Iowa Requirements for Passing High School Chemistry | General Chemistry 1

Is Chemistry Required in High School in Iowa?

Yes, chemistry is a required course in Iowa high schools. Iowa Code section 256.7(26) states that in order for high school students to graduate, they must pass 3 years of science courses, in addition to locally-mandated graduation requirements. Additionally, Chapter 12 of the Iowa Administrative Code describes required science instruction, which includes the following:

12.5(5) High school program, Grades 9-12

d. Science (five units). Science instruction shall include biological, earth, and physical science, including physics and chemistry. Full units of physics and chemistry shall be taught but may be offered in alternate years. All science instruction shall incorporate hands-on process skills; scientific knowledge; the application of the skills and knowledge to students and society; conservation of natural resources; and environmental awareness.

Iowa is a Next-Generation Science Standards (NGSS) lead state, which means they played a pivotal role in designing the common core curriculum many states use to guide their science education standards. Subjects that students will explore include:


Use the periodic table as a model to predict the relative properties of elements based on the patterns of electrons in the outermost energy level of atoms. [Clarification Statement: Examples of properties that could be predicted from patterns could include reactivity of metals, types of bonds formed, numbers of bonds formed, and reactions with oxygen.]

Construct and revise an explanation for the outcome of a simple chemical reaction based on the outermost electron states of atoms, trends in the periodic table, and knowledge of the patterns of chemical properties. [Clarification Statement: Examples of chemical reactions could include the reaction of sodium and chlorine, of carbon and oxygen, or of carbon and hydrogen.] 

Plan and conduct an investigation to gather evidence to compare the structure of substances at the bulk scale to infer the strength of electrical forces between particles. [Clarification Statement: Emphasis is on understanding the strengths of forces between particles, not on naming specific intermolecular forces (such as dipole-dipole). Examples of particles could include ions, atoms, molecules, and networked materials (such as graphite). Examples of bulk properties of substances could include the melting point and boiling point, vapor pressure, and surface tension.] 

Develop a model to illustrate that the release or absorption of energy from a chemical reaction system depends upon the changes in total bond energy. [Clarification Statement: Emphasis is on the idea that a chemical reaction is a system that affects the energy change. Examples of models could include molecular-level drawings and diagrams of reactions, graphs showing the relative energies of reactants and products, and representations showing energy is conserved.] 

Apply scientific principles and evidence to provide an explanation about the effects of changing the temperature or concentration of the reacting particles on the rate at which a reaction occurs. [Clarification Statement: Emphasis is on student reasoning that focuses on the number and energy of collisions between molecules.] 

Refine the design of a chemical system by specifying a change in conditions that would produce increased amounts of products at equilibrium.* [Clarification Statement: Emphasis is on the application of Le Chatelier's Principle and on refining designs of chemical reaction systems, including descriptions of the connection between changes made at the macroscopic level and what happens at the molecular level. Examples of designs could include different ways to increase product formation including adding reactants or removing products.] 

Use mathematical representations to support the claim that atoms, and therefore mass, are conserved during a chemical reaction. [Clarification Statement: Emphasis is on using mathematical ideas to communicate the proportional relationships between masses of atoms in the reactants and the products, and the translation of these relationships to the macroscopic scale using the mole as the conversion from the atomic to the macroscopic scale. Emphasis is on assessing students’ use of mathematical thinking and not on memorization and rote application of problem-solving techniques.] 

Develop models to illustrate the changes in the composition of the nucleus of the atom and the energy released during the processes of fission, fusion, and radioactive decay. [Clarification Statement: Emphasis is on simple qualitative models, such as pictures or diagrams, and on the scale of energy released in nuclear processes relative to other kinds of transformations.] 


Use mathematical representations to support the claim that the total momentum of a system of objects is conserved when there is no net force on the system. [Clarification Statement: Emphasis is on the quantitative conservation of momentum in interactions and the qualitative meaning of this principle.]


Communicate scientific and technical information about why the molecular-level structure is important in the functioning of designed materials.* [Clarification Statement: Emphasis is on the attractive and repulsive forces that determine the functioning of the material. Examples could include why electrically conductive materials are often made of metal, flexible but durable materials are made up of long-chained molecules, and pharmaceuticals are designed to interact with specific receptors.] 


Does Iowa Award Credit for Passing the AP Chemistry Exam?

Iowa requires that all districts offer students access to AP classes, with one option being their online Iowa AP Academy. The AP Chemistry course offered is in collaboration with Apex Learning. While the state does not require post-secondary institutions to award credit for AP Chemistry, most do. Each school has its own policy on how it applies credit, so it is best to address any concerns or questions directly to the school administrators.