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High School Preparation

What students should know when they enroll in General Chemistry I (CHEM 121) at UNM.

                  (asterisk * indicates concepts used in CHEM 122)]


  • Elementary arithmetic operations (associative, distributive properties, signs, etc.)
  • How to use and convert among decimals, fractions, percentages, and scientific notation
  • How to convert metric prefixes (micro-, milli-, kilo-, etc.) of different units
  • Understand the concept of ratios and be able to use them
  • Algebraic manipulation and solution of equations of one variable
  • How to combine 2 or 3 equations into a single equation of one variable*
  • How to use the quadratic equation to solve a simple polynomial*
  • How to use exponents, powers and logarithms*
  • Be able to calculate areas and volumes of regular solids (cubes and spheres)
  • Be able to plot linear data and find the slope and intercept of the best-fit line*
  • Graphical representation of basic functions (lines and quadratic, and exponential)*


I. Atomic Structure

  • Understand that atoms are composed of protons, neutrons and electrons
  • Be able to determine atomic number and mass from number of protons and neutrons
  • Understand the concept of isotopes and average atomic weight
  • Understand how the number of electrons and protons determines ionic charge
  • Be able to relate mass and number of atoms using Avogadro’s number

II. Periodic Table and atomic properties

  • Understand trends in the periodic table in terms of atomic number and electron “shells”
  • Use the periodic table to identify groups of elements: halogens, alkali metals, etc.
  • Use the periodic table to identify trends in ionization potential, electronegativity, etc.
  • Use the periodic table to identify trends in atomic size, weight, etc.

III. Compounds and stoichiometry

  • Be able to distinguish a chemical compound from a mixture or a solution
  • Understand compound stoichiometry
  • Be able to calculate molar mass and formula weight from compound stoichiometry
  • Understand the differences among covalent, metallic and ionic bonding
  • Be able to draw and interpret Lewis dot structures for covalent compounds of smaller elements (H, C, O, N, F, Cl, B, etc.)

IV. States of matter
            Understand three states of matter and their transition points (MP, BP)
            Understand Celsius and Kelvin scales of temperature and absolute zero
            Be able to convert temperature among Fahrenheit, Celsius and Kelvin scales
            Be familiar with the general properties:
                        Gases- atoms/molecules do not interact, volume is mostly space, fluid
                        Liquids- atoms/molecules interact, but attractions are too weak to solidify, fluid
                        Solids- atoms/molecules are mutually attracted, stay in position, fixed shape

V. Chemical reactions
            Be able to write and recognize a simple, balanced chemical reaction equation
            Calculate moles or masses of reactants required to produce a quantity of product and
              vice versa (moles of masses of products from a given quantity of reactant)
            Recognize/define proton transfer, ionic dissolution and combustion reactions
            Understand that the speed of chemical reactions varies with the type of reaction and
               conditions, including reactant concentrations and temperature

VI. Energy in Chemistry
            Understand that all physical and chemical changes require transfer of energy
            Understand that heat is released and/or absorbed in phase changes
            Understand that chemical reactions can be endothermic (absorb heat) or exothermic (release heat)
            Understand that temperature is an indicator of molecular motion



Advanced Placement Scores

General Sciences

  • Know how to propose and test a hypothesis
  • Be able to distinguish between a hypothesis and a theory
  • Understand the need for reproducibility in scientific results
  • Be able to convert a quantitative scientific statement into a mathematical equation
  • Having solved an equation, be able to use the solution to provide a scientific answer


  • Understand Coulomb’s Law qualitatively (opposite charges attract, like charges repel)
  • Understand density and be able to calculate it from volume and mass
  • Know how to use the metric system and convert units of a single type (e.g., mg to kg)
  • Understand conservation of matter
  • Understand conservation of energy
  • Understand how the wavelength and frequency relate to the speed of light, c.