Massachusetts Requirements for Passing High School Chemistry | General Chemistry 1

Is Chemistry Required in High School in Massachusetts?

The MassCore program for high school students includes 3 years of lab-based science. In addition to this, students must meet the Competency Determination (CD) standard from the list of accepted courses, which include:

  • Chemistry
  • Chemistry-Advanced Studies
  • Organic Chemistry
  • Physical Chemistry
  • Conceptual Chemistry
  • AP Chemistry
  • IB Chemistry
  • Particular Topics in Chemistry
  • Chemistry-Other

To demonstrate that students have achieved the competency level required for graduation, they must meet the following updated STE standards:

Classes of 2021–2023
Option 1 — Earn a score of 220 or higher (for students who took an STE test in February 2020 or earlier)
Option 2 — Successful completion of a relevant high school course (Refer to the May 26, 2020 Update, provided above, for details.)    

Class of 2024
Option 1 — Earn a score of 220 or higher

According to the Massachusetts Department of Education Science Standards, chemistry topics that students will cover include, but are not limited to:


PS1. Matter and Its Interactions


Use the periodic table as a model to predict the relative properties of main group elements, including ionization energy and relative sizes of atoms and ions, based on the patterns of electrons in the outermost energy level of each element. Use the patterns of valence electron configurations, core charge, and Coulomb’s law to explain and predict general trends in ionization energies, relative sizes of atoms and ions, and reactivity of pure elements.  

Clarification Statement:  • Size of ions should be relevant only for predicting strength of ionic bonding.


Use the periodic table model to predict and design simple reactions that result in two main classes of binary compounds, ionic and molecular. Develop an explanation based on given observational data and the electronegativity model about the relative strengths of ionic or covalent bonds.  

Clarification Statements:  • Simple reactions include synthesis (combination), decomposition, single displacement, double displacement, and combustion. • Predictions of reactants and products can be represented using Lewis dot structures, chemical formulas, or physical models. • Observational data include that binary ionic substances (i.e., substances that have ionic bonds), when pure, are crystalline salts at room temperature (common examples include NaCl, KI, Fe2O3); and substances that are liquids and gases at room temperature are usually made of molecules that have covalent bonds (common examples include CO2, N2, CH4, H2O, C8H18).


Cite evidence to relate physical properties of substances at the bulk scale to spatial arrangements, movement, and strength of electrostatic forces among ions, small molecules, or regions of large molecules in the substances. Make arguments to account for how compositional and structural differences in molecules result in different types of intermolecular or intramolecular interactions.

Clarification Statements:  • Substances include both pure substances in solid, liquid, gas, and networked forms (such as graphite).  • Examples of bulk properties of substances to compare include melting point and boiling point, density, and vapor pressure. • Types of intermolecular interactions include dipole-dipole (including hydrogen bonding), ion-dipole, and dispersion forces. 


Develop a model to illustrate the energy transferred during an exothermic or endothermic chemical reaction based on the bond energy difference between bonds broken (absorption of energy) and bonds formed (release of energy).  

Clarification Statement:  • Examples of models may include molecular-level drawings and diagrams of reactions or graphs showing the relative energies of reactants and products.


Construct an explanation based on kinetic molecular theory for why varying conditions influence the rate of a chemical reaction or a dissolving process. Design and test ways to slow down or accelerate rates of processes (chemical reactions or dissolving) by altering various conditions.

Clarification Statements:  • Explanations should be based on three variables in collision theory: (a) quantity of collisions per unit time, (b) molecular orientation on collision, and (c) energy input needed to induce atomic rearrangements.  • Conditions that affect these three variables include temperature, pressure, concentrations of reactants, agitation, particle size, surface area, and addition of a catalyst.


Design ways to control the extent of a reaction at equilibrium (relative amount of products to reactants) by altering various conditions using Le Chatelier’s principle. Make arguments based on kinetic molecular theory to account for how altering conditions would affect the forward and reverse rates of the reaction until a new equilibrium is established.

Clarification Statements:  • Conditions that can be altered to affect the extent of a reaction include temperature, pressure, and concentrations of reactants. • Conditions that can be altered to affect the rates of a reaction include temperature, pressure, concentrations of reactants, agitation, particle size, surface area, and addition of a catalyst.


Use mathematical representations and provide experimental evidence to support the claim that atoms, and therefore mass, are conserved during a chemical reaction. Use the mole concept and proportional relationships to evaluate the quantities (masses or moles) of specific reactants needed in order to obtain a specific amount of product.

Clarification Statements:  • Mathematical representations include balanced chemical equations that represent the laws of conservation of mass and constant composition (definite proportions), mass-to-mass stoichiometry, and calculations of percent yield. • Evaluations may involve mass-to-mass stoichiometry and atom economy comparisons, but only for single-step reactions that do not involve complexes.


Relate the strength of an aqueous acidic or basic solution to the extent of an acid or base reacting with water as measured by the hydronium ion concentration (pH) of the solution. Make arguments about the relative strengths of two acids or bases with similar structure and composition. 

Clarification Statements:  • Reactions are limited to Arrhenius and Bronsted-Lowry acid-base reaction patterns with monoprotic acids. • Comparisons of relative strengths of aqueous acid or base solutions made from similar acid or base substances is limited to arguments based on periodic properties of elements, the electronegativity model of electron distribution, empirical dipole moments, and molecular geometry. Acid or base strength comparisons are limited to homologous series and should include dilution and evaporation of water.


Use an oxidation-reduction reaction model to predict products of reactions given the reactants, and to communicate the reaction models using a representation that shows electron transfer (redox). Use oxidation numbers to account for how electrons are redistributed in redox processes used in devices that generate electricity or systems that prevent corrosion.

Clarification Statement:  • Reactions are limited to simple oxidation-reduction reactions that do not require hydronium or hydroxide ions to balance half-reactions.


Design strategies to identify and separate the components of a mixture based on relevant chemical and physical properties.

Clarification Statements:  • Emphasis is on compositional and structural features of components of the mixture. • Strategies can include chromatography, distillation, centrifuging, and precipitation reactions.  • Relevant chemical and physical properties can include melting point, boiling point, conductivity, and density.


PS2. Motion and Stability: Forces and Interactions


Communicate scientific and technical information about the molecular-level structures of polymers, ionic compounds, acids and bases, and metals to justify why these are useful in the functioning of designed materials.

Clarification Statement:  • Examples could include comparing molecules with simple molecular geometries; analyzing how pharmaceuticals are designed to interact with specific receptors; and considering why electrically conductive materials are often made of metal, household cleaning products often contain ionic compounds to make materials soluble in water, or materials that need to be flexible but durable are made up of polymers.


Construct a model to explain how ions dissolve in polar solvents (particularly water). Analyze and compare solubility and conductivity data to determine the extent to which different ionic species dissolve.  

Clarification Statement:  • Data for comparison should include different concentrations of solutions with the same ionic species, and similar ionic species dissolved in the same amount of water.


Use kinetic molecular theory to compare the strengths of electrostatic forces and the prevalence of interactions that occur between molecules in solids, liquids, and gases. Use the combined gas law to determine changes in pressure, volume, and temperature in gases.


PS3. Energy  


Provide evidence from informational text or available data to illustrate that the transfer of energy during a chemical reaction in a closed system involves changes in energy dispersal (entropy change) and heat content (enthalpy change) while assuming the overall energy in the system is conserved.