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  • Feb 16, 2021

AP Biology Past FRQs by Topic

Updated: Jan 31

ap biology free response questions evolution

**Updated on 1/31/24 to include the 2022-23 FRQ exams!**

If you are looking for past AP Biology free-response questions (FRQs) that are organized by topic, then you have come to the right place. In this post, we have linked every freely available past FRQ there is from College Board and organized it into the following major topics of AP Biology .

(Please note that we are not associated with College Board and are simply sharing the resources they have made available to students.)

Biochemistry

Metabolism & energetics.

Physiology (note that this topic will not be tested on the official AP Biology exam this year in 2021, although many questions about physiology could also cover concepts that will be tested)

Experiment design & data analysis

Need more AP-style practice problems?

Intensively doing and reviewing practice questions is proven to be much more effective than spending hours studying. Check out our AP Bio Practice Portal , which is an easy-to-use database of 300+ AP-style MCQ and FRQ practice questions. Students love the Practice Portal because it includes answers and explanations for every problem, tracks progress, and saves time from Googling practice problems.

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How to make the most of past frqs from college board.

As noted above, the diversity of organisms, plants, and physiology will not be on the 2021 AP Biology exam. However, the exam could include questions about topics or hypothetical situations that are related to those topics. One great example is cell communication, which is used in multiple systems inside our bodies. Let’s say an FRQ was to appear about the immune system and how the immune cells communicate. That would be fair game as long as the question focuses on the cell signaling part, not the details of the immune system. If the question requires some background knowledge about the immune system, it will be provided.

If you want to do a whole practice FRQ set just like the ones on the real exam (which we highly recommend), all the freely available past FRQs by year are available here on the College Board website. Tip: time yourself and take the practice FRQ set in an environment that mimics how you imagine your actual testing environment to be.

If you would like to focus on a particular topic, then the section coming up is for you. Some FRQs will show up under multiple topics because they truly do test students’ understanding of multiple different topics.

Tip : Whether you are doing individual free-response questions or doing a full problem set in one go, it is extremely important and effective to do test corrections! Don’t only consult the scoring guidelines and model responses when you have no clue how to answer a question. You should be checking them for all the FRQs you do. When you find a difference between your answer and the scoring guidelines, it is important that you pause and analyze why your response is incorrect. Take the time to understand your mistakes and see how your answer could have been better. This will help you boost your scores the most efficiently.

AP BIOLOGY FRQs BY TOPIC

Below are the linked FRQs organized by topic. The header for each topic will also lead you to the corresponding study guide that will help you review the unit in detail!

Basic and organic chemistry concepts do not come up often on the FRQs (but of course, it’s better to be prepared). The properties of water and macromolecules come up occasionally.

2017 #7 and 8

Includes cell structure and function, cell transport and the proteins involved.

2019 #3 and 8

2018 #2, 6, and 8

2006 #1, 3, and 4

2001 #1 and 4

(study guide coming soon!)

This unit includes enzymes, cellular respiration, and photosynthesis.

2023 #2 (cell respiration & photosynthesis)

2023 #4 (photosynthesis)

2022 #3 (enzymes)

2021 #3 (cell respiration)

2019 #3 (cell respiration)

2018 #2 (cell respiration)

2017 #7 (cell respiration)

2017 #5 (photosynthesis)

2015 #2 (cell respiration)

2013 #2 (photosynthesis) and 4 (cell respiration & photosynthesis)

2012 #2 (cell respiration) and 4 (cell respiration & photosynthesis)

2010 #2 (enzymes)

2007 #3 (photosynthesis)

2006 #4 (photosynthesis)

2005 #1 (cell respiration & photosynthesis)

2004 #3 (photosynthesis)

Cell cycle & cell signaling

This topic has shown up more frequently and in more difficult FRQs in recent years, especially cell communication. The trend will most likely continue so definitely prioritize reviewing and practicing this topic!

2023 #1 (cell communication)

2022 #1 (cell communication)

2022 #2 (cell cycle, meiosis)

2021 #1 (cell communication)

2019 #4 (cell communication)

2018 #8 (cell communication)

2017 #8 (cell communication)

2016 # 7 (cell division)

2015 # 4 (cell division)

2015 #5 and 7 (cell communication)

2013 #8 (cell communication)

2011 #1B (cell division)

2010 #1 (cell communication)

2006 #1B (cell division)

2004 #1 (cell division)

Genetics, Gene Expression and Regulation

Genetics Pt 1 and Genetics Pt 2 Study Guides

This section includes the classic Mendelian genetics, with Punnett squares, crosses, and Mendel’s laws. It also includes DNA replication, protein synthesis, and gene expression regulation for both eukaryotes and prokaryotes.

2023 #6 (gene expression)

2022 #6 (protein synthesis, gene expression)

2021 #6 (gene expression)

2021 #2 (heredity + pedigrees)

2020 #1 parts a-b

2019 #1 and 3

2018 #1, 4, and 7

2016 #4 and 7

2023 #5 (Cladistics)

2022 #4 (speciation)

2020 #1 parts f-j

2015 #3 and 6

2014 #2 and 4

2015 #2 (nervous system)

2014 #2 (immune system) and 6 (musculoskeletal system) and 7

2017 #2, 4, and 7b

2016 #3 and 5

2014 #3 and 4

Experimental design & analysis

This is an additional section that isn’t focused on any particular topic or has significant data analysis involved. While most FRQs do pertain to a specific topic(s), some are simply there to test your knowledge of experimental design and understanding of statistical concepts such as performing Chi-Square tests and interpreting error bars on graphs. These types of questions have become more and more common on the AP exam, so it is important to feel comfortable and confident with them.

2023 #6 (data analysis)

2022 #3 (experiment design)

2020 #1 parts c-e

2016 #2 , 6 and 8

2014 #1 and 5

2013 #1 and 7

Hope these organized FRQs saved you some time so you can focus more on actually doing them and practicing! You can easily share this post with friends who may find it helpful as well.

How to Improve AP Biology FRQ Scores, Fast

Do a lot of FRQ practice problems and review the answers! Practice is key, especially for a subject as dense as AP Bio. Check out the AP Bio Practice Portal , which is our popular vault of 300+ AP-style MCQ and FRQ problem sets with answers and explanations for every question. Don't waste any more time Googling practice problems or answers - try it out now!

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Unit 7 FRQ (Evolutionary Advantages)

2 min read • november 16, 2021

AP Bio Free Response Question for Evolutionary Advantages

👋 Welcome to the  AP Bio Unit 7 FRQ (Evolutionary Advantages) . These are longer questions, so grab some paper and a pencil, or open up a blank page on your computer.

⚠️ (Unfortunately, we don't have an Answers Guide for this question, but it can give you an idea of how an FRQ for Unit 7 might look on the exam.)

⏱ The AP Biology exam has 6 free-response questions, and you will be given 90 minutes to complete the FRQ section. (This means you should  give yourself ~15 minutes  to go through each practice FRQ.)

  • 🤔 Need a quick refresher of the unit as a whole? Check out the  Unit 7 Overview
  • 😩 Getting stumped halfway through answering? Look through all of the available  Unit 7 resources

🤝 Prefer to study with other students working on the same topic? Join a group in  Hours

The Mexican tetra or Astyanax mexicanus is a freshwater fish living primarily along the eastern coasts of Mexico. The species is famous for its blind form, which exists in caves and low light areas. The blindness is the result of having no eyeballs. Blind cavefish morphologically resemble their surface counterparts except they have no eyes and significantly lighter pigmentation. In fact, there are five different subtypes of Mexican tetras with various phenotypes. Figure 1 details these fish and their respective regions.

https://firebasestorage.googleapis.com/v0/b/fiveable-92889.appspot.com/o/images%2F-VLDo7Dvv9fd6.png?alt=media&token=682491ec-e6ce-4b56-9a23-4a9308a24e9b

Image Source: Duboue, et al. (2011)

(a) Propose an evolutionary advantage of the blind cavefish over the surface form in its respective environment. 

(b) Identify the nonselective process that caused different groups of the fish to differentiate rapidly and with major phenotypic differences. 

(c) For Group B fish to lose their eyes, they must have suffered a mutation. Discuss what would have had happened if that mutation had occurred in a school of fish at the surface rather than a school of fish residing in low-light caves. 

(d) Draw a cladogram demonstrating the relationships between the five types of Mexican tetras. For the purposes of this FRQ, draw it on a separate sheet of paper, take a picture, and insert it into this document . 

(e) In the original population of Mexican tetras, scale color may be light or dark (d or D, respectively). Scale color is the result of complete dominance. If 15% of Mexican tetras have light scales, calculate the frequencies of the dominant and recessive alleles.

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AP CENTRAL FRQ's  2023        2022-1999          2020 Exam questions available in AP Classroom question bank

EVOLUTION FRQ's

2021 #4             2021 All Questions       Scoring Guidelines  coming after exams are scored Explain data in grah Reproductive isolation Prezygotic mechanisms Predict/justify phenotypic change

2018 #1    2018 Free-Response Questions     Scoring Guidelines        Sample Responses Q1 Create a cladogram based on data Estimate chronological time Mitochondrial DNA analysis Predict relatedness Proteins vs DNA accuracy Explain frequency of allele in population Predict/Justify phenotypes

2018 #7  2018 All Free-Response Questions        Scoring Guidelines             Sample Responses Q7 Sex determination Predict frequency of genetic cross Fitness cost

2017 #7   2017 All Free-Response Questions           Scoring Guidelines       Sample Responses Q7   Metabolic pathways Anaerobic/Aerobic respiration Predict impact of environmental change on populations

2016 #3    2016 ALL Free-Response Questions      Scoring Guidelines          Sample Responses Q3 Explain graph % dry weight/plant growth Estimate Energy sources Evolutionary advantage

2015 #2  2015 ALL Questions       Scoring Guidelines        Sample Responses Q2 Glycolysis, Krebs, ETC pathways Compare ATP production Calculate energy efficiency Endosymbiotic theory Evidence of shared evolutionary history

2015 #3   2015 ALL Questions              Scoring Guidelines        Sample Responses Q3 Cytochrome C comparison Create phylogenetic tree Compare morphological vs DNA evidence

2014 #1  2014 All question       Scoring Guidelines           Sample Responses Q1 Artificial selection lab Trichome data Create a graph/SEM Dependent/independent variables Predict experimental results

2014 #2   2014 All questions             Scoring Guidelines                      Sample Responses Q2 Compare proteins Use data o construct a cladogram Predict/Justify placement of organism

2014 #4    2014 All questions                 Scoring Guidelines                     Sample Responses Q4 Provide reasoning for graph change Evolutionary mechanisms

2013 #3  2013 All questions         Scoring Guidelines     Sample Responses Q3 Transitional fossils Support hypothesis with evidence

2011B #4   2011B  ll Questions           Scoring Guidelines              Sample Responses Q4 Mechanisms of speciation Phylogeny Cladograms

2010 #3   2010 All Questions                 Scoring guidelines            Sample Responses Q3 Fruit Fly Genetics lab Use data provided to predict method of inheritance Hardy Weinberg

2008 #1  2008 All Questions       Scoring Guidelines        Sample Responses Q1 Bonds/interactions in proteins How protein structure impacts function in ~ muscle contraction ~ Regulation enzyme activity ~ Cell signaling Sickle cell hemoglobin mutation Heterozygote advantage

2008 #4   2008 All Questions       Scoring Guidelines        Sample Responses Q4 Plant fertilization Pollen transfer Self fertilization Evolutionary advantage

2008 #3 B   2008 B All Questions           Scoring Guidelines           Sample Responses Q3 Hardy Weinberg conditions Equations Calculations

2007 #3  2007 All Questions          Scoring Guidelines          Sample Responses Q3 Impact of abiotic factors on productivity Food chains/trophic levels Anatomical/physiological differences impact on CO 2 uptake in plants Evolutionary significance

2007 B #1   2007 B All Questions       Scoring Guidelines             Sample Responses Q1 Innate/Learned behavior Adaptive value Design an experiment

2005 #2 2005 All Questions          Scoring Guidelines                   Scoring Commentary              Sample Responses Q2 Structure/function eukaryotic chromosome Eukaryotes/prokaryote differences Evolutionary significance

2003 B #4   2003B  Questions              Scoring Guidelines             Sample Responses Q4 Explain/discuss impact on biodiversity of: ~ Mutations ~ adaptive radiation ~ polyploidy ~ population bottlenecks ~ growth of human population  

2002 #3  2002 All questions     Scoring Guidelines         Sample Responses Q3   Structure/function Material transport Response to stimuli Gas exchange Locomotion in animal examples (Cnidaria, earthworms, mouse) Evolutionary value

2001 #2   2001 All Questions      Scoring Guidelines      Scoring Commentary     Sample Responses Q2 Natural selection Convergent similarities Pesticide resistance speciation/isolation Behavior Heterozygote advantage

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AP®︎/College Biology

Unit 1: chemistry of life, unit 2: cell structure and function, unit 3: cellular energetics, unit 4: cell communication and cell cycle, unit 5: heredity, unit 6: gene expression and regulation, unit 7: natural selection, unit 8: ecology, unit 9: worked examples of ap®︎ biology free response questions, unit 10: ap®︎ biology standards mappings.

High School Test Prep

AP Biology Practice Test 1: Evolution

Congratulations - you have completed .

You scored %%SCORE%% out of %%TOTAL%%.

Your performance has been rated as %%RATING%%

Which of the following statements does not describe natural selection:

Evidence from which of the following does not support evolution:, although the leaves of a pitcher plant, a venus flytrap, and a cactus do not appear to be very similar, they are derived from a structure present in a common ancestor. this is an example of:, male peacocks are famous for their colorful, showy tails, whereas female peahens are brown with no fancy tails. this is an example of sexual dimorphism, found in organisms with two different looks within the species. what mode of selection produces species exhibiting sexual dimorphism, this type of evolutionary fitness is referred to as:, northern elephant seals were hunted by humans in the 1890s, reducing their population size to 20 individuals. even though their population is now over 30,000, the seals still have reduced genetic variation. what’s the best explanation of this phenomenon, certain cavefish and salamanders have non-functional eyes, which are remnants of the functional eyes of their ancestors. such examples of “leftover” structures are referred to as:.

ap biology free response questions evolution

Which of the following statements best indentifies the type of selection resulting in the typical reddish brown to grayish brown coat of white-tailed deer?

Questions 9–11.

ap biology free response questions evolution

The Mexican population had significantly lower gene diversity, few alleles at each locus, and the gene frequencies were significantly different from populations at other locations. The Mexican population was sampled from a breeding nursery used to screen for resistance to this pathogen. The nursery is located far away from the wheat population area and has a limited potential for influx of natural inoculation, and was inoculated with a limited number of strains of the pathogen. This is an excellent example of:

In australia, only a relatively small number of individuals arrived on this continent with the introduction of modern agriculture, and therefore, the geographic area with the highest level of gene diversity speckled leaf spot is likely to be the center of origin. based on this data, that area would be, this movement of polar bear populations provides a prime example of, questions 13–14.

ap biology free response questions evolution

We can use these data to calculate the allelic frequencies for a given locus, such as the ME locus in the California population. How many S alleles are there in the population?

The number of s alleles in the california population at the est locus is 94, and the number of f alleles is 34. if this population is in hardy-weinberg equilibrium, what would be the expected genotype frequencies for sf for the est locus in the california population, which of the following is not a correct condition for hardy-weinburg equilibrium to be met:.

Next Practice Test: Common Ancestry >> AP Biology Main Menu >>

AP Biology Practice Tests

The AP Biology Exam is 3 hours long and is divided into two sections: Section I (multiple-choice questions) and Section II (free-response questions).

The AP biology exam assesses content from each of four big ideas for the course:

1. Evolution 2. Energetics 3. Information Storage and Transmission 4. Systems Interactions

  • How to Approach AP Biology Multiple-Choice Questions
  • How to Approach AP Biology Free-Response Questions

The details of the AP biology exam, including exam weighting and timing, can be found below:

If you are a mobile user, click here: Do AP Biology Multiple-Choice Practice Questions

AP Biology Multiple-Choice Practice Tests

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AP Biology Free-Response Practice Questions

Long free-response practice question.

Cellular respiration is a process that occurs in many organisms. The rate of cellular respiration can be  measured using several different methods.

(A) Design a specific experiment to measure the rate of cellular respiration in an organism of your choice. Identify, isolate, and test one experimental variable in your experiment. Identify any variables that you must control, and explain the apparatus that you will use to measure the cellular respiration.

(B) Construct a graph to report your results, and graph the results that you would expect in your experiment.

(C) Explain the significance of your results.

Example Answer

You should immediately realize that this is a question about cellular respiration. You should draw on your knowledge of this topic to answer the question. Use the organism that you used when completing this lab (commonly germinating peas).

(A) Key points to include: the organism you chose, clear identification of the experimental variable, clear explanation for the variables that you must control, an explanation of the apparatus that you will use to measure the cellular respiration

Here is a possible response:

Cellular respiration can most easily be measured by consumption of O 2 or by the production of CO 2 . In this experiment, the volume of O 2 consumed by germinating peas will be measured. The experiment will test peas that have been germinating one day vs. peas that have been germinating for three days. Therefore, the number of days the peas have been germinating will be my experimental variable. I will use an apparatus called a respirometer to measure the amount of O 2 consumed. This device will be submerged underwater with a pipette attached to the end. I will be able to measure the amount of water drawn into the pipette by comparing where the water mark begins and where it ends. I will eliminate the production of CO 2 as a variable by using potassium hydroxide (KOH) to fix CO 2 into a solid form: potassium carbonate (K 2 CO 3 ). KOH will be added to an absorbent cotton ball and placed on the bottom of the respirometer with a non-absorbent cotton ball in between, so the KOH will not interfere with the experiment. Because volume must be controlled, I will use glass beads to control the volume differences between the two germinating pea samples.

I will place each respirometer in the same tub of water to control temperature between the two germinating pea samples.

Hypothesis: Measuring cellular respiration for 30 minutes at intervals of 10 minutes at a time will demonstrate that peas that have been germinating for three days will consume more oxygen through cellular respiration than peas that have been germinating one day.

Procedure: I will place 20 peas that have been germinating for one day in one respirometer and 20 peas that have been germinating for three days in another respirometer. After a 10-minute equilibration period, I will begin to measure the amount of oxygen consumed at 10-minute intervals for 30 minutes. I will record results measured by the graduated intervals on the pipette attached to the respirometer.

(B) Key points to include: labels on each axis, regular intervals on the graph, a specific title on the graph, points plotted on the graph, and a line connecting the appropriate points. If there is more than one plot on the graph, you should use a dotted line for one line and a solid line for the other. Alternatively, you can simply write a short phrase above each line for identification.

Here is a sample graph:

ap biology free response questions evolution

(C) Key points to include: clear explanation of the graph and clear explanation of the significance of the results

The graph shows that peas that have been germinating for three days consume more oxygen during a 30-minute period than peas that have been germinating for one day. The peas that have only been germinating for one day are not as well developed. Therefore, these peas are not undergoing as much cellular respiration as the more developed peas that have been germinating for three days.

Short Free-Response Practice Question 1

All living organisms contain genetic information that provides several functions inherent to the individual organism and the perpetuation of its species. Discuss how the nature of genetic material both perpetuates the identity of an individual and provides for high biodiversity.

Key points to include: genes, base pairs, replication, proteins, diversity

DNA is composed of only four different base pairs, and there is only one different base pair, uracil instead of thymine, in RNA. This has created a very simple system for duplication. When a cell replicates its DNA during mitosis, it simply unzips the double helix and adds nucleic acids along its length until a duplicate set of complementary strands is created. The base pairs bond with hydrogen bonds, with cytosine bonding to guanine and adenine bonding to thymine. DNA molecules are very long, but because the code only involves four different base pairs, it can easily be duplicated. The DNA strands are actually copied in small segments and linked together to form an entire strand.

Although there are only four different base pairs, the longer the strand gets, the more combinations of base pairs can be created. These long series of base pairs code for longer and more complex proteins that can differ in minor or very significant ways. For example, sickle cell anemia is caused by only one base pair difference in the genetic code for hemoglobin, but this base pair causes an incredible difference in the function of the protein. The high number of potential combinations from only four base pairs and the impact of small changes in the sequence of base pairs contributes to the diversity of proteins in an organism. This diversity of proteins contributes to the diversity of organisms that exist because physiological function is essentially protein driven. In essence, long and diverse code leads to diverse proteins, which leads to diverse organisms.

In a long-term project studying the interactions of several species of animals on an isolated island, scientists counted the number of individuals of each species visiting a site on the island over the course of several days, every summer for 100 years. The results from that study are shown in the following graph.

' title=

Key points to include: predation, carrying capacity, mutualism

In the year 2000, Species A is effectively out of the picture, Species B is increased, and Species C is in slight decline. It is possible that Species B and C are predators of Species A, causing its virtual extinction in the ecosystem over the last 60 years. It is also possible that Species B is a predator of Species C and the expansion of Species B’s population  has resulted in a decline in the population in Species C. Alternatively, the slight decline in Species C over the previous 30 years could mean that it has reached its carrying capacity.

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Sat / act prep online guides and tips, the expert's guide to the ap biology exam.

Advanced Placement (AP)

feature_apbiologyexam.jpg

If you're taking AP Biology, it's a good idea to familiarize yourself with the exam before you get too far into the course. Preparing ahead of time for the AP exam format and fully understanding what concepts are covered on the AP Biology test can go a long way toward earning a high score (and potentially getting college credit!).

This article will take you through the structure and scoring of the AP Bio exam and give you some key tips on the best ways to study for AP Biology.

How Is the AP Biology Exam Structured?

The AP Biology test is three hours long and has two sections: a multiple-choice section and a free-response section.

The next AP Biology exam will take place on Wednesday, May 11, 2022, at 12 p.m. If there are widespread school closures due to COVID around this time, the College Board will offer digital testing like they did in 2021.

Differences Between the Paper and Digital AP Biology Exams

As of 2022, the College Board has returned to paper-and-pencil testing in most instances. Digital exams will only be available on a case-by-case basis if there are school closures due to COVID-19 this spring.

If you& ; do end up taking a digital exam due to COVID-19, here's what you need to know:

Of the differences between the two exam versions, the College Board states , " On the digital exam, students will answer free-response questions with a keyboard, rather than by hand. Students taking digital exams will not be asked to draw or graph as part of their response—rather, these skills will be assessed with questions about given graphs or other stimuli. The digital exam app will include any symbols students would need to type their responses."

Again, digital examinations will be very limited in 2022, so it's a good idea to prepare for a paper-and-pencil test!

Multiple-Choice Section

The first section on AP Bio consists of all multiple-choice questions. Here's an overview of what to expect:

  • 60 multiple-choice questions , each with four answer choices (A-D)
  • 90 minutes long
  • Worth 50% of your score

You'll get a mix of both stand-alone questions and questions in sets , with four to five questions per set.

Until 2020, the AP Bio test also included grid-in questions in its multiple-choice section, but these have since been removed. This means that you don't need to worry about not being able to come up with the right answer—it'll always be one of the four answer choices given to you!

Free-Response Section

The second section on AP Bio is the free-response section, which looks like this:

  • Two long-response questions , both with a focus on analyzing experimental results
  • Scientific Investigation
  • Conceptual Analysis
  • Analysis of a Model or Visual Representation
  • Data Analysis

Long questions are worth 8-10 points each , whereas short-answer questions are worth 4 points each . Note that the second long question will require you to graph something as well.

Until 2020, the AP Bio exam had six short-answer questions (instead of the current four).

Expectations of the AP Biology Exam

Here's what both sections on the AP Biology test expect you to know how to do:

  • Understand how graphical and mathematical models can be used to explain biological principles and concepts
  • Make predictions and justify events based on biological principles
  • Implement your knowledge of proper experimental design
  • Interpret data

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What's Tested on the AP Biology Exam? 4 Big Ideas

The AP Biology test doesn't include a set number of questions that deal with each topic area, but you should note that the exam is centered around four major themes (or "Big Ideas," as the College Board calls them ) . Here's a list of these themes, followed by some of the topics that fall beneath each of them.  

Big Idea 1: Evolution

The process of evolution drives the diversity and unity of life. Topics that fall into this category include the following:

  • Natural selection
  • Artificial selection
  • Mathematical modeling of populations
  • Species classification
  • Biodiversity and Ecosystems
  • Origins of cell compartmentalization
  • Genetics 

Big Idea 2: Energetics

Biological systems use energy and molecular building blocks to grow, reproduce, and maintain dynamic homeostasis. Topics that fall into this category include the following:

  • Molecular biology
  • Cell structure
  • Photosynthesis
  • Cellular respiration
  • Thermodynamics and homeostasis
  • Immune response

Big Idea 3: Information Storage and Transfer

Living systems store, retrieve, transmit, and respond to information essential to life processes. Here are the main topics in this category:

  • DNA, RNA, and gene expression
  • Cell cycle ( mitosis and meiosis )
  • Communication between cells
  • Endocrine system
  • Nervous system

Big Idea 4: Systems Interaction

Biological systems interact, and these systems and their interactions exhibit complex properties. The topics that fall into this category include the following:

  • Plant structure
  • Circulatory system
  • Musculoskeletal system

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AP Biology Sample Questions

Now that you have a basic content outline, here are some examples of the types of questions you'll see on the AP Biology test so that you can get an even better idea of what to expect.

Multiple-Choice Sample Question

Here is an example of a multiple-choice AP Biology exam question:

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This question looks kind of complicated, but let’s break it down. The first sentence is background information that isn’t really necessary for answering the question , besides the fact that it tells us we’re talking about sickle cell anemia. This is helpful if you can remember basic facts about the disease that you can use to contextualize the question.

The main part of the question asks what will be affected when you replace a hydrophilic amino acid with a hydrophobic one on a hemoglobin protein. Based on your knowledge of sickle cell anemia and molecular properties, you should be able to eliminate choices B and C , which don’t have much to do with the abnormality described in the question.

Choice D can also be eliminated because the internal secondary structure of the protein is not altered by the existence of the hydrophobic group.

This would only affect how the molecule interacts externally with other hemoglobin molecules, as in choice A (the correct answer) .

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Bacteria gettin' it on.

Free Response: Long Sample Question

Here’s an example of a long free-response question you might see on the AP Biology exam:

body_apbio_long_free_response_sample_1

That's one long question! Now, this AP Bio question is worth a total of 8-10 points (the AP Biology Exam Description doesn't specify exactly how much this particular sample question is worth).

As you can see, there are four distinct parts: A, B, C, and D . Each part asks you to do something different and is worth a certain number of points:

  • Part A is worth 1-2 points. To earn these points, you must describe and explain the specific biological process or concept at play (here, that would be the amino acid substitution and its effect on the mosquitoes).
  • Part B is worth 3-4 points. You must identify experimental design procedures (in this case, that would be the dependent variable and the positive control).
  • Part C is worth 1-3 points. To get these points, you must analyze specific data given to you. In this example, that would be the data in Figure 2 (the second image in the problem) and in Table 1.
  • Part D is worth 2-4 points. You have to make and justify your predictions to earn full points here; this means you must provide clear evidence for your claim. In this sample problem, for example, you would have to write about how susceptible you think the mosquitoes will be to the insecticides while also backing up your claim with evidence from Table 1 and other data.

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Free Response: Short-Answer Sample Question

Here’s an example of a short-answer question you might see on the AP Biology test free-response section:

body_apbio_short_answer_sample_1

This short-answer free-response AP Bio question is an example of an Analysis of a Model or Visual Representation problem (always #5 out of your six free-response questions). It is worth a total of 4 points (as are all short-answer questions).

Like the long-form question above, each short-answer question consists of four parts: A, B, C, and D . You must answer all of these to get full points.

  • Part A is worth 1 point. To get this first point, you'll need to describe the characteristics of the biological process, concept, or visual model in the problem. With this particular question, you must understand the process of fertilization and how chromosomes do not double.
  • Part B is worth 1 point. For this point, you'll have to explain the relationships between two biological concepts or processes in the problem. In the sample above, this means you must explain the genetic relationship between individual 16 and individuals 1 and 2.
  • Part C is worth 1 point. To earn this point, you must represent biological relationships in a model. For this problem, you would need to simply fill in the blanks in the template.
  • Part D is worth 1 point. To get this final point, you would need to draw a clear connection between the biological concept/process in the problem and a larger biological principle or theory. For the question above, you would have to understand the intricacies of inheritance patterns and what role chromosomes play in them.

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How Is the AP Biology Exam Scored?

As mentioned, on the AP Bio test, the multiple-choice section makes up 50% of your score and the free-response section makes up the other 50% .

For the multiple-choice section, it’s easy to calculate your raw score: you just get 1 point for each question you answer correctly. There are no point deductions for incorrect or blank answers.

Scoring is a bit more complicated on the free-response section, which is scored by actual graders rather than a computer. Each of the four short-answer questions is scored out of 4 points , and each long free-response question is scored from 8 to 10 points .

To figure out your final AP Bio score on a scale of 1-5 , you’ll need to do a couple more calculations. This can change from year to year based on the performance of students.

This is the most recent info regarding the methodology behind AP Bio scoring . You can also use our calculations below: 

  • Multiply the number of points you got on the multiple-choice section by 1.03
  • Multiply the number of points you got on the two long free-response questions by 1.5
  • Multiply the number of points you got on the short free-response questions by 1.43
  • Add all these numbers together to get your raw AP Biology score

Here's a conversion chart you can use to see how raw score ranges (generally) translate into final AP scores.  

We've also included the percentage of students who earned each score in 2021 to give you an idea of what the score distribution looks like:

For example, if you got 40 points on the multiple-choice section (on the old AP Bio exam), 13 points on the long-response questions, and 14 points on the short-response questions, your AP Bio score would be (40 * 1.03) + (13 * 1.5) + (14 * 1.43) = 80.72. This indicates that you'd likely earn a 4 on the AP Biology test.

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The Best Way to Prep for the AP Biology Exam: 4 Key Tips

Now that you know all about what's on the AP Biology test, it's time to learn how to ace it . Follow these four tips so you can get a great score!

Tip 1: Review Your Labs

Labs make up 25% of the AP Biology course, and for good reason. It’s important to understand how labs are conducted and how the principles behind them relate to the main ideas of the course. This will help in answering both free-response and multiple-choice questions that deal with lab scenarios on the test.

Many free-response questions ask you to identify the components of a proposed experiment (dependent and independent variables) or to design a lab to test a certain hypothesis. You might have forgotten about the labs you did toward the beginning of the year, so take extra care to go over them . Make sure that you understand exactly how they were conducted and what the results mean.

Tip 2: Learn to Connect Small-Scale Terms With Large-Scale Themes

As we discussed above, the AP Biology test covers four major themes, or Big Ideas :

  • Information storage and transfer
  • Systems interactions

Under each of these umbrella topics are many terms and ideas you'll need to review.

Memorization can be a big part of studying for AP Biology. However, memorizing the definitions of terms will only get you so far . You'll also need to understand how they relate to one another and to the four themes listed above.

The exam emphasizes making connections between biological terms, corresponding biological systems, inputs and outputs of these systems, and the overall impact on living organisms and the environment. You should be able to follow a chain of reasoning from the specific to the broad, and vice versa .

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Tip 3: Practice Eliminating Irrelevant Information

Both multiple-choice and free-response AP Biology questions include lots of scientific terminology and visual aids, and this kind of format might be intimidating if you’re not used to it. It’s important to practice sorting through this jumble of information so that you can quickly get to the root of the question rather than obsessing over small details you don’t understand.

Try underlining important words and phrases in the question to help you stay focused on the main points and avoid misleading distractions.

You should also practice responding to free-response questions in a straightforward way without any unnecessary fluff . Remember, this isn’t an English test; the graders are just looking for clear facts and analysis. Make it easy for them to give you points!

Tip 4: Learn Good Time Management

The AP Bio exam is pretty long (even for an AP test), and many of the questions require quite a bit of thought. You need to ensure that you have a good handle on time management before exam day. The best way to do this is to take at least one AP Biology practice test .

The most recent one available is from 2013 , so it's a little out of date and follows the old format of the AP Bio exam; however, it should still be pretty useful overall. There are 58 questions in total on the multiple-choice section (including five grid-ins, which you can skip as these aren't on the AP Bio test anymore), and you have 90 minutes to answer them. This comes out to about one minute and 40 seconds for each question.

Therefore, you should spend no more than a minute and 15 seconds on each multiple-choice question when you go through this practice test. If you find yourself spending extra time on a question, skip it and come back to it later. It’s best to give yourself some leeway in case you run into any difficult questions later on.

You also have 90 minutes for the free-response section, but you'll spend different amounts of time on the long and short questions. Go ahead and skip two of the short-answer questions because now the AP Bio exam only has four instead of six.

Next, be sure to limit your time on the long questions to about 20 minutes each (40 minutes total), and your time on the short questions to eight or nine minutes each or less. If you can’t work this fast right away, try doing some additional practice free-response questions until you feel comfortable with the time constraints.

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Summary: How to Do Well on the AP Biology Exam

The AP Biology exam is three hours long, with two sections that take up an hour and a half each. The multiple-choice section has 60 questions , and the free-response section has six questions .

The content of the exam spans four major themes, or Big Ideas , that are central to the course. These include the following:

Questions ask you to connect specific terms and concepts to these central topics. They'll test your ability to interpret data, make predictions and inferences based on evidence, and analyze different experimental scenarios.

Overall, AP Biology is a tough test, but as long as you study hard and know what to expect, you're perfectly capable of getting a great score ! You can also head on over to the College Board's AP Classroom tool for AP Biology , which has tons of resources and information.

What's Next?

Review key biology ideas and facts with our subject-focused guides. You'll learn about cell theory and the functions of the cell membrane and endoplasmic reticulum , what the distinction is between homologous and analogous structures , how enzymes work , and when and how to use the photosynthesis equation .

Still planning out your class schedule? Find out how many AP classes you should take in high school based on your college goals .

The difficulty level of different AP classes might play a role in your decision whether or not to take them. Check out these articles for more info on which AP classes are the hardest and which are the easiest .

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