AP Chemistry Sequence

AP Chemistry CED cover

The new AP Chemistry Course and Exam Description (CED) has been released and in effect for a few months now and I have been asked “Will you be changing your sequence to match the CED?” so many times I lost count. The answer is no, and here is why.

When I first started teaching AP Chemistry in 2007, teachers only had access to old exams. There was no audit, there was no CED, and barely any multiple choice questions were available to use or study. We were not given ideas for sequencing or given written labs to try. So I took out all of the past exams, every textbook I could get my hands on, and I attended multiple summer institutes to create my own course. Honestly, it was very difficult and nerve wracking, but I think it made me the teacher I am today. I feel more comfortable with the exam and what is expected because I have tried literally every exam question ever released; most of them multiple times. I have made tons of mistakes, but sometimes you learn more from failure than success.  I have rushed to finish the curriculum some years. And I have definitely felt like breaking down. But the work I put in is evident to my students and my administration. I never gave up, despite the circumstances. 

In 2014, when the new course was released, I was open to anything that would give me more direction. I read the labs and wondered, how can any teacher get all of these labs done in a reasonable time frame and with access to moderately low quality and inaccurate supplies? (I work in a low socioeconomic area with many high needs students.) So I looked at the labs, identified some techniques I should try to incorporate, and just amended my own labs. My students and I were doing fine up to this point, why change? As far as the updates to the curriculum I was honestly happy to see some things go. Do I love organic chemistry and nuclear chemistry? YES! But do I have time to teach everything? No way! So I cut out anything that would give me more time in class to focus on the tough ideas like equilibrium and acid base chemistry. I didn’t cut everything that I could have though. I continue to teach magnetism because it is a quick hook to engage students in writing electron configurations. I have also kept a few other concepts that I feel complete or connect my topics together. But the biggest thing I didn’t buy into was the sequence of topics. I couldn’t wrap my head around organizing my units by Big Ideas. I was set in my ways, call it stubborn, but I just wasn’t going to mess with what was working for me.

Since then I have asked any teachers about their sequence. A few teachers converted to Big Ideas sequencing. Many remained in the sequence that was similar to a textbook they were using in class. Quite a few teachers had sequencing similar to mine, regardless of the Big Idea change. And I discovered a large movement of teachers (who teach AP chemistry in the students’ second year) who had changed their sequence to have difficult concepts such as equilibrium, acid base chemistry, thermodynamics, and electrochemistry taught at the beginning of the year and easier topics such as atomic structure, periodicity, and bonding taught closer to the exam. It was all so interesting to me; and yet, I kept my sequencing.

Fast forward to this year and the most recent version of the CED has been released. Once again, I scoured the binder and poster for new topics to add and others to delete, and what did I find? A new sequence! But wait, its roughly my sequence! In case you were curious, for many reasons I don’t dare to list at the moment, my sequence is:

  1. Stoichiometry and Reactions
  2. Atomic Structure
  3. Periodicity
  4. Bonding and Intermolecular Forces
  5. Matter (Gases, Solutions, Solids)
  6. Kinetics
  7. Equilibrium Introduction
  8. Acids and Bases
  9. Thermodynamics
  10. Electrochemistry


I have some minor adjustments from the recent CED. I don’t have stoichiometry and atomics intertwined. I do all topics of thermodynamics all at once, near the end of the year. I have seperated the units into smaller units. But will it work? Of course. As long as the students can follow your train of thought (which hopefully is somewhat logical and has taken some time and consideration), and the students have access to each learning objective, why would it matter what specific sequence it is in?

To be sure that I am covering all of the topics this year, I hung my CED poster in my prep room and I check of the Learning Objectives as we cover them. Over the next few months, I plan to blog about each of my ten units and the Learning Objectives I am covering including hands on activities, lab investigations, POGIL activities, and any other ideas I have for the unit. But I am still curious: what sequence do you prefer? Log into www.ChemEDX.org and let’s get the conversation flowing, following my blog post!