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How to Survive & Thrive in AP Biology
Monday, October 12, 2015

AP Biology is an advanced science course that challenges students’ understanding of biology through what the College Board calls “inquiry-based learning.”  Topics covered include evolution, cellular processes, genetics, ecology, and more.

We consulted with teachers, tutors, and recent AP Biology students to come up with four very useful tips--two “how to survive” tips to help you achieve a score of 3 on the AP exam, and two “how to thrive” tips to help you earn a 4 or even a 5.  Here they are:

How to Survive:

1. Memorize the general workings of each process you learn, especially in the time leading up to each test. This class is largely centered around memorizing the details that make up the processes of life, so in order to get through it you need to put in the time and effort of memorizing the details of the various processes taught in this course. Take photosynthesis, for example: it is split up into two parts, the light and dark reactions which are further divided into smaller, more specific processes. Thus, you must learn many details in order to understand the process at the level you need to when you take the test.

2. Practice writing essays and free response paragraphs. Although this course is a science class, writing plays an important role and thus should be practiced constantly. Aside from the need to write in the free response section of the AP exam at the end of the year, it serves as a good indicator of whether you understand a concept by determining if you can write a coherent summary of it.

How to Thrive:

1. Constantly review the material. Given the nature of this course, it is imperative that you frequently review the material that you have learned throughout the year. There are so many processes that must be memorized that it is easy to stop thinking about them once the test is over. Don’t let that happen! While the different units may not directly relate to each other, it is important to consider them in a greater context. Especially for the AP exam, it is imperative that you do this. Although it is easy to stop thinking about certain concepts once you move on in class, this will cause you problems when the end of the course comes around and you need to study for the exam.

2. Understand more than just the “what” of the course—constantly ask why. Although the “what” may seem to be enough for the purposes of different tests, you can only truly begin to thrive once you understand why the many processes of life occur. Understanding the “why” allows you to put the many processes in context and thus makes it easier to ultimately prepare for the AP exam. Some processes are far too complicated for even the brightest AP Biology students to comprehend, but it is interesting to learn an overview of the general driving forces behind even these.

Good luck!