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AP Chemistry: How Chemistry Explains Almost Everything

Chemistry is all around us. It explains almost every facet of our daily lives. Everyone can and should understand basic chemistry, but taking an advance placement course in chemistry will give you a deeper appreciation for the science and prepare you to even make a career out of it. Chemistry is also involved in other sciences because all of the sciences involve matter and the interactions between types of matter.

If you are considering becoming a doctor, nurse, physicist, nutritionist, geologist, pharmacist, or chemists, you need to study chemistry. Even better, chemistry-related jobs are plentiful and high-paying. Chemistry makes up the building blocks of life and won’t be going anywhere any time soon, so it will remain a promising career path. Here are some facts you may not have already known about chemistry:

• Chemistry explains how food changes as you cook it, how it rots, how to preserve food, how your body uses the food you eat, and how ingredients interact to make food. Chemistry even explains what happens when animals eat certain foods, such as why macadamia nuts are toxic to dogs.

• You need to understand basic chemistry so you can understand how vitamins, supplements, and drugs can help or harm you. Part of the importance of chemistry lies in developing and testing new medical treatments and medicines. It also explains why Coca Cola originally contained cocaine.

• Chemistry is also at the heart of environmental issues. What makes one chemical a nutrient and another chemical a pollutant? How can you clean up the environment? Chemistry explains that when you freeze saltwater or seawater slowly, you get freshwater ice. So why do droughts still kill millions of people all over the world when there is definitely enough freezable saltwater?

The AP Chemistry course is designed to be the equivalent of the general chemistry course usually taken during the first college year. It should meet the objectives of a good general chemistry course and provide a deeper understanding of the fundamentals, as well as, a reasonable competence in dealing with chemical problems.

What else should I expect?

According to The College Board, the course should contribute to the development of the students’ abilities to think clearly and to express their ideas, orally and in writing, with clarity and logic. The kind of textbook used, the topics covered, the emphasis on chemical calculations and the mathematical formulation of principles, and the kind of laboratory work done by students will be different from general chemistry classes. Lastly, your laboratory experience should simulate the same experience you would get in a college setting.

How should I prepare?

To develop the perquisite intellectual and laboratory skills, you’ll need adequate classroom and laboratory time. This varies from school to school, but at least a minimum of 290 minutes per week should be allotted for an AP Chemistry course. Of that time, a minimum of 90 minutes per week should be spent in the lab. In addition, you will probably need to spend at least five hours a week studying outside of class in order to keep up with the lectures and pass any quizzes/tests.

When should I take the course?

The AP Chemistry course is usually taken after the completion of a first course in high school chemistry. Talk to your Academic Counselor, but it is strongly recommended that you take a first-year high school chemistry course before enrolling in an AP Chemistry class. Taking a second-year algebra course before AP Chemistry is also recommended.

What about the exam?

The AP Chemistry Exam has two main parts, Section I and Section II, which contribute equally toward the final score. Section I consists of 75 multiple choice questions that cover a broad range of chemistry topics. You will have 90 minutes to complete the first section of the exam. Section II consists of six free response questions: three multi-part quantitative questions; one question on writing balanced chemical equations and answering a short question for three different sets of reactants; and two multi-part questions that are essentially non-quantitative. This section is divided into two parts: for Part A (55 minutes), students are allowed the use of a calculator, but for Part B (40 minutes), no calculators are permitted. For more information on the exam click here.


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