Preparing for the AP Biology Exam: Tips & Tricks

Instructor: John Beard
When preparing for something as big as the AP Biology Exam, no trick will beat an organized schedule of study and review. Read about the top scientifically reviewed study methods and the resources available to help you ace the test.

AP Biology Exam Prep

The internet is loaded with articles containing lists of study tips, making it difficult to find just the right approach. A 2013 study sponsored by the Association for Psychological Science and by Psychological Science in the Public Interest presented a couple of tips that stand out. The authors of the study, Improving Students' Learning With Effective Learning Techniques, report that practice testing and distributed practice are among the most effective study techniques available.

Practice Tests

Practice testing is just what it sounds like. You take practice exams, do the quizzes at the end of the chapters in your textbook, or use flashcards with key vocabulary words and concepts. One place to start is the sample questions available from the makers of the AP Biology Exam, found at In addition to the sample questions, the College Board site has information on scoring and a complete description of the exam available.

Several companies, like CliffsNotes, Barron's, and The Princeton Review, also produce study guides for the AP Biology Exam, all of which come with practice tests.

Practice test tip: Make sure you look at the structure of the exam on the College Board website before you purchase independently produced study materials. The AP Biology course and exam have recently been changed and out-of-date study materials may not be all that you need them to be.

Distributed or Spaced Practice

The other major study technique touted by the aforementioned study is distributed practice. Simply put, the idea is to spread your study efforts out over multiple sessions rather than trying to cram it all in with one or two marathons. This method is associated with much better long-term retention of information than cramming.

Distributed practice tip: Shorter sessions spread out over weeks, rather than a few days before the AP Biology Exam, can be less stressful, and by the last week, you'll have a really good idea of the areas in which you may need last minute practice.

Study Resources

You can put both of these study approaches into action using's online video resources. offers an AP Biology: Exam Prep course that features lesson quizzes and practice exams to help you retain critical information for the exam.

Before you take the practice exams, you can watch the brief and engaging video lessons on your schedule. These lessons take about 5-10 minutes to watch and can be viewed at home or on the go, using your mobile device. In addition, the experienced instructors who teach the lessons are available to answer questions through the user interface.

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