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AP Biology is a course that can make big demands on your time and energy, with a vast amount of topics included.

Let’s take a closer look at AP Biology, the topics covered on the exam, and how to prepare for it.

What Is AP Biology?

Advanced-placement (AP) biology is an introductory, college-level biology course taught by high school biology teachers at participating high schools. You might take this course and the exam to skip your entry-level biology course once you enter college, or increase your chances of getting into an advanced college biology course. Or, you may just want the extra challenge. Plus, it can look good on your admissions application.


AP biology covers college-level biology coursework. Enrolled students will work to improve their understanding of biology through the question-based study of topics like:

  • Natural Selection
  • Ecology
  • Gene Expression and Regulation
  • Cellular Energetics
  • Heredity
  • Chemistry of Life
  • Cell Communication and Cell Cycle
  • Cell Structure and Function

Not all schools offer the AP biology course, but the AP bio exam is open to any high school student who wishes to take it, regardless of whether they’ve taken the AP biology course.

Exam Basics

The AP biology exam—offered every May—is three hours long and made up of two sections, each worth 50 percent of the final mark. A 90-minute multiple-choice section has 60 questions that span the facts and ideas from the entire course. There is also a 90-minute, free-response section made up of six mandatory questions that address broader topics. Final grades range from one to five, with three as a passing score.

The Importance of Being Prepared

The College Board offers AP bio based on the idea that well-prepared high school students can be successfully taught college-level material. Being well-prepared for this course is key to your success.

Students who earn a qualifying score on the AP biology exam can often receive college credit, placement into an advanced course above the introductory level, or both. The higher your exam score, the better! Many colleges offer college credit to applicants with a score of three or higher if they are non-­science majors, but few will accept a score of three for advanced placement if the student is a science major.

The Best Way To Prepare for the AP Biology Exam

To properly prepare for the AP bio exam, leverage practice tests to review the type of content you can expect on the test, preferably several weeks before taking the exam, to perfect your skills for test day.

Practice tests will help you sharpen your knowledge by providing you with full-length exams, plus detailed explanations for every answer. These explanations are a great tool for helping you learn from your mistakes. Use AP bio practice tests to discover your strengths and weaknesses, so you can focus your AP biology test prep and get a feel for the pace of a real AP bio exam.

If you’re planning to take the AP Biology exam, check out Peterson’s test prep to access the practice tests, skills, and strategies needed to maximize your exam score.