AP Biology Tips and Test Taking Strategies

By April 17, 2019 May 4th, 2019 High School Study Tips
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What’s the next AP test that you’re looking at? If it’s the AP Biology exam, then you’re definitely in the right place because we’re going to take a closer look at AP Biology tips and test-taking strategies. These tips are designed to help you get a 5 on your test by creating a great AP Bio exam review.

What we’ve done is take a look at some of the most important information when it comes to taking this test and the AP Biology revised curriculum, and we’ve turned it into a list for you to look at. By going through this AP Biology study guide, and using these tips to help you study along the way, we know you’re going to do even better.

The first thing you should know is that CollegeBoard is responsible for this test, and that makes them your number one resource when you get started on your studying. We’ll tell you what you should be looking to them for and just how they’re going to make a difference in your test strategy.

Keep in mind though that CollegeBoard isn’t going to be your only source for information. You’re still going to need some other sources, as well as your own skill in studying and creating your study sheets. These tips and tricks should help you along a little better and make your studying a bit easier while you’re at it.

Let’s just jump right in and take a closer look at what you’re going to need to know when it comes to getting started on studying for your AP Biology exam. You’ll learn how to study for AP Biology class and how to get help with AP Biology exams. Hopefully, each of these tips is going to help you along the way.

If you’re looking for extra help, a review book can be the way to go. Check out our guide to the best AP Biology review books here.

AP Biology General Study TipsGeneral How to Study for AP Biology Tips

When it comes to taking any test or exam there are a few strategies that you always know are going to help you. We’ll start by taking a look at some of these. When it comes to the AP Biology test you want to make sure you’re putting in enough of the work and that you’re actually studying in the right ways. After all, you don’t want to miss out on the more obvious things, right?

  1. Understand topics conceptually – You don’t want just to know the information. You need to understand the concepts, and you need to understand how to apply or utilize the information in an effective way. That’s going to allow you to answer the questions.
  2. Always do the reading – When you’re taking the class make sure that you do all of the reading that’s assigned as this is going to help you remember the information. You’ll get a basic understanding of the information this way and learn more about what you need to focus on.
  3. Take as many practice tests as you can – Taking practice tests is going to help you understand what the questions look like in the real test. It’s also going to give you more information about what information you know and what type of information you’re not familiar with. These may also offer AP Biology practice questions by chapter.
  4. Differentiate, analyze and apply knowledge – These are the three skills that you’re primarily being tested on so make sure that you’re paying attention to each of them and that you know how to do this for each of the topics that are going to be studied.
  5. Look at old FRQ’s – These are some of the hardest questions you’re going to find, especially being in the hardest topic area. Make sure you understand how these questions are written and what they are asking you for. You’ll be able to see how these are scored as well.
  6. Check practice questions on CollegeBoard – Once again, CollegeBoard is responsible for creating the test itself, so if you go on the website you’ll see more about official questions. This is going to help you prepare for what you’re actually going to see on test day. You can use AP Biology multiple choice released exams.
  7. Answer every question – Do not skip any questions for any of the sections. You’re not going to lose any points if you get an answer wrong, which means you really need to put something down, especially when it comes to free response questions.
  8. Study only what’s being tested – Take a look at the specific topics that are actually being tested and then only work on those areas. You don’t want to waste your time studying areas that you’re never going to be tested on because you’re going to want that time for things that you need.
  9. Understand the diagrams – Know the diagrams for different functions, different concepts and a whole lot more. You should practice drawing out all the different diagrams until you know them well enough that you could draw them on the exam without a problem.
  10. Know the 4 big ideas from CollegeBoard – There are 4 big ideas from CollegeBoard that the test is primarily going to focus on so make sure you have a strong understanding of each of these and how they relate to each other and everything else you’re studying.
  11. Underline terms as you read the question – While you’re reading through a question just take a few minutes to underline the important terms or words that are going to define what the question is actually asking. That way you aren’t going to get tricked by the wrong answer.
  12. Know how and why for each topic – You can’t just know that something happens. You’re also going to need to know how it actually works. Make sure you’re studying each of these concepts when it comes to the important topics for the overall test.
  13. Use study sheets and outlines – Creating your own study sheets is going to be one of the best ways that you can study the information. You know what areas you need to focus on so make sure you’re writing up outlines and other notes that are going to focus there. You’ll do best with your own AP Biology cram packet.
  14. Budget your time well – You have a certain amount of time for each portion of the test so make sure you’re aware of the time and that you know how much time you actually have left at every stage. You want to make sure you balance out the time you’re taking for each of the questions.
  15. Remember to study your labs – Labs are actually going to be a very big part of this test so make sure you look at the labs you’ve done and the ones you’ve read about so you can easily answer questions about them. You want to make sure you have a strong understanding of how they work and what they’re telling you.
  16. Know why you’re making mistakes – When you take practice tests or look at practice questions you want to know why you’re getting certain questions wrong. This is going to help you figure out where you should be spending more of your study time, and it’s going to help you improve.
  17. Check out study videos – There are all kinds of videos available online and on YouTube especially. These videos, on AP Biology review websites, are going to make it a whole lot easier for you to cram a lot more information into a smaller span of time. You may be surprised just what you can find in a video (especially ones made by teachers).
  18. Read study books – There are a lot of options for a good AP Biology study guide book out there, but you’re definitely going to want to look at Princeton and Barron’s. These are two of the most popular study books for just about any type of test, and for very good reason. They cover the material well, and they also provide practice questions and tests to go through. An AP Biology review book could be a great tool.
  19. Keep up during class – If you can keep up during the class, you’re going to have a much better chance of getting through the rest of your studying more easily. You want to make sure you know the information the first time through and if you don’t, when you’re learning in class is the best time to start working on studying.
  20. Use a Study Group – A study group can help you stay motivated, and they can also help you study in areas where you might not be as confident. That way you can each help each other, and you’ll be able to teach, which is a great way to help yourself remember information.

AP Biology Multiple Choice TipsAP Biology Multiple Choice Tips

When it comes to the first section, you’re going to have multiple choice and grid response questions that cover each of the AP Biology units in your class. For this, we’ll separate them into two different study sections, but know that they count together when it comes to timing and grading. You’ll get 1 hour and 30 minutes to complete 63 multiple choice questions and 6 grid questions. Together, all of these will account for 50% of your total score on the AP Biology test.

  1. Read multiple choice questions first – Remember, this section actually consists of multiple choice and grid-in questions. Make sure you’re reading through the multiple choice options first before you jump into the grid-in ones.
  2. Answer the questions you know – When you get to these questions make sure you read through each of the questions first and start with the ones you know immediately. You might find several that you don’t even need to think about so make sure you fill in the bubble.
  3. Choose the best answer – Make sure you choose the best answer rather than only choosing a correct answer. Read every single answer before you choose an answer so you can make sure you have the best answer and you’re not missing it for a less good answer.
  4. Make educated guesses – If you get down to questions, you aren’t sure about make sure you take an educated guess. You should never leave an answer blank, but don’t just blindly choose either. You can usually get rid of one or more answers and then you’ll have a better chance of getting the question right.
  5. Budget your time carefully – If you budget your time well, you’ll be able to get to all of the questions before you run out. Make sure you pay attention to just how much time you actually have for each question and try to stick to that limit, at least the first time through.
  6. Practice data questions – Data questions are some of the harder ones for this section, so when you’re studying you should definitely be taking a look at them and at how they’re going to impact your ability. You don’t want to miss points because you didn’t know how to read the information.
  7. Recognize patterns and exceptions – Learn how to recognize a pattern in a type of question or how to read for an exception to it. This is going to apply to things like graphs and charts as well, so you can quickly and easily find what you’re being asked for.
  8. Know how to read charts and graphs – These are both going to be in the test so make sure you know how to use them and what they’re telling you just by looking at them. You definitely don’t want to miss a question because you don’t know how to read the graph.
  9. Understand what the question is asking for – Read all of the words in the question, so you know what it’s actually asking for. Missing or skipping over one word (like always or never) could completely change the meaning of the question causing you to get it wrong.

AP Biology Grid-In Response TipsAP Biology Grid-In Response Tips

You’re going to have 6 total questions for the grid-in response questions, but the time that you’re given is going to be for this as well as the multiple choice questions. Make sure you pay attention to the time when you’re working on these as well as multiple choice. Also, make sure you keep in mind each of the tips in this section because these questions can make it a little difficult to fill in the bubbles and to make sure you’re answering properly.

  1. Units aren’t required – When it comes to these questions, you don’t need to worry about units. You’re going to be filling in a grid, which means you’re not going to have a space to write down the specific units. Just make sure you know them when you’re doing any math required.
  2. Start in any column – You can actually start in any column with your answer as long as you fill in the bubbles in the right way. Look at the examples that are provided in the section above and use the columns to create the answer that you want based on that.
  3. Grid answers properly – Make sure you follow the prompt and the example in order to fill in the bubbles right. You don’t want to lose points because you made a mistake with the grids.
  4. Don’t bother memorizing formulas – You’re not going to need to memorize the formulas for this test because all of them are actually going to be provided to you in a list. Don’t waste your study time trying to memorize all the information. You should be focusing on other things.
  5. Analyze information carefully to make a decision – With this section, the point is to make sure that you know how to analyze information carefully and then make a decision. Make sure you’re practicing this skill when you’re looking at old questions and even creating your own.
  6. You may use a calculator for these questions – You are allowed to use a calculator for these types of questions and the rules have recently been changed to allow you to use a scientific or graphing calculator rather than needing an old and basic options.
  7. You have to do all calculations yourself – You will not be given any options or choices when it comes to these questions. Instead, you’re going to have to do all of the calculations on your own, and you’ll have to come up with your own answers from nothing.

AP Biology Free Response Questions TipsAP Biology Free Response Questions Tips

When it comes to the AP Bio FRQ answers, you’re going to have a total of 80 minutes to answer 8 questions. That means you’ll have about 10 minutes per question, but you might not want to use it that way. That’s because you’re going to have 6 short answer questions and 2 long answer questions, altogether, these make up the other 50% of your test score. Before you get into the answer portion; however, you’re going to have a full 10 minutes just set aside for reading. Pay attention to more than just AP Biology free response cellular respiration and other topics.

  1. Use the whole reading period – You’re going to have a full 10 minutes for reading through the questions that doesn’t count toward the 80 that you get to answer. Make sure you’re reading during that period and taking advantage of the extra time to formulate a plan.
  2. Define all the terms – Make sure that any terms you use in your answer you’re actually defining as well. You need to know what the terms mean, and you need to make sure you show the reader that you know how they actually apply when it comes to your answer.
  3. Connect concepts with big ideas – You should be able to connect the smaller concepts with one (or more) of the 4 big ideas that we talked about earlier. Make sure you study this concept and that you specify how the two things connect when you answer the question.
  4. Write in paragraph form – Make sure you write out full paragraphs when you’re writing your answer, but you don’t need to have a full 5 paragraph essay with an introduction and a conclusion. You just need to make sure all of your information is presented well.
  5. Write full sentences – You will lose points if you use bullets or sentence fragments to try to get your message across. Make sure that you’re using full sentences and that you exhibit your ability to understand the question and then formulate an accurate response.
  6. Cross out anything you don’t want to be included – You don’t have to erase information that you don’t want to include or that you change your mind about. You are allowed to simply cross out the information and then you can continue writing the rest of the information you want.
  7. Know the different types of questions and how to answer them – There are specific types of questions that will be included on the test. Make sure you know what each of them is and what they’re actually asking for so you can answer them properly (such as explain or judgment questions).
  8. Use the scientific argument format – This format requires you to make a claim, provide evidence and then provide reasoning. You should know how to do this for each of the questions that you’re answering and make sure you spell out each one in your answer.
  9. Label different sections in your answer – There are generally going to be multiple sections to the question that are labeled a., b., c., etc. When you’re answering the question feel free to include these labels in the answer to make sure that you’re answering each of the sections.
  10. Keep the answer as short as possible with the information needed – You’re not going to lose points for adding too much, but you won’t gain any either. Keep the answer as short and to the point as you can while still providing all of the information that’s actually needed.
  11. Read the questions first then choose which to answer first – Read through the prompts so you can decide which one to answer first. Each is worth the same number of points so spend your time on the ones you know to try and get more questions done rather than trying to get harder ones done.
  12. Don’t leave any questions blank – Don’t leave a question blank. If you don’t have a lot of time to answer it try to write whatever you can. A partial answer could get you partial credit, and that’s at least going to be better than getting absolutely no points at all.
  13. Don’t contradict yourself – It’s important that you continue the same line of thought on a question. If you contradict yourself, you’re going to miss out on points. If you change your mind about something make sure that you cross it out entirely and then write something new.
  14. Write clearly – If your handwriting is very difficult to understand or clarify you’re going to lose points. You want to make sure that your handwriting is able to be read. Your reader is going to try and decipher the information, but you won’t get points if they can’t understand.
  15. Don’t add extra information – If you’re asked for a set number of points you want to give only that number of points or that amount of information. You’re only going to be scored based on the first answers that the reader comes to. If you’re asked for 3 and you give 4 they will only look at the first 3, even if they’re wrong.
  16. You’re not required to go in order – When it comes to a free response question you’re not required to answer the questions in the proper order. You can jump around and answer the questions in whatever order you want without losing any points.
  17. Label graphs properly – Make sure if you draw out a graph that you label everything. Title the graph and label each axis as well as any of the points that you need to make. This shows you know what you’re creating and you understand the prompt as well.
  18. Include all proper units – Make sure you have all the units marked correctly and that you’re marking them right. If you don’t use the units that are supposed to be included, you could lose points. If you don’t use proper abbreviations or other markings for the units, this could do the same.
  19. Show all of your steps – For any kind of math you need to make sure you’re including all of your work. Show the steps you went through to get to the answer and make sure the reader can see where you’re coming from and how you got there. You may get partial credit even if the answer doesn’t turn out to be correct.
  20. Know your major themes – The major themes in biology are going to be extremely important, and you want to make sure you can express them clearly. These are going to show up in your free response questions almost guaranteed, so make sure you know how they apply.

AP Biology Test Day TipsAP Biology Test Day Tips

When it comes to test day you want to make sure that you’re prepared and that you know what you’re getting into. Make sure you follow through with these tips to keep you going and so that you don’t get burned out before that big day. You want to make sure you’re at your best when it comes to test day.

  1. Know when and where to be – You want to make sure you know where your test is going to take place and that you know when it is long before that day. Make sure you even practice driving there so you know how long it’s going to take and you know how to get there.
  2. Eat right – Get a good breakfast before you go or eat something good at home. Make sure you have something to eat for a snack if you’re going to need one during breaks and make sure you’re prepared with a lunch for after your test. You don’t want to be hungry while you’re trying to focus.
  3. Get enough sleep the night before – Getting enough sleep is going to help you maintain your focus and remember all of the information that you’ve been studying. If you don’t get enough sleep, you could be tired or groggy when it comes time to sit down for the test.
  4. Take a break on studying – The day before the test or even possibly a few days before the test take a break. Don’t study on these days and give your mind a little time to process the information you’ve learned and to mentally prepare for the test that you’re going to be taking.
  5. Be prepared for the day – The day before, or a couple of days before, make sure that you have everything you’re going to need for test day. That includes pens and pencils, your calculator, your snacks and anything else you might want to take along with you, so you’re ready for anything.
  6. Double check your calculator – Make sure your calculator has good batteries and that it’s one that’s acceptable for the test. You don’t want to get there and find out that your calculator is not approved and you need to find something else or go without it.
  7. Have everything you need – Make sure you have everything you’re going to need in order to take the test. And make sure you also don’t bring anything into the room that you’re not allowed to have. You don’t want to lose any of your belongings or be refused in for the test.

We hope that each of these 63 tips and strategies is going to make it easier for you to take your AP Biology test. Hopefully, they’re going to make it possible for you to get the 5 that you’re looking for and hopefully they’re going to keep you prepared for any future AP tests that you might want to take as well. Make sure you’re paying close attention to the things you write and that you’re answering each of the different sections of a question, as well as taking an AP Biology practice test and learning more about how to pass AP Biology class.

Did you find this helpful? If so, be sure to also check out our guide to the best AP Biology review books here.


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