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Pre-AP Chemistry focuses on students developing a deep conceptual understanding of matter and energy at the molecular level by asking students to explain their macroscopic observations using particulate-level reasoning. The Pre-AP Chemistry course emphasizes the integration of content with science practices—powerful reasoning tools that support students in analyzing the natural world around them. Having this ability is one of the hallmarks of scientific literacy and is critical for numerous college and career endeavors in science and the social sciences

Areas of Focus

The Pre-AP science areas of focus, shown below, are science practices that students develop and leverage as they engage with content. They were identified through educator feedback and research about where students and teachers need the most curriculum support. These areas of focus are vertically aligned to the science practices embedded in other science courses in high school, including AP, and in college, giving students multiple opportunities to strengthen and deepen their work with these skills throughout their education. They also support and align to the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) and AP science practices of theory building and refinement.

Pre-AP Chemistry Areas of Focus:

  • Attention to modeling: Students develop and refine models to connect macroscopic observations to structure, motion, and interactions occurring at the atomic scale.
  • Strategic use of mathematics: Students integrate mathematics with conceptual understanding to model chemical phenomena.
  • Emphasis on analytical reading and writing: Students engage in analytical reading and writing to gain, retain, and apply scientific knowledge and to carry out scientific argumentation.

Underlying Unit Foundations

These big ideas are addressed across units:

  • Structure and Properties: All matter is composed of particles that are in constant motion and interact with one another. This movement and interaction is responsible for the observable properties of matter. Observed properties can be used to infer the number and type(s) of particle(s) in a sample of matter.
  • Energy: Energy is transferred in all physical and chemical processes. During these processes, energy is either redistributed within the system or between systems.
  • Transformations: At its heart, chemistry is about rearrangements of matter. These rearrangements, or transformations, involve the breaking and forming of intermolecular forces or chemical bonds. Macroscopic observations can be used to quantify and describe these rearrangements at the atomic scale.

Course at a Glance

The tables below show the four main units in Pre-AP Chemistry, the recommended length for each unit, and the key topics in each.


Timeframe: 6 weeks

Key concepts:

  • 1.1 Particle view of states of matter
  • 1.2 Phase changes and particle interactions
  • 1.3 Kinetic molecular theory

Timeframe: 8 weeks

Key concepts:

  • 2.1 Classification and interactions of matter
  • 2.2 Molecular structure and properties
  • 2.3 Covalent and ionic bonding

Timeframe: 6 weeks

Key concepts:

  • 3.1 Counting particles in substances
  • 3.2 Counting particles in chemical reactions

Timeframe: 8 weeks

Key concepts:

  • 4.1 Precipitation chemistry
  • 4.2 Oxidation–reduction chemistry
  • 4.3 Acid–base chemistry
  • 4.4 Thermochemistry
  • 4.5 Reaction rates

Instructional Resources

Schools that officially implement a Pre-AP course will receive access to instructional resources for each unit. These resources don’t constitute a full day-by-day curriculum. Instead, they provide support for teachers as they design their instruction for each Pre-AP Chemistry unit.

Pre-AP Chemistry instructional resources include:

  • A course framework: the framework defines what students should know and be able to do by the end of the course. It serves as an anchor for model lessons and assessments, and it is the primary document teachers can use to align instruction to course content.
  • Teacher resources, available in print and online, include a robust set of model lessons that demonstrate how to translate the course framework, shared principles, and areas of focus into daily instruction.
  • Additional support resources include Distance Learning Companion Slides and audio recordings of student texts that accompany the teacher and student instructional materials for use in synchronous and asynchronous settings.

Additional resources: Pre-AP Chemistry does require additional resources to use in the model lessons. This list is divided into three categories: general consumable items that are generally replaced yearly, chemicals that will need to be replaced regularly, and general stockroom equipment. The general consumable materials and chemicals have the unit when they are used listed.

The majority of these items are commonly found in science stockrooms and are low tech and low cost; this ensures all students can engage in inquiry-based investigations and reasoning.

Pre-AP Chemistry General Consumable Materials Unit
12 oz can of regular soda U4
2 empty 20 oz bottles U4
2 L bottle of regular soda U4
4 black pens or markers (for paper chromatography) U2
9-volt batteries U2
Aluminum foil U2
Antacid tablets (such as Alka-Seltzer) U2, U4
Baking soda U2, U3
Black dye/food color U2
Chromatography paper U2
Clear plastic condiment cup U2
Cloves (optional) U2
Colored pencils or pens all
Colored soda U2
Cotton balls U4
Cotton swabs U2
Crayons or paraffin wax U3
Crushed ice U2
Dish soap U2
Filter paper U2
Foam cups U1
Food color U1, U2
Granular charcoal (from pet store) U3
Hard-boiled eggs U1
Iron nails U4
Markers all
Metal thumbtacks U2
Modeling clay U1, U2
Nutmeg (optional) U2
Olive oil U2
Opaque cups with lids U3
pH paper U4
Paraffin wax (can use crayons) U3
Plastic knives U4
Plastic page protectors U4
Plastic pipettes all
Plastic wrap U2
Pony beads U1, U3
Quart-size freezer bags U2
Red dye/food color U2
Rock salt U1
Salt (non-iodized) U2, U4
Sand U2
Sandpaper U4
Sandwich bags U1
Small rubber bands U2
Spherical magnets U1
Sugar U2, U4
Tape all
Toothpicks U2, U4
Transparent plastic cups U1
Vegetable oil U2
Vinegar U4
Wide-bore plastic transfer pipettes U2
Wood splints U2
Chemicals Unit
Acetone U4
Ammonium nitrate U4
Butane spray can U4
Calcium chloride U2
Citric acid U3
Cobalt chloride paper U2
Copper (II) carbonate (optional) U2
Copper (II) chloride dihydrate (optional) U4
Copper (II) sulfate pentahydrate U4
Distilled or deionized water all
Dry ice U1
Ethanol U2
Glucose U2
Hydrochloric acid U4
Isopropanol U2
Lead (II) nitrate U4
Methane gas (from laboratory gas jets) U2
Methanol U2
n-butanol U2
n-pentanol U2
n-propanol U2
Potassium chloride U2
Potassium iodide U4
Silver nitrate (optional) U4
Sodium carbonate U4
Sodium hydroxide U4
Universal indicator U4
Beaker tongs
Beakers (50 mL–800 mL)
Bingo chips (or other small, multi-colored objects) to model chemical reactions
Chemical splash goggles
Conductivity testers
Cryogenic gloves or heavy winter gloves
Erlenmeyer flasks (250 mL and 500 mL)
Gas pressure sensors
Graduated cylinders (10 mL–100 mL)
Hand lenses
Hot mitts
Hot plates
Large (size 11) stoppers
Magnetic disks
Metal samples for density lab (cut-up rods from hardware store)
Metal samples for specific heat lab (can use samples from density lab)
Mini white boards
Mixing bowl or large beaker
Molecular model kits
Mortar and pestle
One-hole stoppers
Petri dishes
Pliers or clamp
Rock or mineral samples (limestone and any other non-carbonate mineral or rock)
Slotted spoons
Small foil pans or can lids
Spatulas or spoons
Stirring rods
Syringe for gas pressure sensor
Temperature probes or digital thermometers
Test tube racks
Test tubes
Tweezers or forceps
Wide-mouth glass bottles (or 500 mL Erlenmeyer flasks)

Assessments for Learning

Each unit contains:

  • Short, open-ended formative assessment problems or questions embedded in some model lessons to show the targeted content and skills, related to the lesson’s learning objectives, that students should master.
  • Two online learning checkpoints per unit that feature multiple-choice and technology-enhanced questions modeled closely after the types of questions students encounter on SAT tests and AP Exams. Learning checkpoints require students to examine graphs, data, and short texts— often set in authentic contexts—to respond to a targeted set of questions that measure student understanding of the unit’s concepts and skills.
  • One performance task per unit that engages students in sustained problem-solving and asks them to synthesize the unit’s skills and concepts to answer questions about a novel context.
  • One performance task with scoring guidelines and instructional support suggestions for each unit.
  • A final exam is provided as a summative assessment that allows students to demonstrate their success on the skills and content outlined in the course frameworks. This exam is optional.