AP Biology (College Board)

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Common Questions

AP Biology stands for Advanced Placement Biology and is a leading US-based qualification for students graduating high school. A high score in the AP attracts credits for college (university) courses in US colleges. Advanced Placement is so-called because it allows a student to skip certain parts of college courses, by awarding credit for those modules/courses. Each college decides how much credit to award as a function of the grade the student achieves.

AP Biology builds on your high school biology learning, and most of its content is learned during your junior or senior year. AP Biology usually takes two or three semesters to complete and earns credit for college courses offering Biology majors. The AP is designed to be an introductory biology course for prospective biology majors.

You should have completed successfully your high school courses in biology and chemistry.

Answers are all written in pencil-and-paper format only.

50% of the points are from multi-choice exam questions. 50% of the points are from free-response questions. The AP Bio FRQ (Free Response Questions) cover the following: - Question 1 Interpreting and Evaluating Experimental Results - Question 2: Interpreting and Evaluating Experimental Results with Graphing - Question 3: Scientific Investigation - Question 4: Conceptual Analysis - Question 5: Analyze Model or Visual Representation - Question 6: Analyze Data

The multi-choice question section is 90 minutes long. There is a 10-minute secure break in between the two papers. The free-response section is also 90 minutes long, the first 10 minutes of which are for reading only.

Scores are graded on a scale of 5 (high) to 1 (low) as follows. 5: Extremely Well Qualified, College grade A equivalent 4: Well Qualified, College grade A-, B+, B equivalent 3: Qualified, College grade B-, C+, C equivalent 2: Possibly Qualified, no college grade equivalent 1: No recommendation, no college grade equivalent Multi-choice responses are machine-graded. For free-response written answers, human readers are employed to read and grade the responses. In the first 2 weeks of June, a reading convention of teachers and college professors is held in which the readers meet and grade every candidate's free-response questions. In 2023, this took place in Kansas City. Because the multi-choice and free-response sections both carry equal weight (50% each), they are added to give a composite score. These are scaled into a range 1-5 to give your final grade. You won't see your composite score, only your grade 1-5.

Grade 3 is usually considered a 'pass'. it is also the lowest grade for which some colleges award credit to prospective Biology majors. Some colleges will only accept a 4 or a 5 for credit.

According to College Board, 69% of students receive a pass rate (3 or higher) in AP Biology, while 10% of students receive the maximum score (5). For comparison, across AP as a whole, 71% of students receive a pass rate (3 or higher), while 20% of students receive the maximum score (5).

The 2024 date will be Thursday May 16, 2024 at 12:00 noon local time. There is a late testing date of Thursday, May 23, 2024 at 12:00 noon local time. This is only for students who cannot make the original date in exceptional circumstances. The late testing date uses an alternate version of the exam.

In a typical year, AP scores are released in early-to-mid July. In 2023, AP scores were published on Wednesday, July 5.

Any AP class is a hard one in that it consists of college-level material taken in the high school years. There is no single objective measurement of how 'hard' each course is because there are so many variables, including breadth of curriculum content and the caliber of students likely to elect a particular AP course. Also, even something as variable as your teacher's teaching style can affect how hard a course is, or how hard it appears to be. Biology does contain a high level of conceptual content, and even after a major course redesign in 2012 that removed a lot of the requirement for memorization, there is still a huge amount of curricular material that the teachers have to cram into the available teaching time. Memorization hasn't disappeared from the class, it's just gotten less! Out of that time, laboratory time is required, which means less lecture-style teaching time might be available than on other courses. Biology is widely listed as one of the harder AP courses, and with good reason. The pass rates (Grade 3+) are generally good, holding steady in the 60-70% range over several recent years. AP Biology is usually the most popular AP science in terms of student numbers taking the exam.

AP Biology is definitely worth it if you are considering studying biology or a related discipline as a major in college. It will give you an advanced view of college-level biology and prepare you for the rigors of college study. The AP gives you, in many cases, credit against college courses that can create time in your schedule to concentrate on elective courses, wider academic interests and private study. The exact amount of credit you get depends on two main factors: your AP biology exam score, and the AP credits policy of the college of your choice.