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Advanced Placement

The Complete Guide to AP Biology Exam [Updated for AP 2024 Exam]

Written by Apoorvaa Agarwal

Content

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  • The AP Biology course is organized into 8 topics: Molecules of Life, Cell Structure and Function, Cellular Energy, Genetics, Molecular Genetics, Evolution, Ecology, and Systems Biology.
  • The AP Biology exam is divided into two sections: multiple-choice (60 questions, 90 mins) and free-response (60 questions, 90 minutes).
  • The mean score for the AP Biology exam in 2022 was 3.11 out of 5. This is slightly higher than the mean score for all AP subjects in 2022, which was 2.92.
  • The pass rate of the AP Biology Exam for 2022 was 55.7%. This is slightly higher than the pass rate for AP overall, which was 60.2%.
  • With AP Biology, some majors that you could choose from include biology, biochemistry, bioengineering, and medicine. Some of the career pathways that you could pursue include biologist, biochemist, bioengineer, physician, and pharmacist.

AP Biology is one of the popular 39 AP topics offered by the College Board. In 2022 over 223,000 students appeared for the AP Biology exam.

Studying for AP Biology can be overwhelming, especially with the vast amount of information that needs to be covered. It can be challenging to learn topics such as cellular structure and function, genetics, evolution, ecology, and the diversity of life.

We have analyzed the AP Biology exam structure, topics, study resources and student performance over the past 10 years of AP Biology exams to put together this comprehensive AP Biology exam guide.

In this blog, we will discuss the format, the topics covered, and effective ways to study for AP Biology that will help you retain information, improve your test-taking skills, and ultimately succeed in the exam. So, let’s get started!

What is on the AP Biology exam?

The AP Biology exam covers topics such as evolution, biological systems, information, and interactions, as well as specific topics related to the chemistry of life, cell structure and function, cellular energetics, cell communication and cell cycle, heredity, gene expression and regulation, natural selection, and ecology.

The AP Biology Exam format includes two sections as below:

SectionNo. of QuestionsTime allocated to  each sectionWeightage
Multiple-choice  
questions
60 questions90 mins50%
Free response   questions6 questions (2 long-form questions and 4 short-form questions)90 mins50% 
AP Biology exam format

Now let’s understand everything about the AP Biology exam like duration, structure, score distribution, etc.

How long is the AP Biology exam?

The AP Biology exam lasts for 3 hours and is divided into two sections: multiple-choice and free-response

  • The first section consists of 60 multiple-choice questions and is 90 minutes long.
  • The second section is a free-response section with 6 questions; 2 long-form and 4 short-form questions, and is similarly 90 minutes long.

The purpose of the test is to evaluate students’ knowledge and comprehension of numerous biological concepts as well as their capacity to use that knowledge to solve issues and conduct data analysis.

How many questions does the AP Biology exam have?

The AP Biology exam has 66 questions in total divided into two major sections; 60 multiple-choice questions and six free-response questions.

Topics for AP Biology Review

AP Biology involves the study of the core scientific principles, theories, and processes that govern living organisms and biological systems. Students will do hands-on laboratory work to investigate natural phenomena.

UnitWhat’s includedWeight in Exam
Unit 1: Chemistry of Life
You’ll learn about water’s role as the basis of life and the functions of macromolecules like lipids and proteins.
– The structure and chemical properties of water
– The makeup and properties of macromolecules
– The structure of DNA and RNA
8%–11%
Unit 2: Cell Structure and Function
You’ll study the makeup of cells and the fundamentals of evolution.
– Cellular components and functions of those components
– Cell interaction with its environment
– The cell membrane structure and function
– Cell regulatory mechanisms like osmosis and selective permeability
– Cellular compartmentalization
10%–13%
Unit 3: Cellular Energetics
You’ll explore how cells interact with their environment and how fundamental biological processes work at the cellular level.
– The structure and function of enzymes
– The role of energy in living systems
– The processes of photosynthesis
– The processes of cellular respiration
– Molecular diversity and cellular response to environmental changes
12%–16%
Unit 4: Cell Communication and Cell Cycle
You’ll learn how cells grow and reproduce, as well as how cells communicate.
– The mechanisms of cell communication
– Signal transduction
– Cellular responses and feedback mechanisms
– The events in a cell cycle
10%–15%
Unit 5: Heredity
You’ll learn how traits are passed down from one generation to the next.
– The process and function of meiosis
– The concepts genetic diversity
– Mendel’s laws and probability
– Non-mendelian Inheritance
– Factors affecting inheritance and gene expression
8%-11%
Unit 6: Gene Expression and Regulation
You’ll study how hereditary information passes from parent to offspring and how those traits are expressed.
– The roles and functions of DNA and RNA
– The mechanisms of gene expression
– How genotype affects phenotype
– Mutations, genetic diversity, and natural selection
– Genetic engineering and biotechnology
12%-16%
Unit 7: Natural Selection
You’ll learn about Darwin’s theory, the concept of natural selection, and evolution.
– Evidential support for evolution and common ancestry
– The mechanisms of natural selection and speciation
– Environmental and human-caused factors in evolution
– Charting species ancestry through phylogenetic trees and cladograms
– Extinction
– Models of the origin of life on Earth
13%-20%
Unit 8: Ecology
You’ll explore biological concepts at a broader organism level and analyze how populations interact within ecosystems.
– Communication and responses to environmental changes
– Energy flow within and across ecosystems
– Factors in the growth, density, and success of populations
– Factors in community and ecosystem dynamics
– Invasive species, human interaction, and environmental changes
10%-15%
AP Biology Course Content

For additional course resources such as classroom resources, formulae and equation sheets and lab manuals refer to the College Board AP Biology course page.

Download our popular AP Biology Exam Guide

AP Biology Exam Guide
AP Biology Exam Guide

How is the AP Biology exam scored?

The test is divided into two sections:

  • Section I: Consists of 60 multiple-choice questions.
  • Section II: Consists of 6 free-response questions. Out of which 2 are long-form questions and 4 are short-form questions.

Following the exam, the raw results for each part are transformed into scaled scores ranging from 1 to 5, according to a method that considers the exam’s complexity. The final step is to sum the results to determine the student’s final AP Biology Test score.

AP exam scoreRecommendationCollege course grade equivalent
5Extremely well qualifiedA+ or A
4Well qualifiedA-, B+ or B
3QualifiedB-, C+ or C
2Possibly Qualified——
1No recommendation——
AP exam score

When is the AP Biology exam in 2024?

The AP biology exam for 2024 will be held on Thursday, May 16 2024 12:00 pm local time. The 2024 AP Exams will be held over two weeks in May: May 6–10 and May 13–17. 

For the most recent information on exam dates and registration deadlines, students can check with their institution or the College Board website.

How to prepare for the AP Biology exam | 7 Tips

AP Biology exam is considered to be a tough exam. But proper planning and consistency will help you achieve your target score. Scroll down to get 7 tips on how to study for the AP Biology exam.

1. Don’t feel overwhelmed by the volume of information

Even though there is a vast amount of syllabus to cover, most concepts have linkages and strategies to make them simple to understand. AP Biology is divided into 4 primary ideas to make those connections easier for you:

  • Big Idea 1: Evolution: The diversity and unity of life are driven by the process of evolution.
  • Big Idea 2: Energy: In order to develop, reproduce, and maintain dynamic equilibrium, biological systems depend on free energy and molecular building blocks.
  • Big Idea 3: Information Storage and Transmission: Information is stored, transmitted, and acted upon by living systems in order to carry out vital life activities.
  • Big Idea 4: Biological systems interact with one another, and both these systems and their interactions have complex features.

You will be able to put more complex and descriptive vocabulary into perspective by being able to think of biology in terms of these 4 Big Concepts.

2. Understand the big picture

Instead of just memorizing facts, try to understand the big picture and how different concepts relate to each other. Focus more on the connections than the phrases and meanings when learning about challenging subjects that you might not be familiar with.

Most crucial, make an effort to relate ideas to the aforementioned four major concepts. To aid in connecting ideas, use resources like mind maps. Then, when you run into trouble when attempting to respond to a question, try to picture the connections you formed. One of the best study methods for any AP exam, in all seriousness.

3. Practical applications of logical reasoning

Logic is a valuable tool in biology as it allows us to make sense of complex biological systems and processes. By using logical reasoning, we can draw conclusions and make predictions based on the available evidence, helping us to better understand and study the natural world.

4. Review regularly

Don’t wait until the last minute to study. Review material regularly and create flashcards to help you memorize key concepts.

5. Use online resources

There are many online resources available for AP Biology, such as Wiingy’s AP Biology tutoring and Bozeman Science. Use them to supplement your learning and gain a deeper understanding of the subject.

6. Stay organized

Create a study schedule and stick to it. Use a planner or calendar to keep track of assignments, quizzes, and exams.

7. Identifying and addressing your areas of improvement

Review your practice test results and identify the areas where you struggled the most. Then, prioritize these topics and spend extra time reviewing and practicing them. Utilize resources such as review books, study guides, and online practice quizzes to strengthen your understanding of these concepts.

Don’t be afraid to ask your teacher or classmates for help or clarification. By addressing your weakness head-on, you can build confidence and increase your chances of success on the exam.

How can Wiingy help with AP Biology exam prep?

In 2022, only 15.0% of the 223,000 students who took the AP Biology exam scored a 5. While 3 is considered the unofficial passing rate, most elite universities, such as Harvard or Princeton, offer AP credit only if you score 5 or higher. 

Getting a 5 is possible if you have the right support in your high school, but that’s rarely the case.

Here at Wiingy, we work with vetted AP Biology tutors with demonstrated expertise and experience in helping students score a 5 on AP exams

Unlike tutor marketplaces, every Wiingy tutor is screened individually and undergoes a comprehensive assessment. Less than 3% of applicants are selected to become tutors on Wiingy’s platform, ensuring tutors are highly qualified and experienced in teaching AP courses.

Our tutors will work with you 1-on-1 to master the content and skills you need to succeed. Experienced tutors can provide you with curriculum-specific guides and practice questions and familiarize you with the exam format to help you ace the test.

We know that sometimes you don’t want to pay for private tutoring because it is too expensive. It’s common to see tutoring costs between $100 to $150 per hour. Wiingy’s rates are very affordable, starting from just $28 per hour, much lower than the average AP tutoring offered by other platforms.

One more advantage of studying with us is that we don’t require you to sign up for any packages or yearly subscriptions. You can sign up for as little as a single lesson and add more lessons as per your requirements.

While we try to match you with the perfect tutor as per your needs, we know that sometimes even the best tutors might not be the right fit for you. That’s why we offer you the Perfect Match Guarantee, which means that if you are not satisfied with your tutor for any reason, you can request a free replacement at any time

Sign up with Wiingy AP Biology Tutoring today and achieve your goal of scoring a 5 on your AP Test!

Why take AP Biology?

There are several reasons why taking the AP Biology exam can be beneficial for students. Here are five points in detail:

  1. College credit: Depending on your score and the policies of the college you plan to attend, a high score on the AP Biology exam can earn you college credit. This can save you time and money on tuition costs, as you may be able to skip introductory biology courses in college.
  2. Advanced Placement: In addition to college credit, a high score on the AP Biology exam can also earn you advanced placement in higher-level biology courses in college. This can give you a head start and allow you to take more advanced courses earlier in your college career.
  3. Demonstrates mastery: Taking the AP Biology exam and earning a high score demonstrates to colleges and future employers that you have mastered college-level biology concepts and skills. This can be an impressive addition to your college application or resume.
  4. Challenge yourself: The AP Biology exam is designed to be challenging, and preparing for it can push you to develop strong study skills and a work ethic. By challenging yourself and working hard to prepare for the exam, you can develop important skills that will benefit you in college and beyond.
  5. Passion for biology: Finally, taking the AP Biology exam can be a way to pursue your passion for biology and deepen your understanding of the natural world. By exploring advanced biology concepts and practicing scientific skills, you can gain a greater appreciation for the complexity and beauty of life on Earth.

Conclusion 

The AP Biology course is organized into several units, each focusing on specific aspects of biology. These units include topics such as biochemistry, cell structure and function, genetics, evolution, ecology, and more.

The AP Biology exam is divided into two main sections: multiple-choice and free-response. The free-response section allows you to showcase your ability to design experiments, analyze data, and provide in-depth written responses.

In terms of performance, the mean score for the AP Biology exam in 2022 was 3.52 out of 5. This score reflects the overall achievement of students who took the exam and provides an indication of the level of mastery in the subject.

In conclusion, the AP Biology exam is a moderately difficult exam. With a passing rate of 64.6% in 2022, this exam challenges students to demonstrate their understanding of biological concepts and their ability to apply critical thinking and analytical skills.

 Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

How to study for the AP Biology exam in a week?

It is not recommended to study for the AP Biology exam in just one week. The exam covers a vast amount of material and requires long-term preparation. Cramming in a week may not be sufficient to fully grasp the concepts, resulting in a lower score. It is advised to plan and prepare for the exam well in advance.

What is the AP Biology exam date for 2024?

The 2024 AP Biology exam date is Thursday,
May 12, 2024 at 12:00 pm (local time).

Is it easy to get an A in AP Biology?

Getting an A in AP Biology is not easy and requires consistent effort throughout the course. According to College Board’s data from the 2022 AP exams, only 14.8% of students who took the AP Biology exam received a score of 5 (the highest possible score). This suggests that the majority of students find the course and exam to be difficult.

When should I start studying for the AP Biology exam?

It is recommended to start studying for the AP Biology exam several months before the exam date, ideally at the beginning of the school year, to cover all the material thoroughly, identify areas of weakness, and take practice tests.

Is the AP Bio exam hard?

Due to the wide range of biology-related topics it covers, AP Biology is regarded as a difficult course. A solid understanding of scientific principles, the potential for critical thought, and the skill to evaluate and comprehend evidence are prerequisites for the course.
In 2022, a total of 230,527 students worldwide took the AP Biology exam. The mean score for the exam was 3.1, slightly lower than the mean score for the previous year. The percentage of students who received a passing score of 3 or higher in 2022 was 68%, which was lower than the percentage in 2020.
The most challenging topic for students in the 2022 exam was interpreting and evaluating experimental results, while the easiest topics were natural selection and ecology. According to the 2022 AP score distributions, 15% of students received a score of 5, indicating a strong performance, while 23.1% received a score of 4

References:

  1. https://www.albert.io/blog/ap-biology-tips/
  2. https://blog.prepscholar.com/ap-biology-study-guide
  3. https://library.fiveable.me/ap-bio/faqs/7-tips-from-ap-biology-students/blog
  4. https://apcentral.collegeboard.org/courses/ap-biology
  5. https://www.princetonreview.com/college-advice/ap-biology-exam

Reviewed by

Priyanshi Agrawal

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