AP Biology Course Overview

   Course Overview

AP Biology is the equivalent of a college-level biology course taught to students in high school.  We will utilize the process of inquiry in science to foster critical thinking skills while investigating a curriculum structured around the four big ideas, enduring understandings, and science practices developed by the College Board.   Since a thorough presentation of biology involves the use of concepts learned in chemistry, students taking AP Biology should first complete a course in chemistry with high marks.  College-level textbooks are used and laboratory experiments and demonstrations are an integral part of the course.  Students must utilize the textbook and its website, Google Classroom, AP Classroom, the lab manual, and various websites for additional resources and assignments.  In the spring, students will take the Biology End-of-Course State Exam and later take a nationally administered Advanced Placement Biology Exam (and by performing well may obtain college credit).


Instructional Resources

The textbook for this course is Principles of Life, 2E (AP) by Hillis, Sadava, Heller, and Price.  Students will also utilize the College Board’s AP Classroom, my course website and Google Classroom, the textbook-sponsored website for online learning, the student lab manual, AP Biology Investigative Labs: An Inquiry-Based Approach, and other websites (Quizlet, Gizmos, and Edpuzzle). We will also utilize a test prep guide to further prepare students for the AP exam.  Students will maintain a notebook for labs, outlines, concept review questions, apply the concept questions, and biology “current news” article reviews.


Teaching Strategies

I teach AP Biology to juniors and seniors at Northwest for 47 minutes on a daily basis.  Sometimes it is necessary for my students to come during a study hall, advisory, or before or after school for additional time on labs and/or tests.  Students are required to take the College Board AP Biology Exam.  My students will read assigned chapters from Principles of Life and answer concept review and apply the concept questions.  These chapters correspond to the topics listed in the course timeline and meet all curricular requirements.  The readings and questions from the text will help students follow lectures and promote discussion.  I create slides for each topic that utilize text, tables, diagrams, pictures, animations, and numerous video clips.  I also like to incorporate demonstrations and examples when applicable and focus on the illustrative examples listed in the curriculum framework.  Students will be quizzed in class and complete online assessments periodically for each topic.

All unit tests will mirror the AP Exam in format with multiple-choice questions and long and/or short free-response questions.  I periodically review units previously covered and my students will complete several practice tests prior to the AP Biology Exam.  

Labs will play a vital role within the course by either introducing a topic or taking a discussed topic and exploring it further.  Students usually work in groups to complete assigned labs.  They learn the process of science and how to work together, observe, collect data, analyze data, and solve biological problems.


The Big Ideas, Enduring Understanding, Essential Knowledge, and Learning Objectives

  1. BIG IDEA 1 (EVO) EVOLUTION:  The process of evolution drives the diversity and unity of life.

  2. BIG IDEA 2 (ENE) ENERGETICS:  Biological systems use energy and molecular building blocks to grow, reproduce, and maintain dynamic homeostasis.

  3. BIG IDEA 3 (IST) INFORMATION STORAGE AND TRANSMISSION:  Living systems store, retrieve, transmit and respond to information essential to life processes.

  4. BIG IDEA 4 (SYI) SYSTEMS INTERACTIONS:  Biological systems interact, and these systems and their interactions exhibit complex properties.

The learning objectives will be achieved by understanding the essential knowledge necessary to grasp the concepts of the big ideas and enduring understandings presented in the course description.  Illustrative examples will be presented throughout the course to facilitate this process.


Inquiry-Based Laboratory Component

Students will conduct a minimum of eight inquiry-based investigations, two per big idea (some investigations will be simulations).  Additional labs and investigations will be conducted to help my students understand and expand upon the topics presented.  All levels of inquiry will be used to provide students with a hands-on approach to learning. My students will maintain a written lab notebook of investigations and will be required to share this information in a variety of ways.  This includes a formal lab report and a poster presentation as well as turning in their notebooks for periodic evaluations and participating in class discussions before, during, and after lab activities.


Science Practices

  1. Concept Explanation:  Explain biological concepts, processes, and models presented in written format.

  2. Visual Representations:  Analyze visual representations of biological concepts and processes.

  3. Questions and Methods:  Determine scientific questions and methods.

  4. Representing and Describing Data:  Represent and describe data.

  5. Statistical Tests and Data Analysis:  Perform statistical tests and mathematical calculations to analyze and interpret data.

  6. Argumentation:  Develop and justify scientific arguments using evidence.


College Board’s AP Exam Weighting by Unit

  1. Chemistry of Life (8-11%)

  2. Cell Structure and Function (10-13%)

  3. Cellular Energetics (12-16%)

  4. Cell Communication and Cell Cycle (10-15%)

  5. Heredity (8-11%)

  6. Gene Expression and Regulation (12-16%)

  7. Natural Selection (13-20%)

  8. Ecology (10-15%)


Grading Policy - The following criteria will determine student grades:

  1. Tests and Quizzes

  2. Assignments and Online Assignments (outlines, concept review questions, apply the concept questions, biology “current news” article reviews)

  3. Assignments and Online Assignments

  4. Labs (lab notebook)

  5. Test Prep Assignments (test prep book, practice exams)

Each piece of work that is done by the student is assigned a point value and categorized as an “assessment” or “practice” grade.  These grades are weighted; “assessment” grades are weighted 65%, while “practice” grades are weighted 35%.  A gradebook “Z” means an assignment is missing (and calculated as a zero in the gradebook), where an actual “0” means the assignment was graded and that was the score.  If a student is exempted from an assignment, an “X” is placed in the gradebook for that assignment.

All assignments should be completed on time.  Make-up assignments can be made up in the number of days absent.  No late assignments will be accepted without teacher consent.  Students absent on test day may be required to complete an alternative or verbal assessment.  

PBIS purchased bonus points will not be accepted and extra credit will not be offered (unless unique circumstances arise).  You can receive a weekly bonus point by remembering the quote-of-the-week.

Letter grades are based on the following scale:  A=90-100%; B=80-89%; C=70-79%; D=60-69%; F=0-59%.  AP classes utilize the same four-point scale as regular classes.  Cheating of any nature will result in no credit for all participants involved.  A second offense will result in a failing grade for the grading period.


Class Rules (All school rules will be enforced as outlined in the school handbook).

Students will be responsible, respectful, courteous, and prepared.  Please treat others how you want to be treated.

  1. Be Responsible:

    • Class begins with the bell; be in your seat (until you are dismissed).

    • Be ready to learn and do your own work. You are responsible for you education.

    • Clean up after yourself.

  2. Be Respectful:

    • Respect others.  Harassment of any nature will not be tolerated.

    • Respect school property (and stay out of cabinetry and storage unless given permission and do not play with faucets or gas valves).  

    • Listen while others are speaking.

  3. Be Courteous:

    • Be considerate and follow directions the first time they are given.

    • There will be no cell phones or headphones (unless given special permission).

    • Eating is not permitted in class (water is allowed).

  4. Be Prepared:

    • Be on time (tardiness is punished as outlined in the student handbook).

    • Always bring your materials to class (pencil, paper, and Chromebook).

    • Do not abuse hall pass privileges (and be sure to take a hall pass).



I expect each and every student to have an enjoyable, successful year.  I promise to provide my students with every opportunity to succeed and will do my best to promote an ideal environment for inquisitive learning.  I hope each of my students will apply themselves to their fullest and reach their potential as I believe success is maximizing one's ability.  Ultimately, I hope my students will not only have a better understanding of biology but a greater appreciation for the diversity and interdependence of life.  My students will be critical thinkers and become knowledgeable citizens in understanding biological issues that will impact their lives in the future.  Many students will receive college credit and I am confident that this course will better prepare all of my students for the college classroom and give them an added advantage over students who have not completed an AP course.