AP Biology Course and Exam Description
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 course and exam.
Curricular and Resource Requirements
AP Biology curricular requirements:
- The teacher and students have access to college-level resources including a recently published (within the last 10 years) college-level textbook and reference materials in print or electronic format. The course provides opportunities to develop student understanding of the required content outlined in each of the units described in the course and exam description (CED).The course provides opportunities to develop student understanding of the big ideas, as outlined in the CED.
- 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
- 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 to help them become scientifically literate citizens. Students spend a minimum of 25% of instructional time engaged in a wide range of hands-on, inquiry-based laboratory investigations to support the learning of required content and development of science practice skills throughout the course. Students must conduct a minimum of 2 labs per big idea. The course provides opportunities for students to record and present evidence of their laboratory investigations.
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 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 the labs 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 hands-on, college-level biology laboratory investigations as outlined in the teacher’s course syllabus.
If you’re teaching an AP science course for the first time, please submit evidence for the hands-on lab curricular requirement following the same process as in a typical school year.
Laboratory work, data collection, and analysis are integral to the process of science and the training of students in the acquisition and limitations of scientific knowledge. If the coronavirus pandemic, or other emergency, is preventing your school from providing onsite access to a laboratory environment, instruments, and materials, the 25% instructional time spent on the hands-on lab requirement can be met in the following ways:
- Virtual labs
- Simulations accompanied by student work (data collection, data analysis, etc.)
- Labs that can be safely conducted at home
Regardless of the way the hands-on laboratory requirement is met, all student laboratory experiences must continue to be supervised by a science educator. As outlined in the curricular requirements, these experiences must be recorded and maintained by the student.
Example Textbook List
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 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.While every effort is made to keep this list current, it can take a few months for newly published titles and revised editions to be reviewed.
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. 2018. Trunity, Inc.
- Clark, Mary Ann, Matthew Douglas, and Jung Choi. Biology 2e. 2nd edition. 2018. OpenStax.
- Hillis, David M., David Sadava, Richard W. Hill, and Mary V. Price. Principles of Life, for the AP Course. 2nd edition. 2014. Bedford, Freeman and Worth Publishing Group.
- Mader, Sylvia. Biology, AP Edition. 13th edition. 2019. McGraw-Hill Education.
- Mader, Sylvia. Inquiry into Life. 14th edition. 2014. McGraw Hill
- Mason, Duncan, Johnson, Losos, and Singer. Understanding Biology. 2nd edition. 2018. McGraw-Hill Education.
- Morris, Castignetti, Lepri, Relyea. Biology for the AP Course. 1st edition. 2022. BFW.
- Raven, Peter H., Johnson, Mason, Losos, and Singer, Biology AP® Edition. 12th edition. 2017. McGraw-Hill Education.
- Reece, Jane B., Martha R. Taylor, Eric J. Simon, and Jean L. Dickey. Campbell Biology: Concepts and Connections. 2011. Pearson.
- Sadava, David A., David M. Hillis, H. Craig Heller, and May R. Berenbaum. Life: The Science of Biology. 2014. Sinauer Associates Inc.
- Solomon, Eldra P., Charles E. Martin, Linda R. Berg, and Diana W. Martin. Biology. 11th edition. 2019. Cengage.
- Starr, Cecie, Ralph Taggart, Christine Evers, and Lisa Starr. Biology: The Unity and Diversity of Life. 15th edition. 2019. National Geographic/Cengage Learning.
- Urry, Lisa A. Michael Cain, Steven Wasserman, Peter Minorsky, and Jane Reece. Biology: A Global Approach. 11th edition. 2017. Pearson.
- Urry, Lisa A., Michael Cain, Steven Wasserman, Peter Minorsky, and Jane Reece. Campbell Biology, AP Edition. 12th edition. 2021. Pearson.
- Urry, Lisa A., Micheal Cain, Steven Wasserman, Peter Minorsky, and Jane Reece. Campbell Biology. 11th edition. 2018. Pearson.
- Urry, Lisa A., Micheal Cain, Steven Wasserman, and Peter Minorsky. Campbell Biology in Focus. 3rd edition. 2020. Pearson.
- Zedalis, Julianne, and John Eggebrecht. Biology for AP® Courses. 1st edition. OpenStax College.
This annotated sample AP Biology syllabus shows how the curricular requirements can be demonstrated in a syllabus and what level of detail you’ll need to include.
AP Biology Sample Syllabus 1 (.pdf/902KB)
Guide to Developing Your Course Document
Review this document for help creating your syllabus.
Syllabus Development Guide: AP Biology (.pdf/194.35 KB)
This resource 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.