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The College Board launched a redesigned AP Biology course and exam in fall, 2012. The new course is equivalent to a two-semester introductory college biology course. This redesign to the course and exam is a reflection of our commitment to continually enhance AP’s alignment with current best practices in college-level learning. Learn more about the AP course and exam redesign.

Foundations of the Redesign

The new AP Biology course and exam were developed by a committee of college biology faculty and AP teachers, incorporating the results of a study of parallel college course curricula, recommendations from the National Research Council and the National Science Foundation.

In 2010, AP also conducted a validation study with 60 biology department chairs and faculty members. Read the results of the study. On a broad level, the study found that:

  • The scope of the revised course reflects the position of college and university instructors on the scope of introductory college-level biology courses.
  • The revised course emphasizes the key concepts and skills valued within the discipline of biology.
  • The revised course encourages instructional flexibility and depth in how students investigate science using college-level inquiry skills.

Goals of the Redesign:

Reduce the breadth of content to promote conceptual understanding. Teachers and students have the flexibility to explore complex concepts, conduct inquiry-based lab investigations and tailor instruction to diverse learning styles and interests.

Provide an explicit, comprehensive course and exam description. The course and exam description provides a formulas and equations list, delineates required from optional content, offers multiple approaches to teaching essential knowledge and outlines what students should know and be able to do to succeed on the exam.

Emphasize scientific inquiry and student-directed labs. Moving away from a lecture-and-demonstration model toward a collaborative approach, the course provides students many opportunities to take risks, apply inquiry skills and direct and monitor their own progress.

Articulate clear learning objectives. The course and exam description offers a clear and concise approach to reducing content, based on what colleges indicate students should know and be able to do after completing an introductory college-level biology course.

Course and Exam Overview

The AP Biology course covers core scientific principles, theories and processes governing living organisms and biological systems. Science practices such as establishing lines of evidence and using them to develop and refine testable explanations and predictions of natural phenomena, are emphasized. Students who take the revised course will also develop advanced inquiry and reasoning skills, such as designing a plan for collecting data, analyzing data, applying mathematical routines and connecting concepts in and across domains. Learn more about the AP course and exam redesign.

The course and exam are organized around four key concepts or big ideas, which are supported by additional themes and concepts as articulated in the learning objectives. These key concepts are:

  • The process of evolution drives the diversity and unity of life.
  • Biological systems utilize free energy and molecular building blocks to grow, reproduce and 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.

Read the full course and exam description.