These tips consist of both important general knowledge and study strategies to help you succeed in AP Chemistry.
Tip 1: Get VERY comfortable with the Periodic Table
The Periodic Table is the most important reference for any chemistry student because it provides a LOT of information.
1. Learn the groups and their characteristics:
a. Focus on groups 1-8A… know what they are (metals, gases, etc). You don’t need to know very much about the B group transition metals in general chemistry.
b. Know how to find the number of valence electrons and bonds that an element can form by its group number.
c. If they exist as cations or anions and their charge. For example, alkali metals (+1), halogens (-1), etc…
2. Learn periodic trends:
a. Electron affinity, electronegativity, and ionization energy – right and up
b. Atomic radius – left and down
c. Know what these trends mean and try to apply them
If you take these things to heart, they will help you with nearly all aspects of chemistry – stoichiometry, drawing Lewis structures, molecular geometry, reactions, and much more. You can find more information in your textbook.
Tip 2: Know your variables and units
Before a test, review the equations you learned and make sure you know what each variable represents and its units. It is important to know what each equation can help you find.
For example, the ideal gas law. In order to solve for any of the variables, you will need to know that:
P = pressure (atm)
V = volume (liters)
N = moles
R = gas constant = 0.08206 atm*L/K*mol
T = temperature (Kelvin)
If you use Celsius instead of Kelvin, or if you use the wrong form of the gas constant, your answer will be wrong.
Tip 3: Write out the information the problems give you
Whenever you have a problem that involves math, make sure that you write down the values that are given and their units. From there, if you are stumped, you can use that information to figure out the right formula to use, granted you followed tip #2.
Tip 4: Take notes in class and read your textbook!
Some may find reading the textbook before a lecture to be useful, but what I suggest is to:
1. Pay attention in class.
2. Take the best notes you can.
3. Go back to the textbook after the lecture and fill in your notes on areas you did not understand or areas that the teacher made emphasis on. This way, you get a general overview in class of what is important to learn/study, then after class you can focus on the important material rather than focusing on everything in the textbook.
4. Re-write your notes the week following up to the test. Not only will re-writing your notes make them neater and easier to refer back to, but it will also help the information sink in. During the test, you may be able to remember writing a fact down, or drawing out an important structure.
Tip 5: Practice, practice, practice!
Like anything else, practicing is essential for success. Before any class test or the AP exam, utilize any practice tests or study materials your teacher provides. If you feel you need more practice materials, you can ask your teacher, do the problems in the book, or look online. These materials will help you familiarize yourself with the types of questions that will be on the tests and save you some time during the exams.
Jennifer graduated cum laude from the University of Massachusetts Amherst with a B.S. in Biochemistry/B.A. in Chemistry double major. Throughout college, Jennifer worked as a student tutor, assisting over 100 students with coursework in science and mathematics. Jennifer has a passion for teaching and plans to pursue a career in education as a high school chemistry teacher. She currently works as a full-time chemist, and spends her spare time dancing, cooking, and learning.
Are you taking the AP Chemistry Exam? Any questions or additional tips you’d like to share?
Post your tips/comments below.