The Importance of an effective AP chemistry pacing guide.

Recently, I’ve noticed a shift among AP chemistry teachers – more and more educators are opting to align their course content with the sequence recommended by the College Board for AP Chemistry. For some teachers, following this structured sequence seems more straightforward. Reflecting on the challenges brought about by the pandemic, I can’t help but recall the 2020 exams when Units 8 and 9 were unexpectedly removed. While this decision was undoubtedly made with good intentions, it inadvertently posed difficulties for teachers who had already covered these units ahead of time. They found themselves in a somewhat disadvantaged position. Considering this past experience, it seems only logical to embrace the College Board’s suggested order of topics.

For those who decide to follow the College Board’s Exam Description (CED) order, it’s evident that this sequence doesn’t always align seamlessly with the classroom’s reality. Some topics appear oddly placed, leaving teachers with the challenging task of not only fitting them into the designated sequence but also accommodating students with varying levels of readiness for the AP class.

Another challenge arises when we consider that the units later in the course tend to be more challenging for students to grasp. Second semester often becomes a race against time, with teachers sometimes having to sacrifice instructional days for unexpected events like snow days. As a result, students might not have sufficient time to delve into Units 7, 8, and 9.

Let’s take a closer look at the exam weightings to understand the significance of these units:

  • Unit 1: Atomic Structure and Properties (7–9%)
  • Unit 2: Molecular and Ionic Compound Structure and Properties (7–9%)
  • Unit 3: Intermolecular Forces and Properties (18–22%)
  • Unit 4: Chemical Reactions (7–9%)
  • Unit 5: Kinetics (7–9%)
  • Unit 6: Thermodynamics (7–9%)
  • Unit 7: Equilibrium (7–9%)
  • Unit 8: Acids and Bases (11–15%)
  • Unit 9: Applications of Thermodynamics (7–9%)

How much time should we spend on each unit?

How do we strategize how much time to allocate to each unit? One approach is to calculate the exam weighting of each unit as a percentage of the available instructional days and then distribute it across the topics. But remember, this is merely an estimate, and the true balance becomes clearer only when you’re in the classroom. Also, remember to include the need for review sessions and tests, which can impact your timeline.

In the context of time constraints, it is advisable for educators to adopt a strategic approach when planning their curriculum. This entails identifying historically strong areas in past exams where students have consistently excelled. Such areas represent opportunities to strategically allocate more teaching and reinforcement resources, potentially leading to improved overall student performance. Conversely, for challenging yet pivotal exam topics, allocating extra time and resources is key to helping students overcome difficulties and perform well.

For instance, if we examine the 2021 results (, we can see that students are strong in Kinetics but struggle with Unit 1, 7, and 8. This data can guide us in focusing our efforts on these areas and also help students to be prepared to know where the challenges are.

Multiple-choice section:

Scored well
AP Chemistry students demonstrated solid mastery of Units 4 (Chemical Reactions) and 5 (Kinetics), with ~15% of students earning a perfect score across all questions about these units.
Students generally scored least well on Unit 1 (Atomic Structure and Properties), in which 5% of students answered all questions correctly and 8% answered none correctly; Unit 7 (Equilibrium), and Unit 8 (Acids and Bases).
Scoring for 2021 AP chemistry

Another apporach – teachers can engage students in the process of prioritizing and strategizing their coursework, fostering teamwork. By actively involving students in collaborative goal-setting and mutual support in their learning journey, we empower them to take greater responsibility for their education. Instead of teachers solely directing teaching and planning, this approach places students at the center of their learning, which could be a valuable and transformative approach to education.

Experienced educators frequently emphasize the importance of adhering to the established plan, a recommendation I wholeheartedly endorse. However, the reality is that at times, it can be quite challenging when our students are not prepared to progress. In the context of subjects like chemistry, where topics are interconnected and weak fundamentals can adversely impact other areas, we must address the question: What strategies can we employ to support struggling students?”

To address this challenge, it becomes crucial to find supplementary resources that can support these students without causing disruptions to the plan. While other resources may be available, at Viziscience, we have specifically crafted resources to help students who find AP chemistry challenging. Our self-paced, self-learning materials are here to lend a helping hand to your students. Whether it’s about ensuring everyone starts on a level playing field with the foundational knowledge they need or giving extra assistance to those who need more time and support, Viziscience provides a flexible online platform that’s available 24/7. That’s why teachers who use Viziscience are thrilled with our package, often expressing their love for Viziscience and the positive impact it has on both them and their students. Their continued yearly subscriptions serve as a testament to its effectiveness, making it a surefire way to successfully teach this course.

Guidance for Teachers:

In conclusion, navigating the AP Chemistry curriculum can be challenging, especially when it comes to pacing. The prescribed order of topics offers a sense of security, but it’s crucial to remain adaptable to students’ needs. With the right tools and resources, such as Viziscience, you can strike a balance, ensuring that both you and your students are well-prepared for the journey ahead.

The Viziscience platform serves as a valuable tool for educators by helping them identify areas where students may be lacking skills and supporting teachers in strategic lesson planning. In conjunction with this, as a helpful guideline for educators, it’s advisable to use official tests from the College Board to assess your students’ proficiency levels. This combined approach allows for a comprehensive understanding of students’ abilities and informs targeted instruction.

Crafting an effective pacing guide that fits seamlessly into the classroom is a complex task with so many factors that need to be considered. Amidst these challenges in structuring your course, imagine having a project planning tool that could help you in your planning process:

AP chemistry pacing guide tool
AP chemistry pacing guide tool

The Exciting News!

We’re thrilled to announce that we’re currently developing this tool, and it will be available to you for free, fully customizable within Google Sheets. We invite teachers to explore this tool, keeping in mind that it’s currently in its beta version, and thus, we have limited available space. Fill in your name below for a demo.