Going into Advanced Placement Biology, you probably either expect an easy 5 or a disastrous 1. I took the course as a junior and expected it to be the one of the lightest of my AP load. I actually scored a 4, but only because I eventually applied myself to the material. You should keep some basic ideas in mind when preparing for this exam.
Listen to Lectures
From the beginning of the year, you should pay attention and take notes to the daily class lectures. This seems obvious, but sometimes you think you remember prophase II and double fertilization from Honors Biology and it’s okay to zone out for a day. But the notes you take in any AP class become extremely important at review time. The entire second semester I only halfway listened and did my work and that, coupled with the fact I didn’t really grasp that material very well anyway, most likely made the difference between a 4 and a 5.
Read the Textbook
In my class, our teacher had us read and take notes almost every night and gave us quizzes on the reading the next day. We used the outlines we made to review for unit tests and, eventually, the AP exam. Even if your teacher does not require this, consider doing it. This way you’ll have everything important in your notebook already.
Buy a Study Book
In my class, everyone ordered the Pearson book that matched up with our textbooks. This helps because even if you don’t have time to read a particular chapter, you can get the gist of it from the book’s summary. Also, the guides have unit questions and practice tests to help prepare you and they include useful diagrams that can refresh your memory in April on subjects you studied in September.
Do Practice FRQs
Free Response Questions can mean the difference between passing and failing on any exam. For Biology, you can pick up points for a surprising number of things. For an open-ended question, it is sometimes advantageous to list just about everything you know about the subject and define every related term. Detail is key. Talk to your teacher about practice FRQs and rubrics, as well as tips and tricks.
Also, teachers are really good at predicting topics. My teacher told us what she thought would be on our exam and matched most of the questions! Take what teachers say to heart; they definitely know their material.
Go to Study Sessions
If your school offers official sessions, attend as many as possible. These are indescribably helpful. Sometimes you’ll even get lessons from teachers from other schools. You may also consider setting up study sessions with your friends to trade notes and go over processes.
Review Anything Cyclical or Process-Like
Mitosis, meiosis, alternation of generations, the paths proteins take through a cell, etc. are all major AP exam fodder. You need to know when, where, what, how, and why. A lot of questions ask things like, “Put these processes in order,” or “Identify based on this diagram.” You need to be familiar with this kind of material.
The biggest study tips I can give are to get a review book (preferably the Pearson Education one that corresponds to your textbook) and to go over the exam with your teacher. Free Response practice is hugely important as well. Don’t stress though; biology tends to be more like a humanities course than a science in your study habits. That is, it’s mostly reading and reviewing. So relax, do not break down in tears right before the exam (speaking from experience here), and remember: If you tried during the year, you’ll be fine.