Sunday, October 29, 2006

10 Steps to a Five on the Advanced Placement Examination

Over the years, multitudes of students have suggested different methods for success on the AP Biology Examination. Ben and Mary Margaret have listed ten steps that helped them succeed on the exam.

1) While the exam is in May, your study period is the entire year. Learn and understand each topic as you complete it.

2) Purchase both the Cliff's Notes and Princeton Review AP Biology books, and during the year, refer to these for comprehension, and close to the exam, use them as much (if not more) than the textbook.

3) Create succinct chapter outlines that list all major bold point words, biological functions, and other pertinent information.

4) Over spring break, do not extensively travel. This time should be dedicated to independently review for the exam.

5) Do not underestimate topics not stressed in both the textbook and review books. Know main ideas about evolution, biological habitats, and all of the body's functions.

6) Labs are important! One of the four essay questions is a lab question, and usually between 5-7 multiple choice questions concern labs conducted throughout the year. Understand and be able to write about the procedure, objectives, and variables used.

7) Close to exam time, take as many practice tests as possible!

8) Devour multiple choice questions. First, understand the biology behind the question, and then understand what the question is answering. Especially helpful is the mustard-colored book "Multiple Choice Questions in Preparation for the Advanced Placement Biology Examination," to be handed out later in the year.

9) Attend all review sessions by Dr. Glass. Also, take previous AP free response questions available from Dr. Glass and the College Board's website.

10) If you have difficulties on any chapter, learn the answers. If you receive less than a 90% on one of Dr. Glass's tests, retake it. Not only does it improve your grade, but more importantly, it forces you to learn the material.

The last piece of advice is to Relax and Enjoy Advanced Placement Biology. The class is difficult, no doubt, but DOABLE.

Course Calendar (Recommended):
First Semester: Review and Understand all Material. Everything you learned will be built upon in the second semester.

January and February: Continue reviewing, but dedicate first semester work to memory, so in the coming months, more time may be spent on newer subjects.

March: Sign up for the May 6 SAT Subject Test. If you have not purchased review books, do it now. Begin taking a few practice tests, and familiarize yourself with the examination format.

April: Take any and every practice test available! Time yourself to make sure you are within time limits. Review all Tests and be prepared to write essays on major topics.

May: May 14, 2007 8AM AP EXAMINATION. A make-up exam is available later in the month, but you must notify Canterbury if you don't intend to take the May 14 exam.

AP Biology Course Tips

Students who take AP Biology must be prepared to work harder than on any other course attempted. Since most students who take Canterbury School's AP Biology are sophomores, and it is their first AP course, it is important to learn not only about biology, but also to learn about how to study for future AP courses.

Successful AP Biology students usually study between twenty and thirty minutes an evening. Students are expected to take copious notes and prepare for each day's lesson.

Throughout the year, especially nearing examination time, students should purchase the Advanced Placement Biology Cliff's Notes (best) and the AP Biology Princeton Review (good). These books not only offer a good review of the material, but present practice tests that imitate the real examination.

Before sitting for the AP examination, these practice tests allow students to time themselves and also familiarize them the types of questions to be asked.

Students preparing to take the Biology Advanced Placement exam should also consider taking an SAT Subject Test (formerly called the SAT II). This test, accessible at , is offered May 5, 2007, but students must register independently on the College Board's website (link above) by April 3. This test is considered a little bit less difficult than the AP exam, and offers similar testing conditions to the AP exam (without essay questions). Most universities require students to sit for at least some SAT Subject Test, and this provides the perfect opportunity. This test consists of between 70 and 100 multiple choice questions, and the test is graded on a 200-800 scale. Students, note that the exam is officially named the Biology E/M Examination because it is divided into two components, an environmental exam and a molecule exam. Students may only choose environmental or molecular, and it is advised students take the molecular exam, as it more closely parallels the information covered in AP Biology. Several review books are offered for the SAT II in Biology, and they present questions nearly exactly like the ones found in the standardized test.

Course Expectations/Requirements and Exam Information

Students who elect to take Advanced Placement Biology must fully understand the commitment before signing up for the course.

Advanced Placement (called AP's) classes are freshman college-level classes taught in more than 10,000 high schools throughout the United States. Advanced Placement courses are offered in a variety of genres, ranging from AP English to AP Latin, AP Chemistry to AP Music Theory. In all, more than 20 courses are offered by the College Board, Inc., the owner of the Advanced Placement classes.

Why would high school students elect to take a college level course? Advanced Placement classes offer a standardized course that can be taught throughout the nation with virtually the same syllabus. Students who do well on the Advanced Placement exam in May (information below) may apply the credit to the student's future university, allowing the student to skip the course and move into a higher level. Traditionally, many students have used AP courses to save money on college, but in more contemporary years, Advanced Placement classes and exams are used by college administrators as a standard of measure with students, since often grades may be inflated and inaccurate for comparison.

The 2007 Advanced Placement Biology exam will occur on Monday, May 14 at 8 AM. Students late to the examination will not be allowed to sit for the test. The examination is considered to be very difficult, and rarely, if ever, should students expect to score in the traditional score range (0-100%). Instead, the College Board has developed a special grading rubric, which consists of the following:

A Score of:
1 Denotes failure of the examination
2 Also denotes failure. Universities usually do not accept scores of 1 or 2 for college credit.
3 Denotes a passing grade. Usually, about 30-40% receive grades of 1 or 2, and 60-70%
receive a three or higher. A grade of three may be used for college credit at some
4 Indicates a very good knowledge of Biology. Many colleges accept a four for credit.
5 The highest score awarded. Most upper-echelon universities only accept a score of five for

The following grades represent all test-takers of the Advanced Placement Biology Exam in


5- Extremely Well Qualified
18.2% of all test-takers received this grade

4-Well Qualified


2-Possibly Qualified

1-No Recommendation

Mean Grade

Standard Deviation

Number of Students

Number of Schools Administering AP

Number of Colleges Receiving AP Grades

The score does not reflect questions answered correctly, but however, the number of questions answered correctly compared to all AP Biology test-takers of the current year.

The AP Biology Examination consists of two components:
A) A 100-question multiple-choice section worth 60% of the exam score. Graded by machine.
B) Four essays (each about a page) on various topics. This section is graded by an AP Biology teacher (never your own), and worth 40% of the total raw score.

It is important to understand the grading system before sitting for the exam. Correctly answered multiple choice questions equal +1, omitted questions equal +0, and incorrectly answered questions equal -1/4 (one-fourth) of a point. On the essay section, points may only be added, never subtracted. Therefore, it is recommended students write anything that comes to mind on the essay questions, since incorrect answers have no penalties. In the essay section, too, the graders are looking for key words and phrases, so it is important to learn and memorize biological verbiage and underline it when used in a student's essays.

For a complete AP Biology Course Desciption from the College Board, visit

This website provides a course description, a topic outline, more information on the May exam, and sample multiple-choice and free-response questions for the exam.

AP Biology Tips Continued

AP Biology Students:
Anyone wanting information/suggestions about the Advanced Placement Biology Exam and/or the SAT Subject Test in Biology may contact Ben or Mary Margaret Brinkopf.

Ben's locker is in the Upper School (#164).
Please remember to sign-up for the SAT Biology Subject Test (via soon so you can to receive your first testing center preference.While it may seem early, this is the best time to begin studying for the AP and SAT Biology Exam.

More information about study tips and the exams themselves are available here on the unique genes blog.

I hope the second semester brings everyone deserved success!


Ben Brinkopf