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Course Learning Outcomes

The AP Biology courses and exam are “organized around a few underlying principles called the big ideas, which encompass the core scientific principles, theories and processes governing living organisms and biological systems. For each of the big ideas, enduring understandings, which incorporate the core concepts that students should retain from the learning experience, are also identified.”*

Big Ideas

  1. Evolution: The process of evolution drives the diversity and unity of life.
  2. Energy: Biological systems utilize free energy and molecular building blocks to grow, to reproduce, and to maintain dynamic homeostasis.
  3. Information: Living systems store, retrieve, transmit, and respond to information essential to life processes.
  4. System: Biological systems interact, and these systems and their interactions possess complex properties.

Enduring Understandings

1.A. Change in the genetic makeup of a population over time is evolution.
1.B. Organisms are linked by lines of descent from common ancestry.
1.C. Life continues to evolve within a changing environment.
1.D. The origin of living systems is explained by natural processes.

2.A. Growth, reproduction, and maintenance of the organization of living systems require free energy and matter.
2.B. Growth, reproduction, and dynamic homeostasis require that cells create and maintain internal environments that are different from their external environments.
2.C. Organisms use feedback mechanisms to regulate growth and reproduction, and to maintain dynamic homeostasis.
2.D. Growth and dynamic homeostasis of a biological system are influenced by changes in the system’s environment.
2.E. Many biological processes involved in growth, reproduction and dynamic homeostasis include temporal regulation and coordination.

3.A. Heritable information provides for continuity of life.
3.B. Expression of genetic information involves cellular and molecular mechanisms.
3.C. The processing of genetic information is imperfect and is a source of genetic variation.
3.D. Cells communicate by generating, transmitting and receiving chemical signals.
3.E. Transmission of information results in changes within and between biological systems.

4.A. Interactions within biological systems lead to complex properties.
4.B. Competition and cooperation are important aspects of biological systems.
4.C. Naturally occurring diversity among and between components within biological systems affects interactions with the environment.

Course Materials

You will use this required textbook for the course: Biology by OpenStax College.

Note: The course provides links to the online materials, but you may also buy a printed copy of the textbook if you would like to.

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You will complete both written and computer-graded work for the course.


Multiple-choice questions on the lesson material in each lesson. These questions help you evaluate your knowledge and prepare for the objective portion of the AP exam.

Reading Questions

Short-answer questions based on your reading for each lesson. Completely answering these questions helps you review and remember the information, and gives you a valuable set of study notes to help you prepare.

Virtual Labs

Seven lessons include labs and worksheets. These labs are designed to help you better understand the information you must know to pass the AP exam. You should understand that, generally speaking, 17 percent of the multiple-choice questions and one of the four essay questions on the AP exam are based on labs very similar to the ones in this course. A lot of time and effort went into designing these labs so that you would have an additional resource to help you pass the AP exam.

Note: You will handwrite your lab worksheets, then scan and submit them to me for grading along with your Unit Essays.  

Unit Essay Questions

Longer essay questions, worth 10 points each. This assignment is to help prepare you for the AP Biology exam, which includes long and short essay questions. The questions in this course are similar or identical to essay questions found on past AP exams.

Note: You will handwrite your essays, then scan and submit them to me for grading, along with your lab worksheets.  

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The final exam consists of 56 multiple-choice questions. The exam is closed book and notes. The time limit is ninety minutes, just like the real AP exam. You are allowed to use simple four-function calculators (with square root) on the entire exam.

Preparing for the Actual AP Exam

Advice and sample assessments from the College Board: The AP Biology Exam.

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Your grade is based on these assignments and exams:

17 Quizzes


17 Reading Question Assignments


4 Unit Essays with Lab Worksheets


Final Exam


Grading Scale
A 95–100
A− 90–94
B+ 87–89
B 84–86
B− 80–83
C+ 77–79
C 74–76
C− 70–73
D+ 67–69
D 64–66
D− 60–63
E (fail) 59 or below

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Copyright Notice

The materials used in connection with this online course are only for the use of students enrolled in this course for purposes associated with this course and may not be retained or further disseminated. Any copying or further dissemination of these materials may be subject to applicable U.S. Copyright Laws. For questions or more information, please visit the BYU Copyright Licensing Office website.

“Members of the BYU community who willfully disregard this Copyright Policy or the BYU Copyright Guidelines place themselves individually at risk of legal action and may incur personal liability for their conduct. The unauthorized use or distribution of copyrighted material, including unauthorized peer-to-peer file sharing, may subject individuals to civil and criminal liabilities, including actual and statutory damages, costs and fees of litigation, fines, and imprisonment

Violations of the Copyright Policy may result in university disciplinary action including termination of university enrollment or employment.” (Emphasis added. Excerpt taken from the BYU Copyright Policy)

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Accessibility Notice

BYU is committed to providing a working and learning atmosphere which reasonably accommodates persons with disabilities who are otherwise qualified to participate in BYU's programs and activities. In this spirit, BYU Independent Study aspires to improve web accessibility for users. While not required by law, the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 Levels A and AA provide a wide range of helpful recommendations to make Web content more accessible. BYU Independent Study strives to apply WCAG 2.0 recommendations where feasible, but may deviate from any recommendations that would result in an undue hardship to BYU Independent Study or alterations to program and course content and objectives. If you have questions about accessibility, or if you need to report problems with any accessibility features please see our Accessibilities and Accommodations Web Page.

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*. “AP Biology: Curriculum Framework 2012–2013,” College Board (New York: The College Board, 2011), 2.

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Course Policies

These policies are specific to this course. For additional information about general policies, please refer to Independent Study Course Policies page.


Summary: 4 instructor-graded unit essay/ lab worksheet submissions, 17 computer-graded quizzes, 17 reading-question assignments. May resubmit each once for a fee.

Final Exam

Summary: 1 proctored, computer-graded exam, may retake once for a fee, must pass to earn credit for the course

You must pass the final exam with a score of sixty percent or higher in order to pass this course. If you fail the final exam, you may retake the exam once for a fee.

Course Duration

You have 1 year to complete this course. You may purchase one 3-month extension if you need more than a year to complete this course.

Getting Help

Please use the help menu in this course to contact Independent Study or your instructor.

University Policy - Title IX Statement

Preventing & Responding to Sexual Misconduct

In accordance with Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, Brigham Young University prohibits unlawful sex discrimination against any participant in its education programs or activities. The university also prohibits sexual harassment—including sexual violence—committed by or against students, university employees, and visitors to campus. As outlined in university policy, sexual harassment, dating violence, domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking are considered forms of "Sexual Misconduct" prohibited by the university.

University policy requires all university employees in a teaching, managerial, or supervisory role to report all incidents of Sexual Misconduct that come to their attention in any way, including but not limited to face-to-face conversations, a written class assignment or paper, class discussion, email, text, or social media post. Incidents of Sexual Misconduct should be reported to the Title IX Coordinator at t9coordinator@byu.edu or (801) 422-8692. Reports may also be submitted through EthicsPoint at https://titleix.byu.edu/report or 1-888-238-1062 (24-hours a day).

BYU offers confidential resources for those affected by Sexual Misconduct, including the university’s Victim Advocate, as well as a number of non-confidential resources and services that may be helpful. Additional information about Title IX, the university’s Sexual Misconduct Policy, reporting requirements, and resources can be found at http://titleix.byu.edu or by contacting the university’s Title IX Coordinator.