||How can I learn about the revised AP Biology course and exam?
For a detailed description of the revised course and exam, download a copy of the new AP Biology Course and Exam Description, which also includes a full set of exam questions, along with scoring guidelines for the new free-response questions. You will be notified when bound copies are available for purchase from the College Board Store.
Week-long AP Summer Institutes, offered in summer 2012, will focus on changes to the course, the exam, the labs, and course audit. Online courses will also cover these topics. The AP Biology Workshop, offered in fall 2012, will support teachers in implementing the new course. For more information, visit AP Workshops and Summer Institutes.
When does the revised course and exam take effect?
The revised course goes into effect in fall 2012, followed by administration of the revised exam in May 2013.
How can the learning objectives help me teach concepts?
In developing lessons and instructional sequences with the AP Biology learning objectives in mind, start with the end goal, the learning objectives, and then consider effective ways to build students' understanding of the concepts, using the required course content.
Will colleges still accept exam scores and offer AP credit/placement for the revised course?
Yes. The revisions to the course and exam emphasize the blend of factual knowledge and inquiry and analytic skills that college biology professors expect from students. Department chairs and faculty at 60 colleges and universities have endorsed the revised curriculum.
Which textbook do I need to teach AP Biology?
AP Biology is taught at the introductory college level, and therefore an up-to-date college textbook is essential for students. There are many excellent comprehensive biology textbooks available. In choosing a text, teachers must weigh the needs of their particular students against the book's reading level, depth of coverage, and support/supplemental resources offered students. Reviews for most of the current titles can be found in the Teachers' Resources area on AP Central.
Will I have to submit new materials for the AP Course Audit?
Yes, every AP Biology teacher must submit a course syllabus that meets the revised curricular requirements. Resources to support syllabus development are available at AP Course Audit. For support with syllabus development, consider attending a week-long AP Summer Institute, enrolling in an online course (available this summer), or attending an AP Biology workshop in fall 2012. For more information, visit our website.
What are the prerequisites for student enrollment in AP Biology?
Schools vary in their course prerequisites. Most consider Biology I a prerequisite, though some highly selective schools teach AP as the first and only biology course for their gifted sophomores. Completion of, or at least concurrent enrollment in, chemistry is a common requirement; many schools feel this ensures a certain level of maturity and helps biology students during biochemistry sections.
Some schools require students to complete the three first-year science courses (biology, chemistry, and physics) before enrolling in an AP science class. Their aim is to ensure basic competence before specialization. Prior knowledge and skills are described in the College Board Standards for College Success™ and in the AP Vertical Teams® Guide for Science.
What are the suggested math skills for students entering an AP Biology course?
Math is a vital part of any science course. The following mathematical skills are most helpful to the AP Biology student:
Trigonometry and calculus are not mandatory.
- knowledge of basic algebra and geometry
- knowledge of how to measure and collect experimental data with respect to volume, size, mass, temperature, and pH
- knowledge of how to determine the rates of chemical reactions
- knowledge of how to calculate solute concentrations
- knowledge of scientific notation
- ability to apply basic concepts of probability and to conduct statistical analysis
- knowledge of graphing, including how to set up axes and plot data.
What formulas do the students need to know? Will a formula list be published?
Yes, a formula list is featured in the AP Biology Course and Exam Description. The formulas will be used throughout the course, to support laboratory investigations, and on the exam. Students will have access to the formula list when taking the exam.
What is the lab requirement for the new course?
A minimum of eight labs (two per Big Idea) are required. As in the past, teachers are expected to devote 25 percent of instructional time to lab investigations and are encouraged to conduct more than eight labs, if possible.
How do inquiry-based differ from teacher-directed labs?
Inquiry based labs allow students to be at the center of the learning process, encouraging them to pose, develop, and experimentally investigate questions (self-generated or supplied). Teacher-directed labs generally provide not only the questions for investigation, but also set procedures and data collection strategies for student use.
When will the College Board's lab manual be available for teachers?
AP Biology Investigative Labs: An Inquiry-Based Approach was released online in February 2012 and can be found on the Biology Course Home Page. The manual contains labs that begin with confirmation, structure, or guided inquiry and segue into open inquiry. It also provides suggestions for preparing students for inquiry-based labs. Bound copies are available for purchase from the College Board Store.
How have colleges reacted to the new lab requirements?
College faculty members are interested in moving away from teacher-directed labs in favor of a student-directed approach, with active, engaged participation in the investigative process. College faculty members support this new approach enthusiastically. For more information, see AP Biology: an Overview of Course Revisions.
Will professional development be offered to help teachers transition to inquiry-based labs?
Face-to-face and online professional development opportunities will be available to assist teachers in making the transition to inquiry-based instruction. For more information visit Workshops and Summer Institutes. In addition, the new lab manual will provide guidance for modifying labs to be more student directed and inquiry based.
How do I ensure that I have sufficient lab time?
The new lab manual features planning charts to help you sequence labs over several days. The labs featured in the manual were piloted and reviewed by AP Biology teachers to ensure feasibility and alignment with the revised course. Teachers should devote 25 percent of class time to labs; current requirements are for a minimum of 8 labs instead of 12.
Will the labs be doable with classes of more than 30 students?
Yes. The new labs were piloted successfully with a range of classroom sizes, from small to more than 30 students.
Can teachers use software technology, such as lab quests and probes, to develop the student-directed lab program?
Several of the labs described in the new lab manual provide options for using this type of software.
Will kits from supply companies correlate to AP labs?
Yes. Teachers may continue using the kits already purchased. Lab supply companies are learning about the new AP Biology labs and may decide to create corresponding kits that contain the necessary supplies.
What's new in the revised AP Exam?
All exam questions are directly tied to the learning objectives outlined in the curriculum framework. The questions focus on student understanding of big ideas, enduring understandings, and essential questions.
What types of questions will appear on the exam?
Three types of questions will appear on the new AP Biology exam: multiple choice; grid-in (which require the integration of science and mathematical skills); and free-response (short and long). All of the questions are designed to measure student understanding of the big ideas, enduring understandings, essential knowledge, and how they can be applied through the science practices. For more information on the exam format, see the AP Biology Course and Exam Description.
Will students be allowed to use calculators on the revised AP Biology exam?
Yes, starting with the May 2013 revised AP Biology Exam, students will be allowed to use four-function (with square root) calculators, as some questions on the exam require them to perform mathematical routines. Because all sections of the exam contain questions that require data manipulation, students may use their calculator throughout the exam. Four-function (with square root) calculators are readily available and very inexpensive.
Prohibited calculators and hardware:
Graphing calculators and scientific calculators are not permitted for use on the AP Biology Exam. Additional hardware/functionality that is not permitted for use on the AP Biology Exam includes the following: Computers, electronic writing pads, and pocket organizers are prohibited, as are calculators with the following features and capabilities: QWERTY keypads as part of hardware or software, pen-input/stylus/touch-screen capability, wireless or Bluetooth® capability, paper tapes, “talking” or noise-making capability, need for an electrical outlet, ability to access the Internet, cell phone capability or audio/video recording capability, digital audio/video players, or camera or scanning capability.
How can educators prepare students for success in AP Biology?
A well-developed Pre-AP Vertical Team is a good way to support student success. The vertical science curriculum within a school should prepare students for success in AP by building the prerequisite knowledge and skills. See the Science College Board Standards for College Success for more information.
For students, the AP Biology experience will be new, regardless of the curriculum. It is important to help students during Biology I and previous science courses build the knowledge and skills needed to succeed in AP.
Who develops the Advanced Placement courses and exams?
AP courses and exams are designed by committees of college faculty and expert AP teachers, who ensure that each AP course reflects college-level expectations. These AP Development Committees define the scope and goals of the AP course, articulating what students should know and be able to do upon completing it. The committees' work is informed by data collected from a range of colleges and universities to ensure that AP curricula reflect current scholarship and advances in the discipline. The committees then work with the Educational Testing Service (ETS) to develop multiple-choice and free-response exam questions. Committee members also write and review the course description for each AP course.
Do colleges and universities give credit or advanced placement for a grade of 3 on an AP Exam?
Students should check the credit-and-placement policy at the schools they are considering. Policies vary from one institution to another; they may also vary from department to department within an institution. For example, some institutions will not grant credit for both AP English Language and Composition and AP English Literature and Composition Exam scores.
How do I determine who should be in an AP class?
The College Board recommends allowing any motivated and academically prepared student to take an AP course. We encourage the elimination of barriers that restrict access to AP for students from ethnic, racial and socioeconomic groups that have been traditionally underserved. Schools should make every effort to ensure their AP classes reflect the diversity of their student population.
How should I help students prepare for the exam?
Some AP teachers spend little or no time preparing students for the AP Exam, because they believe that a challenging course is the most appropriate preparation. Others believe that students do better on the exam if they are familiar with its format, requirements, and restrictions.
Taking the following steps may help boost student's performance on the exam:
- Explain to students how the scores are derived.
- Show students how to read, write, and think under time constraints.
- Teach students strategies for answering multiple-choice questions.