do most people fail? ›
College algebra is the most failed course with about half of all students not getting credit for the course with a grade of a D, F, incomplete, or withdrawing. The challenges of learning algebra aren't unique to college.How many is too many AP classes? ›
Take as many as you can handle without spreading yourself thin, and make sure you will have time to study for the ACT or SAT this year. An Ivy League hopeful might take 3 to 5 AP classes, while if you're aiming for less-selective schools, 2 to 4 would be enough.Should I take AP Chemistry without taking chemistry? ›
AP chemistry is a rewarding but extremely challenging class. Because of this, and to ensure that students have the proper lab experience to prepare them for college, the College Board recommends that students take regular chemistry first, followed by AP chemistry.Should I take AP Chemistry if I want to be an engineer? ›
The majority of engineering students will be required to take a basic chemistry course during college, even if they decide to pursue a degree outside of chemical engineering. By taking AP Chemistry during high school, you will develop a solid understanding of the concepts and challenge you academically.How many APS do most Highschoolers take? ›
Aim for four to eight AP exams in your junior and senior years. For competitive Ivy League schools, admission officers also want to see AP courses for core subject areas and additional courses. If possible, aim to pass about seven to 12 AP exams if applying to these highly selective schools.What APS look good to colleges? ›
Some of the best online AP classes to take include:
- AP Biology.
- AP Chemistry.
- AP Physics 1.
- AP Physics 2.
- AP Calculus B/C.
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).
 AP Chemistry is rated as the hardest of all AP classes if you're self-studying, at 8.3 / 10.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.Is AP Chem a lot of math? ›
There is definitely quite a heavy load of math in AP Chem. In AP Chem you have to know concepts and how to do calculations, which often involve math incorporated into Algebra 2 or higher.Does AP Chem prepare you for college? ›
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.Is AP Chemistry doable? ›
While the AP® Chemistry Exam's multiple-choice section may not be enjoyable, however, it is certainly doable.How many AP classes is impressive? ›
To be competitive at some of the most highly selective colleges in the country, 8-12 AP courses may be the sweet spot amount, assuming the student can handle that level of rigor. There are no colleges out there that require you to take 14, 17, or some other obscene number of Advanced Placement offerings.Is AP more difficult than honors? ›
AP classes, however, are more challenging than honors classes. These courses cover information, teach skills and give assignments that correspond to college classes. High school students taking AP courses will be held to the same standard as college students.What is the hardest AP class to take in high school? ›
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 AP Chem easy to self study? ›
AP Chem is one of the more challenging courses to take, especially for self-study. However, with hard work, the right resources, and dedication, you could do it if you really wanted to.What percent is a 1 on AP Chem exam? ›
AP Score Distributions.
Step 3: Use the Chart to Estimate Your Scaled Score.
|Composite Score (0-100 or 0-150)||Scaled Score (1-5)|
- Spanish Literature. 75.1% 17.6%
- Physics C: Electricity and Magnetism. 74.4% 40.4%
- Physics 2. 73.3% 14.0%
- Computer Science Principles. 71.6% 10.9%
- Psychology. 71.3% 22.4%
- Computer Science A. 70.4% 25.6%
- Comparative Government and Politics. 70.2% 24.4%
- Music Theory.
- 1 Review all of your old notes from chemistry class.
- 2 Walk into AP Chemistry with some confidence.
- 3 Take notes and make flashcards of ideas and formulas.
- 4 Read the chapter at least 3 times before the test.
- 5 Keep in mind the fundamental properties of everything chemistry-related.
What Are the Most Failed AP Exams? 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).How many people pass AP Chem? ›
|AP Class/Exam||Pass Rate (3+)||Perfect Score (5)|
|1. Physics 1||51.6%||8.8%|
|2. Environmental Science||53.4%||11.9%|
|4. U.S. Government and Politics||57.5%||15.5%|
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 percent is passing on AP Chem? ›
|AP Environmental Science||8.9%||20.3%|
|AP Physics 1||7.9%||29.6%|
|AP Physics 2||16.3%||6.3%|
This year, 11.4 percent of students who took the AP Chemistry exam scores a 5.What is the 5 rate for AP Chem? ›
Only about half (51.3%) of students pass the course and just 11.2% score a 5—one of the lowest rates among all the AP courses.
The hardest AP class to self-study is Chemistry, which is rated at 8.3/10 by class alumnae. Good luck!
In other words, AP scores are not graded on a curve but instead calculated specifically to reflect consistency in scoring from year to year.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.What is a good grade in AP Chemistry? ›
|AP Chemistry Score||Qualification||College Grade Equivalent|
|5||Extremely well qualified||A+ or A|
|4||Very well qualified||A-, B+, or B|
|3||Qualified||B-, C+, or C|
1. AP English Language and Composition. AP English Language and Composition is by far the most popular AP test, with over half a million students taking the exam in 2021.How many AP exams does the average student take? ›
The Key Number
If that answer isn't fully satisfying, here is a look at the average number of APs students tend to take over the course of their high school years, broken down by college selectivity: Selective schools: around 7–12 APs. Semi-selective schools: 4–8 APs. Less selective schools: 1–5 APs.
Don't be pressured into taking AP courses in areas you don't enjoy. Second, balance your course load. Unless you're applying to the most selective universities, 4 to 5 AP courses over your high school years is more than enough. For students applying to the most selective colleges, you might need 7–12.How many aps should i take junior year? ›
Aim for four to eight AP exams in your junior and senior years. For competitive Ivy League schools, admission officers also want to see AP courses for core subject areas and additional courses. If possible, aim to pass about seven to 12 AP exams if applying to these highly selective schools.