2021 AP Chemistry Exam Guide

11 min readmarch 9, 2021


Your Guide to the 2021 AP Chemistry Exam

We know that studying for your AP exams can be stressful, but Fiveable has your back! We have created a study plan that will help you crush your chemistry exam. We will continue to update this guide with more information about the 2021 exams, as well as helpful resources to help you score that 5. Create a Fiveable account and join our Discord to stay involved in all things AP exams! 😁

Format of the 2021 AP Chemistry Exam

This year, all AP exams will cover all units and essay types, whether paper or digital. The 2021 Chemistry exam format will be:
  • Section 1: Multiple Choice Questions - 50% of your total score
    • 60 questions in 1 hr 30 mins
    • No calculator allowed
  • Section 2: Free Response Questions - 50% of your total score
    • 7 questions in 1 hr 45 mins
    • 3 long free-response questions. Each question is worth 10 points.
    • 4 short free-response questions. Each question is worth 4 points.
    • A scientific or graphing calculator is recommended.
Although those taking the digital exam can use a calculator on section one, the questions will be designed so that the use of a calculator would not be of much benefit.
Check out our study plan below to find resources and tools to prepare for your AP Chemistry exam!

When is the 2021 AP Chemistry exam and how do I take it?

There are three different exam administrations this year and the tests will be taken in person at your school, unless your AP Coordinator has indicated otherwise. Here is what we know from College Board so far:
  • The first administration offers the exam on paper, in school, on Friday, May 7, 2021, at 8 AM, your local time.
  • The second administration offers the exam on paper, in school, on Tuesday, May 25, 2021, at 8 AM, your local time.
  • The third administration offers the exam digitally, in school and at home, on Thursday, June 10, 2021, at 12 PM EDT.
You will have 3 hours and 15 minutes to take the exam. Create a Fiveable account to get updates on the latest 2021 exam news.

How should I prepare for the exam?

  • First, download the AP Chemistry Cram Chart PDF - a single sheet that covers everything you need to know at a high level. Take note of your strengths and weaknesses!
  • Review every unit and question type, and focus on the areas that need the most improvement and practice. We've put together this plan to help you study between now and May. This will cover all of the units and essay types to prepare you for your exam.
  • Join our Discord server to talk to real students just like you studying for this exam! We have TAs in each subject channel to support you this Spring.
  • Finally, check out our live cram events so that you can review for the AP Chem exam with a rockstar teacher and study socially among other students! 🤓

Pre-work: set up your study environment

Before we begin, take some time to get organized. Remote learning can be great, but it also means you’ll need to hold yourself accountable more than usual. 

🖥 Create a study space.

Make sure you have a designated place at home to study. Somewhere you can keep all of your materials, where you can focus on learning, and where you are comfortable. Spend some time prepping the space with everything you need and you can even let others in the family know that this is your study space. 

📚 Organize your study materials.

Get your notebook, textbook, prep books, or whatever other physical materials you have. Also create a space for you to keep track of review. Start a new section in your notebook to take notes or start a Google Doc to keep track of your notes. Get yourself set up!

📅 Plan designated times for studying.

The hardest part about studying from home is sticking to a routine. Decide on one hour every day that you can dedicate to studying. This can be any time of the day, whatever works best for you. Set a timer on your phone for that time and really try to stick to it. The routine will help you stay on track.

🏆 Decide on an accountability plan.

How will you hold yourself accountable to this study plan? You may or may not have a teacher or rules set up to help you stay on track, so you need to set some for yourself. First set your goal. This could be studying for x number of hours or getting through a unit. Then, create a reward for yourself. If you reach your goal, then x. This will help stay focused!

🤝 Get support from your peers. 

There are thousands of students all over the world who are preparing for their AP exams just like you! Join our Discord channel to chat, ask questions, and meet other students who are also studying for the spring exams. You can even build study groups and review material together! 

AP Chemistry 2021 Study Plan

⚛️ Unit 1: Atomic Structure and Properties

Big Takeaways:

Atomic Structure and Properties dive into the makeup of the atom. This includes the subatomic particles, some (very) basic quantum mechanics, and the mole definition. We will look at important graphs, electron configurations, and describe some of the basic math necessary to describe atoms and their structure.

Definitely do this:

🎥 Watch these videos:
📚Read these Fiveable study guides:
✍️ Practice:
  • 2019 FRQ: Number 5 from the 2019 AP Chemistry exam tests students on photoelectron spectroscopy.
  • 2018 FRQ: Number 3, Parts (a)-(c) test students on electron configurations and periodic trends.

If you have more time or want to dig deeper:

🤓 Unit 2: Molecular and Ionic Compound Structure and Properties

Big Takeaways:

Now that we have learned about the atomic structure, we can determine how atoms form chemical bonds. This section focuses mostly on molecular (covalent) and ionic compounds. For molecules, we will learn about Lewis structures, formal charge, and resonance. For ionic compounds, we will see how the atomic properties affect the characteristics of the compound.

Definitely do this:

🎥 Watch these videos:
📚Read these Fiveable study guides:
✍️ Practice:
  • 2018 FRQ: Number 2, Part (d) tests students on Lewis structures and hybridization.
  • 2017 FRQ: Number 1, Part (c) tests students on Lewis structures and bond angles and number 2, part (a) tests students on formal charge and resonance. Lastly, number 6, part (b) is a question regarding Coulomb's law and lattice energy.

If you have more time or want to dig deeper:

🌀 Unit 3: Intermolecular Forces and Properties

Big Takeaways:

Prior to this year's changes, this was the biggest unit that AP Chemistry tested. In this unit, we'll look at intermolecular forces, the attractive forces between particles, and use this knowledge to make assumptions and predications of the bulk scale properties of the substances. In this section, we will study the properties of solids, liquids, gases, and solutions.

Definitely do this:

🎥 Watch these videos:
📚Read these Fiveable study guides:
✍️Practice:
  • 2019 FRQ: Number 1, Part (b) from the 2019 AP Chemistry test asks students about intermolecular forces and solutions. Number 2, part (a), (c), and (d) asks students about intermolecular forces and the ideal gas law. Lastly, Number 4 is an excellent question describing the properties of an ideal gas.
  • 2018 FRQ: Number 4 asks students about deviations from the expected boiling points and intermolecular forces.

🧪 Unit 4: Chemical Reactions

Big Takeaways:

This unit introduces stoichiometry and the three types of chemical reactions that are studied in AP Chemistry; Acid-Base, Oxidation-Reduction, and Precipitation reactions. We will look at different ways to qualitatively and quantitatively describe these reactions. Some of these methods include balancing reactions, limiting and excess reactants, and titrations.

Definitely do this:

🎥 Watch these videos:
📚Read these Fiveable study guides:
✍️ Practice:
  • 2019 FRQ: Number 3, part (a)-(e) asks a precipitation and limiting reactant problem for an example in solution. Number 7 is a redox reaction titration. This is an excellent example of laboratory technique.
  • 2018 FRQ: Number 1 , parts (a)-(c) starts with a redox reaction and a limiting reactant problem. Number 2, parts (d)-(f) describes a titration problem and asks students specific questions in regards to laboratory technique.

🏃🏻‍♂️ Unit 5: Kinetics

Big Takeaways:

This specific section describes the rates of chemical reactions and how we can use these concepts to determine the mechanisms of the process. We will specifically look at the differentiated and integrated rate laws to quantitatively describe the kinetics of reactions. We will dive into the collision theory to describe the reaction speed quantitatively.

Definitely do this:

🎥 Watch these videos:
  • The Rate Law by Bozeman Science: Reviews the intergrated rate laws and the rate law expression.
  • Le Chatelier's Principle by Professor Dave Explains: Explains Le Chatelier's Principle.
📚Read these Fiveable study guides:
  • 5.9 COMING SOON
  • 5.10 COMING SOON
✍️ Practice:
  • 2019 FRQ: Number 6 asks students about the integrated raw law and reaction mechanisms.
  • 2018 FRQ: Number 7, parts (b) and (c) asks students to mathematicaally apply the integrated rate laws.

🔥 Unit 6: Thermodynamics

Big Takeaways:

In Thermodynamics, we are mostly looking at Enthalpy (H). Every reaction or process in the world releases or absorbs energy, and the enthalpy value for reactions is how we study them. We will also spend time looking at calorimetry, the method for determining the enthalpy value of a reaction.

Definitely do this:

🎥 Watch these videos:
  • Enthalpy of Reaction by Bozeman Science: An excellent video describing what enthalpy is and how we chemists use this value.
  • Calorimetry by Crash Course: A good introduction to calorimetry and how we use these techniques to determine the enthalpy of reaction.
📚Read these Fiveable study guides:
✍️ Practice:
  • 2019 FRQ: Number 1, parts (c)-(d) is an excellent question related to calorimetry and experimental design. Number 2, part (g) asks students about bond energies and enthalpy of reaction.
  • 2018 FRQ: Number 1 is an excellent question which represents multiple units. While you might not need every answer, College Board asks questions in such a way that leads you through the question. Parts (d)-(f) particularly relate to Unit 6.

⚖️ Unit 7: Equilibrium

Big Takeaways:

Most chemical reactions exist in a state of dynamic equilibrium. In other words, the reactants react to make the products at the same rate that the products remake the reactants. This important unit has many implications and connections to the real world. We will quantitatively look at this unit by using the equilibrium expression. We will qualitatively look at this unit using Le Chatelier's Principle.

Definitely do this:

🎥 Watch these videos:
  • Equilibrium: This video reviews equilibrium and discusses the equilibrium constant.
✍️ Practice:
  • 2019 FRQ: Number 2, Parts (d)-(f) asks students about the equilibrium expression and asks students to determine the equilibrium constant.
  • Equilibrium

🍊 Unit 8: Acids and Bases

Big Takeaways:

In acid-base chemistry, we'll analyze the pathways of free protons, H+ ions, whenever a chemical is dissolved in a solution. In this unit, we'll learn how to measure concentrations of free protons to find the pH and pOH of acids and bases. Afterwards, we move into more complicated chemistry concerning buffers and titrations and how to make calculations based on provided data.

Definitely do this:

🎥 Watch these videos:
✍️ Practice:

🧯 Unit 9: Application of Thermodynamics

Big Takeaways:

We'll learn about thermodynamic favorability for reactions, or how likely they are to occur given energy changes and environmental factors. First, we'll receive an introduction to entropy and learn about what absolute entropy and entropy change.

Definitely do this:

🎥 Watch these videos:
✍️ Practice:

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