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AP Biology Exam 3-Week Intensive Study Plan

Student studying for an exam
He looks focused, but he could probably study better without his phone next to him!

The 2020 AP Biology exam is on May 18, which means there are about 3 weeks left to prepare for it. This detailed study plan will help you fully and efficiently prepare for the exam so that you can earn a 5. Links to specific FRQ practice problems are also included.

WEEK 1 - April 27

This week is dedicated to reviewing concepts that are still difficult or confusing for you.

As announced by the College Board, this year’s AP Biology exam only covers Units 1 through 6 (this excludes the natural selection and ecology sections), which corresponds to chapters 1 through 22 in the Campbell & Reece AP Biology textbook that most schools use.

Go through your textbook and/or class notes and make a list of topics and concepts that you absolutely don’t remember or understand. These are your first priority to review and study. Also, make a list of topics and concepts that you mostly understand but still don’t feel confident about. If you have time after studying the first priority topics, move on to this list.

Here are some topics that are most likely to show up on the exam. Make sure you understand these but also don’t neglect topics from chapters 1 through 22 that are not on this list!

  • Cell communication and cell to cell signaling

  • Cellular respiration, roles of different enzymes, energetics

  • Photosynthesis, roles of different enzymes, energetics

  • Mendelian genetics, Punnett squares, sources of genetic variation

  • Gene regulation and gene expression, including protein synthesis, operons, and eukaryotic gene regulation

WEEK 2 - MAY 4

As you can guess, studying the content is not enough. The next step is to frequently do practice FRQs, check your answers, and understand your mistakes. Weeks 2 and 3 are dedicated to doing just this. In week 2, spend more time on doing the practice problems.

It is important that you time yourself while doing the problems! This is because students tend to run out of time on FRQs and overexplain their answers. Also, make sure that the problems you do have answers readily available. The problems linked below are all from College Board and have the correct answers posted on the site.

Before looking for practice problems, it is important to know what types of questions are on the exam this year. There will be two different questions:

  • The first one will be analytical, requiring you to use a graph or table to answer the question. They may ask you to design or critique an experiment (25 minutes)

  • The second one will be based on a situation in which something (such as an enzyme or particular step in a process) does not function normally (15 minutes)

When finding practice FRQs, target these two types of questions to get the most realistic and effective practice. The following is a list of real past FRQ problems posted by College Board that are within scope. Even if the question topic might not be covered on the exam, these questions are still worth doing because they are the types of questions you will have to answer.

  • #1 (question type 1)

  • #2 (question types 1 & 2 combined)

  • #4(a) (question type 1)

  • #4(b) (question type 2)

  • #6 (question type 2)

  • #1 (question type 1)

  • #2 (question type 1)

  • #3 (question type 2)

  • #1 (question type 1)

  • #2 (question type 1)

  • #4 (question type 2)

  • #6 (question type 2)

  • #1 (question type 1)

  • #3 (question type 1)

WEEK 3 - MAY 11

The final week before the AP exam should be dedicated to doing a moderate number of practice problems and more importantly, doing test corrections. Go through the questions you got wrong and understand exactly why your answer was incorrect and why the correct answer is what it is.

For the format for test corrections, I highly recommend writing down your answers or typing them out so you completely go through the thought process yourself. It’s easy to skim over the explanation of the correct answer and think “Ok, I get it”, but it is much more effective to write out the correct answer yourself, explain why it is correct, and also explain why your original answer was incorrect.

Lastly, when going through test corrections, naturally there may be some small concepts or vocabulary that you forgot or are confused about. Go back through the textbook and/or your notes and revisit those. Using flashcards and drawing out diagrams for processes are great methods of remembering information in a short period of time.

Perhaps the most important thing of all is to have confidence in yourself and that you will do well on the exam. You have studied the subject for almost a year. You have done many activities and assignments to understand the concepts, and you are ready!



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