Chemistry Calculator Policy
The policy regarding the use of calculators on the AP Chemistry Examination was developed to address the rapid expansion of the capabilities of scientific calculators, which include not only programming and graphing functions but also the availability of stored equations and other data. For taking the section of the examination in which calculators are permitted, students should be allowed to use the calculators to which they are accustomed, except as noted below*. On the other hand, they should not have access to information in their calculators that is not available to other students, if that information is needed to answer the questions.
Therefore, calculators are NOT permitted on the multiple-choice section of the AP Chemistry Examination. The purpose of the multiple-choice section is to access the breadth of students' knowledge and understanding of the basic concepts of chemistry. The multiple-choice questions emphasize conceptual understanding as well as qualitative and simple quantitative applications of principles. Many chemical and physical principles and relationships are quantitative in nature and can be expressed as equations. knowledge of the underlying basic definitions and principles, express as equations, is a part of the content of chemistry that should be learned by chemistry students and will continue to be assessed in the multiple-choice section. However, any numeric calculations that require use of these equations in the multiple-choice section will be limited to simple arithmetic so that they can be done quickly, either mentally or with paper and pencil. Also, in some questions the answer choices differ by several orders of magnitude so that the questions can be answered by estimation. Students should be encourages to develop their skills not only in estimating answers but also in recognizing answers that are physically unreasonable or unlikely.
Calculators (with the exceptions mentioned below) will be allowed only during the first 40 minutes of the free-response section of the examination. During this time, students will work on two problems, one that is required and one chosen from a set of two other problems. Any programmable or graphing calculator may be used, and students will NOT be required to erase their calculator memories before or after the examination. Students will not be allowed to move on to the last portion of the free-response section until time is called and all calculators are put away. For the last 50 minutes of the examination, students will work, without calculators, on the remaining portion of the free-response section.
Exceptions to calculator use. Although most calculators are permitted on the free-response section, it should be noted that they may not be shared with other students. Some specific calculators that are not allowed permitted include minicomputers, electronic writing pads, or pen input devices (Palm), pocket organizers, models with QWERTY (i.e typewriter) keyboards (TI-92 and Voyage 200), models with paper tapes, models that make noise or "talk", and models that require an electrical outlet.