All schools that want to label a course “AP” must get authorization through the AP Course Audit. This means submitting two things:
- A subject-specific AP Course Audit form
- A course syllabus
Teachers have the option to create their own syllabus or adopt one of the sample syllabi provided. A teacher-created syllabus is checked by our reviewers to ensure that the course fulfills the AP Program’s course-specific curricular and resource requirements.
We offer plenty of resources, below, to help teachers understand course requirements and create a syllabus that fulfills these.
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 (.pdf/5.43MB) - Describes in detail the AP Biology course and exam. Includes the curriculum framework and a representative sample of exam questions.
Creating Your Syllabus
Use these resources to design your syllabus.
Download this document for more help creating your syllabus.
- Syllabus Development Guide: AP Biology (.pdf/587KB) - Includes the guidelines reviewers use to evaluate syllabi along with three samples of evidence for each requirement. This guide also specifies the level of detail required in the syllabus to receive course authorization.
Your course must fulfill these requirements, and your syllabus should make it clear how the requirements will be addressed.
AP Biology curricular requirements:
- The teacher has read the most recent AP Biology Course and Exam Description (.pdf/4.9MB).
- Students and teachers use a recently published (within the last 10 years) college-level biology textbook.
- The course is structured around the enduring understandings within the big ideas as described in the AP Biology Curriculum Framework.
- Students have opportunities to connect the AP Biology enduring understandings within each of the AP Biology big ideas to at least one other AP Biology big idea.
- Students are provided with opportunities to meet the learning objectives in the AP Biology Curriculum Framework within each of the big ideas. These opportunities must occur in addition to the laboratory investigations.
- The course provides students with opportunities to connect their biological and scientific knowledge to major social issues (e.g., concerns, technological advances, innovations) to help them become scientifically literate citizens.
- The student-directed laboratory investigations used throughout the course allow students to apply the seven science practices defined in the AP Biology Curriculum Framework and include at least two lab experiences in each of the four big ideas.
- Students are provided the opportunity to engage in investigative laboratory work integrated throughout the course for a minimum of 25% of instructional time.
- The course provides opportunities for students to develop and record evidence of their verbal, written and graphic communication skills through laboratory reports, summaries of literature or scientific investigations, and oral, written, or graphic presentations.
AP Biology resource requirements:
- The school ensures that each student has a college-level biology textbook (supplemented when necessary to meet the curricular requirements) for individual use inside and outside of the classroom.
- The school ensures that the teacher has a copy of the most recent edition of a college-level biology textbook or other appropriate materials for his or her consultation.
- The school ensures that each student has access to the AP Biology Investigative Labs: an Inquiry Based Approach or other inquiry-based and student-directed lab activities that meet the objectives of those listed in the AP Biology Curriculum Framework.
- The school ensures that students have access to scientific equipment/materials, all necessary resources, and adequate time to conduct, college-level biology laboratory investigations that meet the objectives as outlined in the AP Biology Curriculum Framework and/or other inquiry-based and student-directed lab activities that are listed in the teacher’s course syllabus.
The list below shows examples of textbooks that meet the curricular requirements of AP Biology. The lists below are 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.
The College Board has partnered with Learning List to provide independent instructional materials review services for schools and districts for several redesigned and new subjects. The example textbook lists which were reviewed by Learning List are for Biology, Calculus, Chemistry, Computer Science Principles, Physics 1 and 2, Research, Seminar, European History, U.S. History, and World History.
These materials have been reviewed by Learning List. Inclusion on this example textbook list indicates some alignment to the course framework, however, it does not indicate that the material is aligned to 100% of the course framework. Learning List’s detailed alignment reports identify the specific learning objectives and practices to which each material is and is not aligned to help teachers use these materials more effectively. See the Learning List reviews of these materials or contact Learning List for more information.
- 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.