Course Tour—AP Biology

The Basics

AP Biology is the best course for any aspiring student who wants to get their hands on the nitty gritty of life. The college-level course teaches students through hands-on inquiry-based exploration. From structures as small as cells to networks as large as ecosystems, students investigate subjects like energetics, evolution, and genetics!

While learning to think like a biologist, students will also pick up skills, such as explaining biological concepts, performing statistical analysis, and interpreting visual data, which can carry over to a variety of scientific interests. 

The Exam*

This optional exam is taken at the end of the year and follows this standard format:

  • Multiple Choice: 60 questions in 1 hour 30 minutes. [50% of score]

    • The Multiple Choice questions are further divided between discrete questions (stand alone questions) and questions in sets, interlocking in material.

  • Free Response: 6 questions in 1 hour 30 minutes. [50% of score]

    • Part 1: 2 long response questions focusing on experiment interpretation (one involves graphing)

    • Part 2: 4 short answer questions: 

      • Scientific Investigation, 

      • Conceptual Analysis, 

      • Analysis of Model/Visual Representation, 

      • and Analysis of Data.

*The AP Biology exam is working on several changes for 2021. If this information seems new to you, you may have been looking at the exam format of previous years.

This optional exam is taken at the end of the year. In 2021, 3 testing dates will be available in May and June with options for traditional paper testing or digital exams.

For 2021 AP Biology testing, the digital version of the test will contain the typical multiple choice and free response question sections.

The Statistics**

  • 260,816 students took the AP Biology exam in 2019.

  • Of those who took the exam, 64.7% scored a 3 or higher.

  • The mean score was a 2.92.

  • 7.2% scored a 5 (this rose to 9.5% in 2020).

The passing percentage of AP Biology scores is higher than that of Chemistry or Environmental Sciences, but keep in mind that the amount of 5s is much lower. You’ll have to work extra hard if you want to get that top score!

**All statistics are sourced from College Board 2019 & 2020 score distributions.

Additional Course Facts

  • Participation in AP Biology is fairly evenly divided between 11th and 12th grade.

  • Some colleges will accept a passing AP score as college credit, which can decrease college costs.

  • College Board is introducing some changes to the AP Biology Exam in 2021, so make sure you’re looking at the new format when you’re practicing!

Why should you take this?

A practical reason: colleges look very favorably on AP Biology, and the course itself teaches skills that are useful across all of the sciences. Still, there’s a lot more to AP Biology than just that. You may learn that you love biology, the focus on the world around you, the lab experiments, the understanding of how various species genetically arrived at where we are today. Majoring in biology can lead to careers as varied as lab research, healthcare, and environmental conservation.

We hope to see all of you aspiring biologists (and biology enthusiasts) at Pivot!

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