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Course Updates

AP Biology has been updated for the 2019-20 school year to make things clearer for you and your students, reduce scope, and better align with college-level expectations.

2018-19 Starting in 2019-20

A course and exam description (CED) is available to help you plan your instruction. 

Starting in late May 2019, you'll have access to an updated course and exam description (CED) that more clearly outlines all required course content and defines how that content will be assessed on the exam.

Watch a video overview of the updated CEDs.

Print copies will be available in easy-to-use, customizable binders in June 2019. Preorder your free copy using the 2019-20 AP Course and Exam Description Preorder Form.

The current CED is organized conceptually, by big ideas.

The updated CED organizes the course into eight commonly taught units:

  1. Chemistry of Life
  2. Cell Structure and Function
  3. Cellular Energetics
  4. Cell Cycle
  5. Heredity
  6. Gene Expression and Regulation
  7. Natural Selection
  8. Ecology

This represents a sequence that is found in widely adopted college textbooks and that many AP Biology teachers have told us they follow. The four big ideas (Evolution, Energetics, Information Storage and Transmission, and Systems Interactions) are spiraled throughout these eight units.

By organizing the course content and skills into units, we’re able to give you and your students free formative assessments—personal progress checks—that you can assign throughout the year to measure student progress.

We want to respect your time and expertise by providing a road map you can modify and adapt to your local priorities and preferences. You can choose to follow this suggestion for how content can be sequenced and paced. As always, you’ll have the flexibility to organize the course content as you like.

In the current CED, multiple learning objectives are connected to multiple essential knowledge statements.

Each learning objective is clearly connected to specific essential knowledge statements. With this kind of specificity, you and your students will know how that content will be assessed on the AP Exam.

The current CED includes science practices in a separate section not specifically integrated with the course content.

The framework in the updated CED outlines distinct skills that AP Biology students should practice throughout the year—skills that will help them learn to think and act like biologists. For example, students will analyze data and perform statistical tests.

AP Biology teachers have told us that there is too much content to teach thoroughly and thoughtfully in a single school year.

In collaboration with AP teachers and the AP Biology Development Committee, we are removing some content from the framework to make the course more manageable for you and your students. Specifically, the AP Biology CED no longer includes Body Systems.

Exam Updates

Starting in the 2019-20 school year, the AP Biology Exam will have question types and point values that will remain stable and consistent from year to year so that you and your students know what to expect on exam day.

2019 Exam Starting with the 2020 Exam

Section I: Multiple Choice

69 Questions | 1 Hour, 30 Minutes | 50% of Exam Score

  • The multiple-choice section currently includes 6 grid-in questions.

Section I: Multiple Choice

60 Questions | 1 Hour, 30 Minutes | 50% of Exam Score

  • Grid-in questions have been removed. (Note that multiple-choice questions still assess mathematical calculations.)

Section II: Free Response

8 Questions | 1 Hour, 30 Minutes | 50% of Exam Score

  • 2 long free-response questions
  • 6 short answer questions

Section II: Free Response

6 Questions | 1 Hour, 30 Minutes | 50% of Exam Score

  • 2 long free-response questions
  • 4 short answer questions

Key Dates for AP Biology Teachers

  • 2019 AP Summer Institutes begin. Updated AP Biology workshop materials will be available to provide context on the CED, unit guides, and other new resources.
  • 2019 CED binders are available. You can preorder your free copy now using the 2019-20 AP Course and Exam Description Preorder Form.
  • August 1: The AP Classroom system resources—including unit guides, personal progress checks, progress dashboard, and question bank—become available, along with interactive tutorials on how to make the most of these resources with your students.
    • Completing a simple digital activation process will give you immediate access to the system and ensure your students can register for the exams by the new fall deadlines.*
    • If you’re teaching a new AP Biology course in 2019-20, you’ll need to have your AP Course Audit form approved by your administrator before you can access the system.*
  • Mid-August: 1-day workshops begin.
  • Your school’s AP coordinator will set up your class sections in the system. If your coordinator chooses not to create class sections, you can create your own.
  • Familiarize yourself with the system and start exploring the resources.
  • As you create your sequencing and pacing calendars, use the Course at a Glance and unit guides in the CED to inform your decisions. These can also help you determine how to fit the personal progress checks into your instruction so you and your students can receive timely instructional feedback.
  • Access the AP question bank to see what questions are available for you to assign to your students for instructional and assessment purposes throughout the year.
  • Before classes start, log in to the system to get join codes for each of your class sections.*

On the First Day of Class

  • Post the join code for your class section on the board or distribute it to your students. Tell students to log in and join you class section before the next class.*
  • October 4: Preferred deadline for your AP coordinator to order 2020 AP Exams.
  • November 15: Deadline for your AP coordinator to order 2020 AP Exams.
  • Use your progress dashboard to see where students are demonstrating strength and where they have opportunities for further growth.
  • January 31, 2020: Deadline to submit your AP Biology Course Audit form and have it approved by your administrator for 2019-20 AP Course Audit authorization.*
  • Before March: If your course started after November 15, 2019, make sure that all your students have joined your AP Classroom section and are following your AP coordinator’s directions about registering for AP Exams.*
  • March 13, 2020: Deadline for your AP coordinator to place exam orders for students in courses that started after November 15, 2019.*
  • Use the AP question bank and feedback on the progress dashboard to help students prepare for their AP Exams.
  • May 2020: AP Exam administration.

* = required action