AP Chemistry Exam Information

Learn What Score You'll Need and What Course Credit You'll Receive

Chemical Model
Chemical Model. Charles Clegg / Flickr

Fewer students take AP Chemistry than AP Biology, Physics, or Calculus. Nevertheless, the course is an excellent choice for students interested in pursuing a STEM field in college, or for students who want to demonstrate to college admissions officers that they pushed themselves to take challenging courses in high school. Most colleges and universities have a science and lab requirement, so a high score on the AP Chemistry exam will sometimes fulfill these requirements.

About the AP Chemistry Course and Exam

AP Chemistry is designed to cover the material that a student would typically encounter in an introductory chemistry course taken in the first year of college. The course will sometimes fulfill a science requirement, laboratory requirement, or place a student into the second semester of a chemistry sequence.

AP Chemistry is organized around six central ideas that allow students to understand and predict chemical interactions:

  • Atoms. Students learn that the chemical elements are the building blocks of all matter, and that matter is defined by the arrangement of those atoms.
  • Properties of Materials. This section examines the ways that the physical and chemical properties of materials are defined by the arrangements of atoms, ions, or molecules, and the forces between them.
  • Changes in Matter. Students study the way that the rearrangement of atoms and transfer of electrons causes changes in matter.
  • Reaction Rates. In this section, students study how the rate at which chemicals react is governed by the nature of the molecular collisions.
  • Laws of Thermodynamics. Through a study of the laws of thermodynamics, students learn about the conservation of energy and how that relates to changes in matter.
  • Equilibrium. Students learn that chemical reactions are reversible and can proceed in either direction. Chemical equilibrium results when opposing chemical processes occur at the same rate.

Central to the course is the student's ability to model phenomena, use mathematics to solve problems, pose and evaluate scientific questions, collect and analyze data, and make claims and predictions about chemical phenomena based on scientific models and theories.

AP Chemistry Score Information

The AP Chemistry exam was taken by 158,931 students in 2017. Only 83,269 of those students (52.4 percent) earned a score of 3 or higher indicating that they have a level of mastery sufficient for possibly earning college credit. 

The mean score for the AP Chemistry exam was 2.67, and the scores were distributed as follows (2017 data):

  • 5 - 10.1 percent
  • 4 - 16.2 percent
  • 3 - 26.1 percent
  • 2 - 26.2 percent
  • 1 - 21.4 percent

If your score is on the low end of the scale, realize that you don't need to report it to colleges. Unlike the SAT and ACT, AP exam scores are typically self-reported and not required.

Course Credit and Placement for AP Chemistry

The table below presents some representative data from a variety of colleges and universities.

This information is meant to provide a general picture of the way that selective colleges view the AP Chemistry exam. You'll see that all the schools do offer credit for a strong score on the chemistry exam, even if just general credits with no placement—AP Chemistry is one of the more widely-accepted exams. Note that all of the private institutions require at least a 4 on the exam to earn credit while all the public institutions except for Georgia Tech will accept a 3. Keep in mind that AP placement data changes frequently, so be sure to check with a college's Registrar to get the most up-to-date information.

AP Chemistry Scores and Placement
CollegeScore NeededPlacement Credit
Georgia Tech5CHEM 1310 (4 semester hours)
Grinnell College4 or 54 semester credits; CHM 129
Hamilton College4 or 51 credit after completing CHEM 125 and/or 190
LSU3, 4 or 5CHEM 1201, 1202 (6 credits) for a 3; CHEM 1421, 1422 (6 credits) for a 4 or 5
MIT-no credit or placement for AP Chemistry
Mississippi State University3, 4 or 5CH 1213 (3 credits) for a 3; CH 1213 and CH 1223 (6 credits) for a 4 or 5
Notre Dame4 or 5Chemistry 10101 (3 credits) for a 4; Chemistry 10171 (4 credits) for a 5
Reed College4 or 51 credit; no placement
Stanford University5CHEM 33; 4 quarter units
Truman State University3, 4 or 5CHEM 100 Chemistry (4 credits) for a 3; CHEM 120 Chemical Principles I (5 credits) for a 4 or 5
UCLA (School of Letters and Science)3, 4 or 58 credits and Introductory CHEM for a 3; 8 credits and General CHEM for a 4 or 5
Yale University51 credit; CHEM 112a, 113b, 114a, 115b

A Final Word on AP Chemistry

Course credit and placement aren't the only reasons to take AP Chemistry. When applying to colleges, a strong academic record will be the most important part of your application. Colleges want to see that you have succeeded in the most challenging courses available to you, and AP, IB, and Honors all play an important role on this front. Doing well in Advanced Placement classes (and AP exams) is a far better predictor of future college success than standardized tests such as the SAT or ACT.

To learn more specific information about the AP Chemistry exam, be sure to visit the official College Board website.