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New TV shows with lousy ratings are getting a second chance

A.P. BIO — “Drenching Dallas” Episode 113 — Pictured: Glenn Howerton as Jack Griffin — (Photo by Colleen Hayes/NBC)

Not long ago, NBC’s new sitcom  A.P. Bio, which has the one of the  fewest overall viewers among the broadcaster’s scripted shows during the current 2017-2018 broadcast TV season, probably would’ve gotten the axe in its first season. In today’s TV landscape, the Glenn Howerton-starring show was renewed for a second.

US broadcasters like NBC are giving new TV series more time to find an audience now that on-demand platforms and DVRs have killed off the ritual of gathering around the TV set to watch the show air live.

More freshman series were renewed in the past two broadcast TV seasons than in the decade-plus MoffettNathanson has been tracking renewals and cancellations, the research firm showed in a May 31 report.

Not all the shows renewed for a second season were ratings juggernauts like  The Good Doctor and Young Sheldon. Some, like For the People  and  A.P. Bio,  were among the worst performing scripted shows on their respective networks. The average viewership for the freshman series renewed at three of the big four US broadcasters—ABC, CBS, and NBC—was lower in the 18-49-year-old demographic coveted by TV advertisers during the most recent 2017-2018 broadcast season than in years past. In other words, the bar for renewals is getting lower.

Launching a new series is a gamble. It’s pricier to produce and market new shows than existing series, because the audience has to be built from scratch. Networks are simply making their best approximations as to what their audiences will want to watch. They’re betting that a lukewarm show can catch on in its second season if viewers find it later and watch it on demand.

NBC’s  The Good Place  started off strong in 2016, especially among 18-49-year-olds, but lost live viewers later in its first season. Its renewal for a second season was mostly seen as a credit to showrunner Mike Schur, who produced hits like  The Office  and  Parks and Recreation for the network. But The Good Place  maintained  impeccable reviews and viewers caught on. The show’s live viewership remained strong in season two, and picked up steam in delayed viewing and across platforms. It will return for a third season .

Overall, broadcast TV announced 39 series cancellations in 2018 compared to 41 last year, MoffettNathanson found. And 68% of the scripted series slated for the 2018-2019 US broadcast season that begins in the fall are returning, which is the highest share in the firm’s data set.

Correction (June 30, 2018): This story said  Champions  was renewed by NBC, based on the MoffettNathanson report. It was not.

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Sat / act prep online guides and tips, 4 top tips to make ap biology frqs a breeze.

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Advanced Placement (AP)


AP Biology is known for being one of the tougher AP exams , and, for most students, the free-response section is the hardest part of the test. In 2021 , the average score for every free-response question was less than a 50%! However, knowing what to expect can make it easier to get a great score on AP Biology FRQ. And in this guide, we explain everything you need to know to ace this section. Read on to learn the format of AP Biology FRQ, what graders are looking for, what the questions will look like, and what you can do to be well-prepared on exam day.

What's the Format of the AP Biology Free Response Section?

The AP Biology exam has two sections: multiple choice and free response. The free-section comes second and contains six questions:

  • Two long-response questions , both with a focus on analyzing experimental results. The second long question will require you to create a graph.
  • Four short-answer questions on the following topics in this order:
  • Scientific Investigation
  • Conceptual Analysis
  • Analysis of Model or Visual Representation
  • Analysis of Data


  • The free-response section is 90 minutes long
  • It's worth 50% of your total score
  • You're able to use the AP Biology formula sheet for the entire section

Long questions are worth 8-10 points each, whereas short-answer questions are each worth 4 points. It's recommended that you spend about 25 minutes on each long question and about 10 minutes on each short question (although you'll decide yourself how long you spend on each question).

The AP Biology test expects you to know how to:

  • Understand how graphical and mathematical models can be used to explain biological principles and concepts
  • Make predictions and justify events based on biological principles
  • Implement your knowledge of proper experimental design
  • Interpret data

AP Biology Sample Free Response Questions 

Now we'll go through two AP Biology free response example questions: one long question and one short question. These questions both were used for the 2021 AP Biology exam . You can see answers and scoring for each of the 2021 AP Biology FRQs here .

Long Question

First let's look at one of the long questions. This is Question 2, so remember you'll need to create a graph for at least one part of it. The entire question is worth 8 points.


Part A (1 point)

Part B (4 points)

First, you need to create a graph based on the data in Table 1. The graph is worth 3 points: 1 for axis labels, 1 for the correct plotting in the bar graph, and 1 for the error bars. Here's an example of a graph that would get full points:


Part C (1 point)

Part D (2 points)

  • The data do not support the claim because females III-2 and III-6 have the disorder and, if inheritance was X-linked recessive, they'd only have the disorder if their father II-1 had the disorder, which he does not.
  • The data supports mitochondrial inheritance because all of the offspring of individual II-2 , not just the sons, have the disorder.

Giving one of those answers is worth one point.


Short Question

Next is a short question. It's question 3 in the free-response section which means it will focus on scientific investigation. It's worth a total of four points.


Part B (1 point)

  • The researchers must run the experiment without adding resveratrol.
  • The researchers must treat the cells with DMSO alone.

There are two potential answers; you only need to include one:

  • No ATP production
  • Reduced ATP production

Part D (1 point)

For Part D, you must state that more electrons can be transferred so that more oxygen is required as the final electron acceptor.

Where to Find AP Biology FRQs

Taking practice tests and answering practice questions is one of the best ways to prepare for any AP exam, including AP Biology FRQs. Fortunately, the College Board, who creates and administers AP courses and exams, has made dozens of old AP Bio FRQs available for free online. Because there are so many official FRQs available, we recommend only using them instead of looking online for unofficial questions (those not created by the College Board), which can be hit or miss in terms of quality. However, if you're using an AP Biology prep book, they often have solid FRQs. For advice on which prep book to get, check out our guide on the best AP Biology prep books.

Here are links to the FRQs:

Additionally, the AP Biology Course and Exam Description includes two up-to-date FRQs, beginning on page 206.

Note that, until 2020, the AP Bio exam had six short-answer questions instead of the current four. This means that questions from 2019 and earlier will have a different format and slightly different content. They can still be useful to study, but be aware of the differences between them and the current free-response section.


4 Tips for AP Biology FRQs

When you're studying for AP Bio FRQs and actually taking the exam, there are a lot of things to remember to ensure you do your absolute best. Keep these four tips in mind throughout the year and on exam day.

#1: Know Your 13 Required Labs

There are 13 labs you're required to complete during the AP Biology course. Questions that relate at least in part to these labs make up 25% of the AP Biology exam. It’s important to understand how these labs are conducted and how the principles behind them relate to the main ideas of the course. This will help in answering both free-response and multiple-choice questions that deal with lab scenarios on the test. There's a nice overview of each of the 13 labs on this site that can refresh your memory, and we link to in-depth explanations of each of the labs in our AP Biology study guide .

You should also know general lab skills. Many free-response questions ask you to identify the components of a proposed experiment (dependent and independent variables) or to design a lab to test a certain hypothesis. You might have forgotten about the labs you did toward the beginning of the year, so take extra care to go over them. Make sure that you understand just how they were conducted and what the results mean.

#2: Eliminate Irrelevant Information

Free-response AP Biology questions (especially the long questions) include lots of scientific terminology and visual aids, and this kind of format might be intimidating if you’re not used to it. It’s important to practice sorting through this jumble of information so that you can quickly get to the root of the question rather than obsessing over small details you don’t understand.

Try underlining important words and phrases in the question to help you stay focused on the main points and avoid misleading distractions.

You should also practice responding to free-response questions in a straightforward way without any unnecessary fluff. Remember, this isn’t an English test; the graders are just looking for clear facts and analysis. Make it easy for them to give you points!

#3: Draw During Studying

If you're feeling shaky on your knowledge of a process or system in AP Biology, one helpful strategy is to draw it. This will both reinforce what you know and highlight what you still need to work on learning. Once you're able to draw an accurate diagram of a system or process without looking at your notes, you can feel confident that you know exactly how it works.

For example, you could challenge yourself to draw a diagram of a cell membrane, label its different components, and explain their significance. You could also draw a process like mitosis that happens in clear visual stages, or a more complex process like cellular respiration where you might focus on one aspect at a time (glycolysis, Krebs cycle, electron transport chain). You can also apply this tip during the exam, if you need help visualizing part of an AP Bio FRQ.

#4: Pay Attention to the Clock

Time is always tight on AP exams. For the AP Biology free response section, you get 90 minutes to answer six questions. It can be easy to get caught up on one question and suddenly realize you're nearly out of time but haven't had a chance to look at some of the questions, let alone answer them. Don't let this happen to you! We recommend spending 25 minutes on each of the two long questions and 10 minutes on each of the four short questions. You don't need to keep perfectly to that plan, but don't get too far off it, either. 

At the very least, make note of where you are halfway through the free-response section (that's 45 minutes in). If you're roughly halfway finished with the section (taking into account that long questions take about twice as much time to complete as short questions), you're doing well. If you're significantly behind that, you know you need to pick up the pace.

Also, don't feel you need to answer the FRQ in the order they're listed. We recommend skimming through each of the questions at the start of the section, then tackling the questions that seem easiest first so you can spend more time on trickier questions.

Summary: Acing the AP Biology Free Response Section

The AP Biology free-response section can be tough, but if you prepare well for it, you can go into exam day confident and knowing what to expect. The section consists of two long questions and four short questions, lasts 90 minutes, and is worth half of your total score. You'll need to create a graph for the second AP biology FRQ. Old exam questions are a great study resource and, when you're preparing for the free-response section, keep these four tips in mind:

  • Know your labs
  • Eliminate irrelevant information
  • Make drawings while studying
  • Stay aware of time

What's Next?

How should you study for the AP Biology exam?  Our expert article goes over all 5 steps to take during your AP Biology review.

What is the rest of the AP Biology exam like? Our article on the AP Biology exam goes over every question type you can expect to see as well as tips for answering them.

Looking for an easier AP class than Biology? Learn which AP classes tend to be the least challenging for students .

Looking for help studying for your AP exam?

Our one-on-one online AP tutoring services can help you prepare for your AP exams. Get matched with a top tutor who got a high score on the exam you're studying for!

Get a 5 On Your AP Exam

Christine graduated from Michigan State University with degrees in Environmental Biology and Geography and received her Master's from Duke University. In high school she scored in the 99th percentile on the SAT and was named a National Merit Finalist. She has taught English and biology in several countries.

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AP® Biology

The ultimate list of ap® biology tips.

  • The Albert Team
  • Last Updated On: March 1, 2022

The Ultimate List of AP® Biology Tips

Are you shooting for a score of 4 or 5 on the AP® Biology exam? If you’re taking the class, you’re probably nodding your head right now or shouting “yes!” Having a comprehensive list of AP® Biology study tips can help.

The first thing you need to know is that the AP® Bio exam will be a challenge for you, no matter what experience you have. In fact, it’s one of the hardest AP® exams out there. Sure, you need to memorize facts and concepts, but you also have to be able to think scientifically and analytically, which is much easier said than done.

Luckily, this list of AP® Biology tips is here to give you the best chance of getting that 5. Whether you’re taking this class in school or self-studying with an AP® Biology review book, these AP® Bio tips will tell you everything you need to know, from how to study, what to study, what the exam consists of, and everything in between.

What We Review

How to Study for AP® Biology: 9 Tips for 4s and 5s

How to Study for AP® Biology Tips - Familiarize yourself with the format of the exam

1. Familiarize yourself with the format of the exam.

The first step in getting ready to study for the AP® Biology exam is knowing what the exam will look like. The exam is 3 hours long and consists of two sections, each of which comprise 50% of your overall score. The first 90-minute section has 60 multiple-choice questions. Starting with the 2021 exam, the AP® Bio exam will no longer have grid-in questions. 

Section II consists of 6 free-response questions. You’ll have 90 minutes to answer two long free-response questions, one of which will be lab or data-based, and four short free-response questions, which each require a paragraph-length argument or response.

Why is this important? Because you need to know for the sake of pacing . If you aren’t pacing to finish both sections in full, then you’ll need to practice more to ensure you have sufficient time to attempt every problem on the exam. You don’t lose points for getting questions wrong, but you do lose opportunities to score points if you don’t answer every question. 

2. Get your vocabulary down first!

Vocabulary is extremely important in AP® Biology, but understanding concepts and making connections is even more important. Why, then, do you have to focus on vocab first? You don’t stand a chance understanding concepts if you don’t understand key terms. “This thing does this to that and this process works by doing that.” It just doesn’t work. 

Make and use flashcards regularly, learn the Greek and Latin prefixes, suffixes, and roots , and take great notes. When you know vocabulary terms inside and out, it is much easier to think analytically, apply terms to different situations, and make important connections.

3. Make flashcards and study sheets with diagrams.

Diagrams are important in AP® Bio. You’ll have to interpret many of them on the exam. That’s why it’s really beneficial to draw your own diagrams on your flashcards and study sheets. Use different colors, label the important parts, and list the steps. 

Whether it’s the photosynthesis or the nitrogen cycle, find a way to make it stick in your brain. If you’re crunched for time, look for pre-made flashcards, like these from Quizlet . Consider when to use flash cards vs. study sheets because making study sheets requires more active work than flashcards, which helps the information stick in your head. It also refreshes your memory on the definitions in context , which is important for AP® Biology.

4. Don’t lose track of the big picture when studying AP® Biology.

As you’re studying for the exam, you’ll probably find yourself getting hung up on little details. AP® Bio has a way of throwing a lot of facts, specific names, dates, and functions at you. It would be impossible to memorize everything! That’s why it’s essential to remember why you’re reading a certain chapter, what it contributes to the bigger picture, and how all these concepts connect together. Don’t overwhelm yourself with trying to know everything about everything.

5. Keep on top of your AP® Biology readings.

Did you know that AP® Bio is one of the most reading-intensive AP® classes that the College Board offers? Your teacher will likely assign one or two chapters per night, which means 30 to 60 pages of material each evening. AP® Biology material is dense! 

If you miss even one night of reading, you’ll fall behind very quickly. Don’t just passively read the information, either. You have to actively read and make sure you’re actually absorbing the material as you go. Try reading the chapter summary first, highlight important info, take meaningful notes, and explain a concept to yourself out loud if you seem to be struggling with it.

6. Know the 4 Big Ideas.

The College Board divides the AP® Biology curriculum into 4 Big Ideas. This means that all the key concepts and content you need to know for the exam are organized around four main principles:

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

As you learn and review new concepts, connect them back to these four big ideas. Use them to structure FRQ responses. To find out more about the 4 Big Ideas and the information you need to know for each, check out the AP® Biology Course and Exam Description .

7. Invest in an AP® Biology review book.

AP® Biology textbooks are heavy, thick, and full of details that are sometimes beyond the scope of the exam. How do you know, then, which information you actually need to know? Buy an AP® Biology review book ! Many of these AP® Bio review books come with practice exams, chapter reviews, and helpful hints. It’s important to only buy a review book that has been published in 2013 or later, since the exam was completely redesigned in 2013.

We recommend you complement any review book with online practice resources like Albert’s AP® Biology practice problems .

8. Watch the Crash Course Biology series on YouTube.

Sometimes, reading to review can get tiring. When you find yourself bored and unmotivated, try watching biology videos. The Biology Crash Course on YouTube has 40 videos dedicated to teaching you all the most important biology concepts. Injected with humor, fast-paced, and entertaining, these videos make it feel like you’re not actually studying at all. Still, make sure to actively watch, take notes, pause if you don’t understand something, or make a flashcard for a new term you hear about. 

There are other great YouTubers, such as Mr. Anderson, the teacher behind Bozeman Biology , who focus on AP® Biology content.

9. Participate in the “Dirty Dozen” labs.

Odds are, you’ll be able to participate in these 12 important labs in class. If not, you should research them for yourself. Check them out on the AP® Central website or review them with Albert’s help .

Return to the Table of Contents

AP® Biology Multiple-Choice Review: 6 Tips

1. know what the multiple-choice questions look like..

The multiple-choice questions on the AP® Bio exam are probably different from those on other AP® exams you’ve taken. They involve a lot of reading and analyzing diagrams, data, and images. They aren’t simple “What do plants release during photosynthesis?” fact-recall type questions. For each question, you will have to read a paragraph or interpret a graph or diagram, then use your knowledge of biological concepts to choose the best answer. Note that some questions may even have you read a paragraph and interpret a graph or diagram. Let’s look at a few examples:

Example #1.

AP® Biology Multiple-Choice Review - Sample MCQ1

Example #2.

AP® Biology Multiple-Choice Review - Sample MCQ2 part1

Image Source: College Board

As you can see from these two example questions, there is more to think about than just simply recalling facts. Often, several questions will be based on the same data sets and diagrams. For more questions like these, check out Albert’s AP® Biology practice .

2. Use standard multiple-choice strategies.

Using multiple-choice techniques, such as the process of elimination, making educated guesses, highlighting important information, and budgeting your time are important for any multiple-choice test. Let’s look at how these apply to the AP® Bio exam. On the multiple-choice section, you will have four options, rather than five. This means that if you can eliminate two choices, you have a 50% chance of getting the answer correct. 

When it comes to budgeting your time, it’s important to remember that you have an average of 90 seconds for each multiple-choice question. Try and stick to that time limit for each question, otherwise you may run out of time and have to leave some questions unanswered. Even better, if you pace so that each question takes less than a minute, you will have time to go back to any questions you skipped or guessed on.

3. Answer every question, and keep track of the ones you want to go back to.

You won’t lose any points for incorrect answers, but you potentially miss out on points if you leave a question blank, so as you work through the multiple choice section of the AP® Bio exam, mark an answer for every question. Keep track of the questions that you are uncertain about, guessed on, or need to double check. If you have time at the end, you can go back to these, but even if you run out of time, there is an answer down that might earn you points.

4. Learn to recognize patterns as well as their exceptions.

Multiple-choice questions often require you to choose the “best” answer or the one “false” answer. Strive to know about concepts and to make connections to other concepts. For example, know which enzymes are similar and different in both DNA replication and transcription. 

5. Eliminate extraneous information.

Lab-set and diagram questions can be tedious since you’ll have to do so much reading and analyzing. Find the question they’re asking you, and then go back to the data to find the answer to that question. It’s a simple technique, but when you have 60 multiple-choice questions to read, analyze, and answer in such a short time, pinpointing the actual question first can be helpful. Consider underlining important terms in the question and crossing out sentences or phrases that are not helpful.

6. Practice!

The only way to get better at answering complicated AP® Bio multiple-choice questions is to practice as much as possible. Practicing helps you become familiar with the format of the questions and gain some much-needed confidence. You will also learn which topics are frequently tested. You can find practice questions online, in review books, and in the College Board’s AP® Biology Course and Exam Description . Make sure you’re practicing questions from 2013 and later because older exams use the old, fact-recalling multiple-choice format and won’t help you for future AP® Bio exams. Consider making a plan to ensure that you are working on practice problems regularly.  For example, maybe you want to set time aside each day to work on practice problems.  Start with twenty minutes and build up by ten minute increments.  Eventually you will be able to focus and efficiently answer practice problems for the full 90 minutes.  Check out Albert’s biology resources for an extensive bank of practice questions.

Check out this article for more tips on answering the AP® Biology multiple choice questions.

AP® Biology Free Response Review: 11 Tips

We wrote a comprehensive guide complete with videos on how to answer AP® Biology free response questions here .

1. Know the FRQ format.

At the start of the AP® Bio free-response section of the exam, you will be given a 10-minute reading and planning period. After that, you’ll have 80 minutes to answer 6 essay questions, broken down like this:

For more information, see the exam Information section in the AP® Biology Course and Exam Description .

2. Use the entire 10-minute reading period.

Don’t underestimate the importance of the planning period! It’s given to you for a reason. Read through each of the questions, re-read them, and use the “planning space” to start putting your thoughts on paper. Draw diagrams, underline keywords, make notes, outline your responses, or whatever else you need to do to start formulating your answers. Ten minutes will feel like a long time, but use the entire time. Make sure you really know what the question is asking you; take the time to fully digest the question.

3. Explicitly define your terms.

Never write down a biological term without defining it. For example, you probably won’t get the point if you just write osmosis without mentioning “movement of water down a gradient across a semipermeable membrane.” Always incorporate a definition of some shape or form to show the AP® readers that you know what you’re talking about. In other words, don’t just inject fancy vocab words into your essays if you don’t know what they mean; the AP® readers will know.

If you don’t make this clear, your AP® grader will not reward you with full points. Reread your AP® Biology practice responses to make sure that you are defining terms as you use them.

4. Connect biological concepts to larger big ideas.

Your main focus in studying for the AP® Biology exam should be making connections. Knowing your vocabulary and labs is not useful if you can’t connect them to larger big ideas. On the FRQs, you’ll have to make claims and defend them, providing evidence to support your reasoning. How can you do this, while still making insightful connections across big ideas? The College Board has a few suggestions:

5. Know the types of questions.

The table below outlines some of the most common free-response question types, how to answer them, and real example questions from past AP® Bio exams.

You can click on the links included in the example questions column to see sample responses we were able to find..

Source: AP® Biology Course and Exam Description

Many times, a single free-response question on the AP® Bio exam will include several of these key terms, while some only include one key term. Pay attention to exactly what the question is asking you to do and be sure to answer every part. An example of a question that asks you to do several things in one would look like this:

“Based on the data in the table below, draw a phylogenetic tree that reflects the evolutionary relationships of the organisms based on the differences in their cytochrome c amino-acid sequences and explain the relationships of the organisms. Based on the data, identify which organism is most closely related to the chicken and explain your choice.”

6. Claim + Evidence + Reasoning.

This model of scientific argumentation can be helpful to keep in mind when writing your AP® Biology FRQs. Essentially, you have to read and understand the question asked, directly answer with a claim statement, back up your claim with detailed examples of evidence, then use reasoning to explain how this evidence justifies your claim. Just remember claim, evidence, reasoning when you’re writing your essays.  See how the use of this structure affected the scores in these sample responses on question 3 part b from the 2019 AP® Biology exam .

AP® Biology Multiple-Choice Review - CER part 1

Full credit response: “ A PDC deficiency does not change the amount of NADH produced by glycolysis, but it decreases the amount of NADH produced in the Krebs cycle.  This occurs because the PDC-catalyzed reaction to make acetyl-CoA occurs after glycolysis, leading to no impact, and before the Krebs cycle.  Without acetyl-CoA, the Krebs cycle cannot occur, so a PDC deficiency would halt all NADH production in this step.”

7. Answer the parts of the question in the order called for.

Try not to skip around too much when answering your FRQs. If you do, you might accidentally miss a part of a question. Instead, use the question’s labels (a, b, c, d, etc.) to stay organized and clear. Make it as easy as possible for the AP® readers to follow your answer. Consider having a friend or parent read over one of your AP® Biology practice responses to see if they can clearly identify where each piece of your response is.  If they cannot, assume that the AP® scorer will not either.

8. Know how to answer “Design an Experiment” questions.

Sometimes, you’ll be asked to design an experiment as part of your FRQ. This is where your knowledge of the “Dirty Dozen” labs comes in. You need to be familiar with lab procedures and terms. In your response, make sure to include:

  • Hypothesis (using the “if…then” structure)
  • Independent and dependent variables
  • Control, stating directly, “Controls are…”
  • Explanation of the data you will collect and how you will measure it
  • Materials list
  • Procedure list (what you will actually do)
  • Description of how the data will be graphed and analyzed
  • Conclusion (what you expect to happen and why, compare your results to your hypothesis)

Remember that your experiment should be at least theoretically possible and that your conclusions should stay consistent with the way you set up your experiment.

9. Know how to answer “Draw a Graph” questions.

If you’re asked to draw a graph based on data, be sure to include the following in your response:

  • Labeled x -axis (independent variable) and y -axis (dependent variable)
  • Equal and proportional increments
  • Name and units
  • Smooth curve
  • Appropriate title
  • If more than one curve is plotted, label on each curve instead of using a legend

Hint: Most of the points for a graphing question come from proper setup!  Check out this example from the 2017 AP® Biology Exam :

AP® Biology Multiple-Choice Review

The scoring rubric specifies that this graph is worth 3 points:

AP® Biology Multiple-Choice Review

10. Be specific and thorough.

Avoid flowery and vague language in your AP® Bio FRQs. You don’t want to say something like: “Many parts of a cell are important in cell respiration.” This sentence is way too general and doesn’t really say anything at all. Whenever you use a biology term in your essay, offer specific examples of that term, such as “The electron transport chain (ETC), located in the inner membrane of the mitochondria, powers cellular respiration.” Remember that your goal is to convince an AP® bio exam reader that you know what you’re talking about.

11. Manage your time.

It can be easy to get carried away when writing your FRQs. Remember that you have to write 6 essays in only 80 minutes. You need to spend more time on the two long free-response questions than on the six short free-response questions. You should be spending approximately 20 minutes on each long FRQ and 10 minutes for each short FRQ. Time yourself  taking a practice exam. Consider how long it takes you to answer the FRQs fully, and where you spend the most time. 

Reflect on what strategies you can use to streamline your writing process, and use this information to adjust how you approach the exam: for example, it’s ok to spend more time on the outline if it helps you write out your final answers more quickly. Be aware of where you might lose track of time, and wear a watch during the exam. 

You can check the time when you feel that you might be falling behind your pacing and adjust how much time you can spend on the remaining questions. You don’t want to end up with no time to answer a question and miss out on 10 points.

Tips by AP® Biology Teachers and Students

General ap® biology tips from teachers: , 1. look for “real life” examples of what you’re learning..

Go to websites like Biology News , Science Daily , and The Chemical Heritage Foundation . Search for articles in the subject you’re learning. The more ways you learn something the better!

2. Know the “how” and “why” of a topic.

If you can’t explain how something works, knowing it is pointless. Stop and quiz yourself about something you just learned. How does that process work? If you can’t explain it in your own words, you need a better understanding of it.

3. It helps to memorize things.

AP® Bio is less memorization than it used to be, but it still helps to memorize things. You should still be able to recall things at the drop of a hat, but you don’t need to know all 12 of the reactions involved in glycolysis.

4. Do lots of genetics practice problems.

Practice working with Hardy-Weinberg formulas , Punnett Squares, and Chi-Square tests . Also, memorize the common crosses, like dihybrid monocross .

5. For test prep, use the released exams!

Work through all the available multiple choice and FRQs on the College Board website and practice the questions your teacher provides you with. This can go a long way in helping you figure out the type of questions the exam asks, the common material on the exam, and how to manage your time. Also, check out the student answers to released FRQs, as well as the FRQ answer keys to get an idea of what kind and how much information is needed to get full credit.

AP® Biology Free Response Tips

1. know how to set up your essays..

When you’re planning your essays, follow this structure:

  • Introductory sentence
  • Several broad points
  • Examples to prove your points
  • Closing sentence to summarize

Fill in this general structure with details and specifics. Write in short, declarative sentences. Thanks to Mr. C. from Alliance Cindy & Bill Simon Technology Academy High School for the tip!

2. Apply the language of science.

FRQs require that you show depth, elaboration, and give examples. You need to loop together your ideas and show how they connect. Don’t just rely on factual regurgitation. Thanks to Mr. Jeremy M. from Blue Valley Northwest High School for the tips!

3. Remember that the AP® graders are looking for certain statements to award points.

If an FRQ asks you to describe mutualism, for example, you need to both define it and elaborate on it to receive full points. As a general rule, always support your definitions with at least one example. Thanks to Dr. L. from Framingham High School for the tip!

4. Answer the question as concisely as possible.

Avoid writing down everything you know about a certain topic. If you do, you might contradict yourself or write down something which is wrong. You can be penalized for this. Thanks to Mr. F. from Dauphin Regional Comprehensive Secondary School for the tip!

5. Answer something for every question.

If you don’t know how to answer a free-response question, don’t panic. Begin with defining some terms related to the topic. Elaborate with an example or more detailed explanation of the things you can remember about the core biology topic. Some of the most common topics on the AP® bio exam are:

  • Evolution (as a whole)
  • Genetics/genetic regulation (transcription, translation, etc.)
  • Population ecology
  • Animal function/physiology
  • Muscular System
  • Nervous System
  • Endocrine System
  • Immune System

Don’t just memorize the parts, but understand the processes and relationships. For example, know how an antibody attacking postsynaptic receptors leads to certain responses. If you have a great detailed and conceptual understanding of these topics, you will be able to get some points! Thanks to Mrs. S. from North High School and Ms. Kelly O. from Colleyville Heritage High School for the tips!

6. No detail is too small as long as it is to the point and on topic.

For example, if a question asks about the structure of DNA , talk about the helix, the bases, the hydrogen bonds, introns, exons, etc. Do not waste time talking about RNA, expression, Mendelian genetics , etc. Thanks to Ms. Louise H. from Friedrich Von Steuben Metropolitan Science Center for the tip!

Are you a teacher or student? Do you have an awesome tip? Let us know!

Wrapping Things Up: The Ultimate List of AP® Biology Tips

The AP® Biology exam may be one of the hardest AP® exams out there, but with practice and preparation, you will be able to score a 5. Build a strong foundation for deep understanding of concepts by focusing on key terms, definitions, and diagrams.

Practice multiple choice and free-response questions, making sure to read the questions carefully and answer them fully. Remember to clearly show your knowledge in FRQs by defining any scientific terms you use and making connections between concepts. When in doubt, ground your answers in the four big ideas: 

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  • Top AP Biology Exam Strategies

August 17, 2022

The two sections of the AP Biology exam test similar content but with different question types. The following strategies will help you do well on both sections of the AP Biology exam.

AP Biology Section I: Multiple-Choice Questions

Strategy #1: do not skip over the scenarios and/or diagrams presented in the stem of the question. .

A stem that contains a description of a scenario and/or a diagram or graph will precede many of the multiple-choice questions. In a testing situation where time is limited, students are sometimes tempted to save time by skipping over the stem and proceeding directly to the question. Don’t do this! Often, taking just 30 seconds to read over the data or scenario presented will make it easier to answer the question or questions that follow it. The scenario presented in the stem of the question often will have important background information that will help you answer the question. If you are presented with a graph, note the variables shown on each axis and their units , and try to detect any patterns in the data. In data tables or charts, note the column headings and their units , and observe any trends or patterns in the data. 

Strategy #2: Do NOT be afraid of organisms or genes you may not have heard of before. 

There are so many great examples of organisms, genes, and ecosystems that apply to the content of the AP Biology course, and no teacher or textbook can mention all of them. Any example that is not explicitly included in the AP Biology Course and Exam Description will be described in enough detail in the question so that you will have enough background information to answer the question. Therefore, don’t worry if you see a question about the CYP6M2 gene in Anopheles gambiae and you’ve never heard of either before! The stem of the question will tell you what you need to know about that gene and organism (for example, that the CYP6M2 gene confers insecticide resistance to Anopheles mosquitoes), so all you need to do is apply your knowledge and skills to that background information to find the correct answer. 

Strategy #3: Do NOT be tempted by the “distractors.”

Incorrect answer choices are called distractors. As you read each question, cover the answer choices with a piece of paper or your hand. Before you reveal the answer choices, think of the characteristics that a good answer to the question at hand will contain. Then, reveal the answer choices and choose the answer that best fits the characteristics you know a good answer will have. It is often easier to focus your brain on finding the best answer rather than trying to eliminate each of the distractors. 

Strategy #4: DO pace yourself. 

You will have 90 minutes to answer 60 multiple-choice questions. If it is taking you more than two minutes to answer a question, move on to the next question and go back to that question later. Just make sure to skip the bubble in the answer sheet for each question you skip so that the following answers are filled in in the correct bubbles. 

Strategy #5: DO answer every question.

There is no guessing penalty on the AP Biology exam. If you leave a question blank, you are guaranteed to not earn points for that question, so answer every question, even if you have to guess. Never leave a question blank on the AP Biology exam! Reserve the last two or three minutes of the time allotted for Section I to check that you have answered all of the questions and have not left any questions blank. 

AP Biology Section II: Free-Response Questions

Strategy #1: do not leave any questions blank. .

Even if you think you don’t know how to answer the question, reread the question to see what terms in the question you do know something about. Then, use those terms as the basis for your answer, keeping in mind the task verbs in the question. As in Section I, if you leave a question blank, you are guaranteed to not earn points on that question, but if you write something, you may earn some points that could make the difference between a score of a 3, 4, or 5. Never give up—remember, you CAN do this!

Strategy #2: Do NOT make any contradictory statements. 

For example, if you state that the function of the mitochondria is to generate energy for the cell (a correct statement) but then later in your response state that the function of the mitochondria is also to perform photosynthesis (an incorrect statement), you have made two contradictory statements. Thus, you will not earn any points for either of those statements. 

Strategy #3: DO plan your approach to Section II.

Take the first 5–10 minutes allotted for Section II to “read and rank.” Read all six free-response questions, and then place the number 1 next to the question you think will be the easiest for you, the number 2 next to the next easiest question, and so on. You do not have to answer the questions in the order they appear in the test. Sometimes the easiest free-response questions are at the end of this section, and if you get hung up on a more challenging question that appears earlier, you may never get to the easier questions you are likely to earn points on. 

Strategy #4: DO read each question carefully.

Read each question carefully at least two times. Each time you read the question, circle or underline key words, especially any bolded words (which are the action or task verbs), any numbers, or any words like and or or (which indicate whether all or some of the items mentioned need to be addressed). 

Strategy #5: DO pace yourself. 

You will have 90 minutes to complete all six free-response questions. Some of the free-response questions will require less time; others will require more time. Here is a suggested time plan for Section II:

  • First 5–10 minutes for “read and rank”
  • 20 minutes for each of the two long free-response questions for a total of 40 minutes
  • 5–10 minutes for each of the four short free-response questions for a total of 20–40 minutes

Strategy #6: DO write legibly. 

This may seem obvious, but if your answer is unclear or unreadable, the AP reader cannot award you points for it. Use a black ballpoint pen to write your answer. If you make a mistake, just cross it out with a single strikethrough—any more than that is unnecessary. If your handwriting is particularly difficult to read, consider writing on every other line in the test booklet. Don’t worry about running out of pages—the test booklet usually contains more blank pages than are typically needed, and the test proctor is required to give you extra pages if you do run out of paper in the test booklet. 

Strategy #7: DO label your graphs completely with units. 

If a question asks you to construct a graph, always make sure the axes are labeled clearly with the appropriate units. A unitless graph will not earn points. Use consistent scaling on your axes, and give your graph a title. 

Strategy #8: DO label the parts of your answer appropriately. 

This makes it easier for the reader who scores your exam to award you points. However, if you happen to answer part (a) of a question in the section you labeled (b), the reader will still award you points for it. 

Strategy #9: DO use complete sentences. 

As per the instructions for Section II, use complete sentences in your answers. You will not be awarded points for bulleted lists. If you use a drawing in your answer, make sure to also describe it in complete sentences. 

Strategy #10: DO ATP (Address the Prompt). 

Do not waste time writing an introductory paragraph, a thesis statement, or a concluding paragraph. Do not restate the question—the reader knows what the question is! While you need to be clear in your writing, you are not being evaluated on your ability to write a well-constructed essay, as you might be in an AP English course. You ARE being evaluated on your knowledge of biology. Make sure you understand the question prompt and what it is asking you to do. Then, reread your answer to make sure you addressed all of the task verbs in the question and did not make any contradictory statements. 

Strategy #11: DO pay attention to the task verbs!

Pay attention to these action verbs, which are typically bolded in the long and short free-response questions, as these words indicate what the question requires you to provide in your response. Some of the most frequently used task verbs are the following: 

  • Predict —state what you think will happen if a change is made in a system or process
  • Justify —give evidence to support your prediction
  • Make a claim —make a statement based on the available data or evidence
  • Support a claim —give evidence to defend a claim
  • Describe —note the characteristics of something
  • Explain —state “why” or “how” something happens (Note: This is more demanding than describing.)
  • Identify —provide the information that is asked for (Note: This is less demanding than describing.)
  • Calculate —perform the requested calculation, and ALWAYS show your work and your units!
  • Construct —make a graph (show units!) or a diagram that illustrates data or a relationship
  • Determine —make a conclusion based on evidence 
  • State — give a null hypothesis or an alternative hypothesis that is supported by data/evidence
  • Evaluate —assess the validity or accuracy of a claim or hypothesis

AP Biology Resources

  • About the AP Biology Exam
  • Top 5 Study Topics and Tips for the AP Biology Exam
  • AP Biology Short Free-Response Questions
  • AP Biology Long Free-Response Questions

AP Psychology Resources

  • What’s Tested on the AP Psychology Exam?
  • Top 5 Study Tips for the AP Psychology Exam
  • AP Psychology Key Terms
  • Top AP Psychology Exam Multiple-Choice Question Tips
  • Top AP Psychology Exam Free Response Questions Tips
  • AP Psychology Sample Free Response Question

AP English Language and Composition Resources

  • What’s Tested on the AP English Language and Composition Exam?
  • Top 5 Tips for the AP English Language and Composition Exam
  • Top Reading Techniques for the AP English Language and Composition Exam
  • How to Answer the AP English Language and Composition Essay Questions 
  • AP English Language and Composition Exam Sample Essay Questions
  • AP English Language and Composition Exam Multiple-Choice Questions

AP Human Geography Resources

  • What’s Tested On the AP Human Geography Exam?
  • AP Human Geography FAQs
  • AP Human Geography Question Types and Strategies
  • Top 5 Study Tips for the AP Human Geography Exam


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FRQ Strategies

may 7, 2020

Caroline Koffke

Caroline Koffke

In this session, Caroline goes through the two FRQ types that will appear on the AP exam. She covers key action words and a practice example that utilizes those action words and then goes through the major equations necessary for the exam.

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  1. How to Do Well on the AP Biology Free Response (FRQ)

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  2. How to Do Well on the AP Biology Free Response (FRQ)

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