Practice tests can help you get familiar with the structure of the AP Biology exam and feel more comfortable with the types of questions you'll be expected to answer on test day. Studying with practice tests can also give you insight into the specific struggles you might have with the material as presented on the AP test. You can then focus your studying appropriately to tackle these problems.
In this article, I'll list all the practice tests for AP Biology that you can find online and give you a few tips on how to use them effectively as study aids for both the AP test and any in-class tests you have throughout the school year.
2020 AP Test Changes Due to COVID-19
Due to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, AP tests will now be held remotely, and information about how that will work is still evolving. Stay up to date with the latest information on test dates, AP online review, and what this means for you with our AP COVID-19 FAQ article.
Official AP Biology Practice Exams
Official practice tests provide the best preparation for the AP test. You can be sure that the questions are accurate representations of what you'll see on the final exam.
Unfortunately, I could only find one official practice test for the new version of the AP Biology test since the format and content changed so recently (2012). However, this practice test also has other information that makes it more helpful. It tells you how to calculate your score and includes detailed answer explanations for each question at the end.
Don't start your practice with this test. It's the most accurate preparation you'll have for the real AP test, so you should save it for towards the end of your second semester when you feel confident that you've mastered the material. It's better to begin studying with the unofficial tests in the next section as a warm-up!
You can also access official free-response questions from 2013, 2014, and 2015 on the College Board website.
The free-response section of the AP Biology test is usually considered to be the most difficult part, so it's good to have a little extra practice with these even if you're not answering them in the context of a full practice test.
In addition to these resources, all AP teachers have access to a bunch of free official practice AP tests online. You can ask your teacher if he or she will print a couple out for you to use in your studying.
It might take more than one apple to get those extra practice tests out of your teacher, but ultimately everyone has a price.
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Unofficial AP Biology Practice Exams
There are many unofficial AP Biology practice tests out there that you can use to help review the material. There's nothing wrong with using these tests to get more practice, but try not to rely on them exclusively because they are not always totally accurate representations of the real AP Biology exam. Some are aligned with the format of the pre-2012 exam, and some are just multiple-choice tests of varying lengths with no free response questions.
Because the AP Biology exam has been revised, you'll get a more accurate estimate of how well you're doing if you use recent practice tests that are aligned with the new test's format. Before 2012, the AP Biology test had 100 multiple-choice questions and four free-response questions rather than the current 63 multiple-choice questions, six grid-in questions, six short free-response questions, and two long free-response questions. The old test was also more memorization-based.
On the current AP Biology exam, you'll have to answer a lot of questions that involve analyzing experimental data using your background knowledge of biology. You won't see questions that just ask you to do something like identify parts of a process in a diagram.
A couple of these unofficial tests do have the same format as the current exam, including the Barron's practice test and all the tests in the "subscription needed" section. You should save these for later on in your second semester when you want to get a more accurate assessment of your readiness for the final exam (and then follow them up with the official practice test in the previous section if you feel confident that you've fixed your problem areas!).
Free AP Biology Practice Tests
- Barron's offers a free practice test online that has the same format as the current AP test.
- You can take it in timed or untimed (“practice”) mode.
- If you use practice mode, you can see answer explanations as you go along.
- The multiple-choice section has automated scoring, but you'll have to self-score your free-response answers (guidelines are provided).
- This is an old-format test that includes 100 multiple choice questions and four free-response questions.
- It also has detailed answer explanations for all questions.
- This is a list of ten multiple-choice diagnostic tests rated by difficulty level.
- Tests 4-10 have the same number of questions as the real multiple-choice section.
- Sorry, there are no free-response questions on this site.
- There are a few unit-specific quizzes here along with two longer practice tests that have almost as many questions as the multiple-choice section on the real exam (58 and 62 as opposed to 63 + 6 grid-ins).
- There are no free-response questions.
- These are a couple more old-format multiple-choice tests with answers included at the end.
- If you just want to test yourself on the basic information in the course, these could be useful.
Shmoop Practice Tests (free trial available, $24.68 a month for subscription)
- A subscription to Shmoop will get you access to a diagnostic test plus five full AP Biology practice tests (including both multiple-choice and free-response questions, although these are of course unofficial).
- Shmoop tries a little too hard to relate to kids with their writing style, but if you're not put off by that, it might be a good resource for you.
BenchPrep Practice Tests (with subscription that costs $30 a month)
- Here, you'll get access to two full practice tests plus a ton of lessons.
Practice Tests in Review Books
- You might also decide to order a review book to get access to more practice tests.
- You'll find some good resources in the books listed in my article on the best AP Biology books for 2016.
Make sure you have some nice fresh erasers cuz your pencils are in for a wild ride across the treacherous terrain of the AP Biology curriculum. Wooohooooo!
How to Use AP Biology Practice Tests
This section is full of all the advice you need to follow to use AP Biology practice tests effectively during both your first and second semesters in the class.
First Semester: Using Practice Tests for Your Class
Although it might not make sense to take full practice tests yet, you can still use the materials in this article as resources for your studying. Look for free-response questions that relate to what you've learned so far so that you can start to get familiar with their format and expectations.
There are also plenty of sites that have quizzes that touch on specific units in the AP Biology curriculum. These include Learnerator, Varsity Tutors (which I mention above for diagnostic tests, but they also have subject-by-subject quizzes), and Quizlet. These won't be official questions, but they will help prepare you for in-class assessments and serve as a solid introduction to the types of questions you might be asked on the AP test. You should also check out my complete AP Biology review guide for more advice on how you can use online resources to study specific units of the course.
Second Semester: Preparing for the AP Test
By this time, you should be familiar with most of the material that you'll see on the test. This means you can start using full practice tests to judge how you'll score on the AP test and where your weaknesses lie. Remember to time yourself accurately when you take practice tests!
Each time you take and score a practice test, you should also do an evaluation of your mistakes that will inform your studying going forward. Mistakes come in a few different forms, and things can be even more complex on the AP Biology test because there are technically four types of questions.
Focus on the multiple-choice section first, including the grid-ins. Notice whether your mistakes tend to happen on straightforward questions where you just didn't have the content knowledge or on questions that require deeper analysis. Were there specific content areas where you missed a significant number of questions? Keep track of this so that you can go back into your notes and review the appropriate unit(s). These are easy mistakes to fix.
Did you have trouble interpreting and analyzing scenarios on the test even though you knew the background information? The remedy for this is more practice. There are many sites with AP Bio practice questions available. This book of practice questions is also useful because the questions faithfully replicate the new design of the test.
It's possible that your problem lies outside the specifics of the questions and more in the format of the test. Did you run out of time? Make a ton of careless mistakes? The solution to this is greater awareness of your pacing and more practice questions.
Careless mistakes can be avoided by greater awareness of your surroundings. Also, how did someone even fit that big of a gum wad in their mouth? Was a giant chewing gum in this parking lot? Should we be concerned about his current location? I have a lot of questions.
Grid-ins are weird, so you may have had trouble on them if you're not big on the math aspect of biology. Try to find similar problems in your textbook, review book, or online so that you can practice your skills. The more math-oriented biology questions you do over time, the more likely it is that the questions on the test will be aligned with what you've already seen.
After taking your multiple-choice mistakes into account, you can move onto the free response section. Notice which questions gave you the most trouble and why. Did you forget the information you needed, or were you confused about what the question was asking or how to analyze a diagram? Take these findings and apply them to your future practice!
Essential AP Biology Practice Testing Tips
Follow these four tips to be sure to get the most out of your AP Biology practice tests.
#1: Replicate Realistic Test Conditions
It's always important to be faithful to the rules of the real test when you take practice tests so that your scores accurately reflect your potential. That means an hour and thirty minutes for each section. This is the only way to judge whether time is going to be an issue for you. You should also print out the test so that you take it in the right format. Have a calculator on hand as well. If you're really dedicated, you can even have someone serve as your mock proctor.
#2: Don't Panic if You're Not Familiar With Scenarios You See on the Test
Even if you've gone over every in-class lab that you had to do for AP Biology, you will still run into examples you haven't seen before. It's important not to psych yourself out when this happens. Focus on the diagrams and what you can learn from them, and see if you can think of a related experiment that will clue you into what they mean. Use your common sense; many questions will depend more heavily on your ability to analyze the situation at hand than on your memorization talent.
#3: Give Yourself Plenty of Time for the Grid-Ins
The so-called multiple-choice section also includes six grid-in questions. These questions are at the end of the section, and they will probably take you longer to solve than most multiple-choice questions. Try not to spend more than a minute on each multiple-choice question. If you find that you're taking too much time, you should move on and come back to it later!
#4: Spend 5-10 Minutes Reading the Free-Response Questions Before You Start Writing
It's a smart idea to start with the free-response questions that you know you can answer quickly and accurately. Leading with these questions will boost your confidence and help you avoid problems with time. Use the short reading period to look over all eight free-response questions and see which ones will be easiest for you to tackle.
For example, I would definitely answer a question about snails first. I love snails. My pet snail died not too long ago, and I'm scared to get another one because I don't want to feel that pain again.
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You should take plenty of practice tests as part of your studying for AP Biology. You can't expect pure memorization to save you on questions that ask you to analyze scenarios you've never seen before. Practice questions are the key to improvement!
You can use a mixture of official and unofficial tests to practice. Just be wary of major differences in your scores from test to test so that you can accurately assess your readiness for the final. You can even use these tests throughout the year to practice for specific units of the course. If you do enough serious practice, the real AP test will be a piece of cake (well, maybe not, but it will be much less traumatizing).
Check out my detailed guide to the AP Biology Exam for more information about what's on this test and how you can prepare for it.
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Samantha is a blog content writer for PrepScholar. Her goal is to help students adopt a less stressful view of standardized testing and other academic challenges through her articles. Samantha is also passionate about art and graduated with honors from Dartmouth College as a Studio Art major in 2014. In high school, she earned a 2400 on the SAT, 5's on all seven of her AP tests, and was named a National Merit Scholar.