In the United States, Advanced Placement Biology (also known as AP Biology and AP Bio), is a course and examination offered by the College Board to high school students as an opportunity to earn placement credit for a college-level biology course. For the 2012–2013 school year, College Board has unveiled a new curriculum with a greater focus on "scientific practices."
This course is offered to highly motivated students who wish to pursue their interests in the life sciences. The College Board recommends a successful completion of high school biology and high school chemistry, before commencing AP Biology, although the actual prerequisites vary from school to school and from state to state. Many schools, for example, require no background in biology to take the course. There are critics of the AP program that believe that the high school science curriculum does not adequately prepare students with a background college-level scientific studies and that students who have studied AP Biology do not perform as well in college science classes as might be expected of someone who successfully completed an AP course in the subject matter.
Topics covered by this course include:
- Anatomy and Physiology
- The Cell
- Developmental biology
- Molecular biology
- Origin of life
- Population biology
- Molecular genetics
In addition to the standard biology topics above, students are required to be familiar with a set of 12 specific biology labs, as well as general lab procedure.
Make-up of the Exam
The make-up of the AP Biology exam is based on the following percentages of three topics
- Molecules and Cells, 25%
- Heredity and Evolution, 25%
- Organisms and Populations, 50%
The AP test for this course consists of two sections. Section I, administered over a period of 90 minutes, consists of 63 multiple-choice questions and 6 mathematics-related fill in questions. Calculators are generally needed for this mathematics portion, and are allowed on the test day. Section II, which also lasts 90 minutes, consists of 2 essay prompts to be answered comprehensively by the student, as well as 6 shorter essays that require concise answers. A mandated 10 minute reading period is held prior to beginning to write the eight essays, leaving only 80 minutes for writing.
In the 2007 administration, 144,796 students took the exam from 8,486 schools. In the 2008 administration, the exam grades were recalibrated, resulting in a substantial decrease in the top scores and increase in the bottom scores. In the 2009 and 2010 administrations, 159,580 and 172,512 students took the test, respectively. The 2013 revised test showed a marked decrease in the amount of 5's and 1's received.
Most colleges award credit in an introductory biology course for a score of 3 or higher. Higher tier schools generally only accept a score of 4 or 5.   The grade distributions for 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2013  were:
Commonly used textbooks
- Mader, Biology, AP Edition by Sylvia Mader (2012, Hardcover ISBN 0076620042)
- Life: The Science Of Biology (Sadava, Heller, Orians, Purves, and Hillis, ISBN 978-0-7167-7671-0)
- Campbell Biology Ap Ninth Edition (Reece, Urry, Cain, Wasserman, Minorsky, and Andrew Jackson ISBN 978-0131375048)
- AP Biology Curriculum Framework
- AP Biology at CollegeBoard.com
- Praise for Advanced Placement Classes, but Also Criticism[dead link]
- AP Biology Exam Details and Description - College Board
- 2008 recalibration
- "2008 AP Biology Score Distribution". College Board. Retrieved 5/2/2013.
- "2009 Biology Score Distribution". College Board. Retrieved 5/2/2013.
- 2010 Score Distribution
- 2011 Score Distribution
- 2013 AP Exam Score Distributions