AP Biology

AP Biology Course Overview

AP Biology is an introductory college-level biology course. Students cultivate their understanding of biology through inquiry-based investigations as they explore the following topics: evolution, cellular processes — energy and communication, genetics, information transfer, ecology, and interactions.


This course requires that 25 percent of the instructional time will be spent in hands-on laboratory work, with an emphasis on inquirybased investigations that provide students with opportunities to apply the science practices.

AP Biology Course Content

The course is based on four Big Ideas, which encompass core scientific principles, theories, and processes that cut across traditional boundaries and provide a broad way of thinking about living organisms and biological systems.

The following are Big Ideas:

• The process of evolution explains the diversity and unity of life.

• Biological systems utilize free energy and molecular building blocks to grow, to reproduce, and to maintain dynamic homeostasis.

• Living systems store, retrieve, transmit, and respond to information essential to life processes.

• Biological systems interact, and these systems and their interactions possess complex properties.

Inquiry-Based Investigations

Twenty-five percent of instructional time is devoted to hands-on laboratory work with an emphasis on inquiry-based investigations. Investigations require students to ask questions, make observations and predictions, design experiments, analyze data, and construct arguments in a collaborative setting, where they direct and monitor their progress.

Science Practices

Students establish lines of evidence and use them to develop and refine testable explanations and predictions of natural phenomena. Focusing on these disciplinary practices enables teachers to use the principles of scientific inquiry to promote a more engaging and rigorous experience for AP Biology students. Such practices require that students:

• Use representations and models to communicate scientific phenomena and solve scientific problems;

• Use mathematics appropriately;

• Engage in scientific questioning to extend thinking or to guide investigations within the context of the AP course;

• Plan and implement data collection strategies in relation to a particular scientific question;

• Perform data analysis and evaluation of evidence;

• Work with scientific explanations and theories; and

• Connect and relate knowledge across various scales, concepts, and representations in and across domains.

AP Biology Exam Structure


Assessment Overview

Exam questions are based on learning objectives, which combine science practices with specific content. Students learn to

• Solve problems mathematically — including symbolically

• Design and describe experiments and analyze data and sources of error

• Explain, reason, or justify answers with emphasis on deeper, conceptual understanding

• Interpret and develop conceptual models

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Format of Assessment

Section I: Multiple Choice | 69 Questions | 1 Hour, 30 Minutes | 50% of Exam Score

Multiple-Choice: 63 Questions

• Discrete Questions

• Questions in sets

Grid-In: 6 Questions

• Discrete Questions

• Questions integrate biology and mathematical skills

Section II: Free Response | 8 Questions | 1 Hour, 30 Minutes (includes 10-minute reading period) | 50% of Exam Score

• Long Free Response (2 questions, one of which is lab or data-based)

• Short Free Response (6 questions, each requiring a paragraphlength argument/response)