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Important Updates

2019-20 AP Course Audit: What You’ll Need to Do

To give you more time to familiarize yourself with the new resources and supports that launched in August, you won’t be required to submit a syllabus for course authorization until the 2020-21 school year.

If you’re teaching AP Biology in 2019-20, you’ll need to:

  • Submit an AP Course Audit Form
  • Download the AP Biology unit guide

These steps will ensure that your course appears on the AP Course Ledger and that you have access to online score reports in July 2020.

AP Course Audit

All schools that want to label a course “AP” must get authorization through the AP Course Audit.

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Designing Your AP Biology Course


The AP Biology course should be designed by your school to provide students with a learning experience equivalent to that of a two-semester college biology course taken by biology majors during their first year. Your AP Biology course needs to provide students with the conceptual framework, factual knowledge, and analytical skills necessary to deal critically with the rapidly changing science of biology.

Schools’ AP Biology courses are typically designed to be taken by students after the completion of a first course in high school biology and one in high school chemistry. Students are encouraged to keep copies of their laboratory work for use in determining college credit or placement.

Getting to Know the Course and Exam

The key document for each AP course is the course and exam description. Start by reviewing it to understand the objectives and expectations of the AP course and exam.

AP Biology Course and Exam Description

This is the core document for this course and is updated for the 2019-20 school year. New unit guides clearly lay out the course content and skills and recommend sequencing and pacing for them throughout the year. The CED also more clearly outlines how material will be assessed on the exam, provides instructional strategies, and gives information on the AP Program in general.

Course Requirements

Use these resources to design your AP Biology syllabus.


Your course must fulfill these requirements, and your syllabus should make it clear how the requirements will be addressed.

AP Biology curricular requirements:

  • The course provides opportunities to deepen student understanding of the required content outlined in each of the units described in the course and exam description.
  • The course provides opportunities to deepen student understanding of the big ideas.
  • The course provides opportunities for students to develop the skills related to the science practices:
    • Science Practice 1: Concept Explanation
    • Science Practice 2: Visual Representations
    • Science Practice 3: Questions and Methods
    • Science Practice 4: Representing and Describing Data /li>
    • Science Practice 5: Statistical Tests and Data Analysis
    • Science Practice 6: Argumentation
  • The course provides students with opportunities to apply their knowledge of AP Biology concepts to real-world questions or scenarios (including societal issues or technological innovations) to help them become scientifically literate citizens.
  • Students spend a minimum of 25 percent of instructional time engaged in a wide range of hands-on, inquiry-based laboratory investigations to support learning required content and developing science practices throughout the course. Students must conduct a minimum of two labs per big idea.
  • The course provides opportunities for students to record evidence of their scientific investigations in lab reports/notebooks (print or digital format) and present evidence of their scientific investigations through oral, written, and visual presentations.

AP Biology resource requirements:

  • The school ensures that each student has a college-level biology textbook (in print or electronic format) published within the last 10 years for individual use inside and outside the classroom. The textbook is supplemented when necessary to meet the curricular requirements.
  • The school ensures that the teacher has a copy of the most recent edition of a college-level biology textbook or other appropriate materials to support instruction.
  • The school ensures that students have access to scientific equipment/materials, all necessary resources, and adequate time to conduct hands-on, college-level biology laboratory investigations as outlined in the teacher’s course syllabus.

The list below shows examples of textbooks that meet the curricular requirements of AP Biology. The list is not exhaustive and the texts listed should not be regarded as endorsed, authorized, recommended, or approved by the College Board. Not using a book from this list does not mean that a course will not receive authorization. Syllabi submitted as part of the AP Course Audit process will be evaluated holistically, with textbooks considered along with supplementary, supporting resources to confirm that the course as a whole provides students with the content delineated in the curricular requirements of the AP Course Audit.

The specified editions of the following textbooks meet the AP Biology resource requirement. Earlier editions of these textbooks or other textbooks not listed here may meet the AP curricular requirements if published within the last 10 years. For discussions regarding the usefulness of these texts and other teaching materials in the AP Biology classroom, please consult the AP Biology Teacher Community.

  • Campbell, A. Malcolm, Laurie J. Heyer, and Christopher J. Paradise. Integrating Concepts in Biology. 2016. Trunity, Inc.
  • Hillis, David M.,‎ David Sadava,‎ Richard W. Hill,‎ and Mary V. Price. Principles of Life, for the AP Course. 2nd edition. Bedford, Freeman and Worth Publishing Group.
  • Mader, Sylvia. Biology, AP Edition. 12th edition. McGraw-Hill Education.
  • Raven, Peter H., Johnson, Mason, Losos, and Singer, Biology AP® Edition. 11th edition. McGraw-Hill Education.
  • Starr, Cecie, Ralph Taggart, Christine Evers, and Lisa Starr. Biology: The Unity and Diversity of Life. 14th edition. National Geographic/Cengage Learning.
  • Zedalis, Julianne, and John Eggebrecht. Biology for AP® Courses.  1st edition.  OpenStax College.