A checklist for AP Bio Exam Review.

1. DO RETRIEVAL PRACTICE, AND BEWARE OF OVERCONFIDENCE INDUCED BY OUTLINES. Before I launch into some suggestions about what to do, I want to offer some guidance about what not to do. Review outlines are wonderful. But a typical outline can lead to overconfidence.

Here’s why: When a student looks over an outline, they usually feel some familiarity with what they’re looking at. This can lead them to think, “yeah…I know this. I’m set.” But familiarity is not the same as mastery. On the AP exam, your students are going to need to very quickly make choices about good and bad biology, and explain what they know. The best way to do that is through active learning and what’s called retrieval practice. Simply put, you have to make your students recall what they know.

One way I’ve tried to avoid this is by making an outline that’s interactive. Follow this link to my AP Bio exam review outline (it’ll open in another tab). You’ll see that if a student works with it from the top down, they’ll be doing a significant amount of retrieval practice. It’s a very good start.

But flashcards are even better. I’ve created a set of over 300 electronic flashcards that are closely linked to the College Board’s Course and Exam Description. I’ll say more about those below But don’t start with these. I want you to start with materials from the College Board. Here’s how.

2. LEAVE ENOUGH TIME.  The most important thing in terms of AP exam review is to leave enough time. The AP Bio exam is a tough test, and students need a lot of practice responding to both multiple choice questions and FRQs. How much? I’d recommend three weeks where that’s the main thing that you’re doing.
If you’re not done with your course, then you have a great option: completely offload the last bits of content to Learn-Biology.com. Have the students finish the tutorials, while you simultaneously start reviewing.

3. Have your students answer as many College Board multiple choice questions as possible. You’ve been provided with 180 multiple choice questions from the 2020 exam by the College Board. I suggest that over the next few weeks, you have your students answer as many of these as possible.
As I’ve suggested previously, do this as a kind of cycle of inquiry. Every  other day or so, give your students a quiz with a bunch of these questions.After each quiz, do a response frequency analysis, and go over the questions with the highest number of wrong responses. Here’s a video that I’ve released on YouTube that explains how I’m doing this.

4. Have your students respond to as many FRQs as possible. Start with the released FRQs from the 2021 exam. Here’s a link to the FRQs, and here are the scoring guidelines. Then do the 18 FRQs from the three practice exams from 2020. Then work backwards, and have your students respond to all the published FRQs that have been made available from the College Board. Here’s a link to the 2019 FRQs. And here’s a link to the FRQs from 2012 to 2018. The College Board has provided you not only with prompts and scoring guides, but also student exemplars.

Don’t make yourself the bottleneck in this process. If you can spot check some student responses, that’s great. Otherwise, now is the time for self-scoring and peer review. The more your students write, the better.

5. Go over the formula sheet with your students.  If you’ve taught a fairly complete course, then your students shouldn’t be seeing much there that they haven’t seen before. Remember that Learn-Biology.com has tutorials about Chi2, Hardy Weinberg, the Simpson Biodiversity Index, and water potential.

Once that’s in place, do flashcards, MC Questions, Practice FRQs, and Click-On Challenges on Learn-Biology.com

The checklist above is a good start. Once you’ve done that (or as you do that), you can also have your students dig into the electronic flashcards, multiple choice questions, and FRQs on Learn-biology.com. So that your students use these interactive flashcards the right way, I have short instructional videos about each one. For this week, you might want to show your students. Follow this link to view it on the Flashcard Page.

Here are links to the Learn-Biology.com Multiple Choice questions and practice FRQs.

  1. AP Bio Review Flashcards(more than 300: great for retrieval practice)
  2. AP Bio Review Multiple Choice Questions (over 250: wrong answers give you corrective feedback and hints)
  3. AP Bio Review Free Response Questions (over 100 prompts with sample responses)
  4. Click on challenges: These are available off of the main AP Bio menu

FRQ Success Strategies from AP Bio Readers

In April of 2021, I hosted a webinar in which five AP Bio readers shared their best advice about how to prepare your students to succeed on this year’s FRQs.

The teachers were:

  • Kelley Derrick, AP Bio Teacher at Wausau West High School in Wisconsin
  • Jason Cox, AP Bio Teacher at Charlestown High School in Indiana. Jason was Indiana’s 2019 Outstanding Biology Teacher.  He’s been leading Academic Team and Science Olympiad for nearly 20 years, and he’s also been a national presenter for the National Math and Science Initiative for the past decade.
  • Allison Kittay. Allison is an Education Consultant who taught AP Biology for 16 years at El Cerrito High School and 16 years at Redwood High School, both in the Bay Area. She has been an AP Biology Exam reader for over 20 years, and a College Board Consultant since 2002. She’s also a consultant for the College Board, and the UC Berkeley Museum of Paleontology
  • Tom Freeman, AP Bio Teacher at Esperanza High School in Anaheim California. Tom has been an AP Reader since 2010. He’s also the National Association of Biology Teachers Regional Director for Region IX (the whole West Coast) and a member of the NABT Professional Development Committee.
  • Corey Mullins, AP Bio Teacher and science department chairperson at Turpin High School in Cincinnati, Ohio. Corey has been a reader since 2010, and has also served as a table leader, and this year she’s going to be a question leader.

Our specific focus was on how to get our students to successfully respond to the AP Bio task verbs (describe, predict, calculate, etc.) that make up the core of each question. Here’s the video: