Pre-AP Biology

Pre-AP Biology prepares students for AP Biology and other challenging science coursework by giving them foundational knowledge in the areas of biological systems—macro and micro—and their interdependence.

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Pre-AP Biology focuses deeply on the concepts and skills that have maximum value for college and career.

This course concentrates on the core areas of ecological systems, cellular systems, evolution, and genetics. Rather than understanding content topics in isolation, students will make meaningful connections between the structures, processes, and interactions that exist across biological systems—from cells to ecological communities.

In Pre-AP Biology, students will:

  • Be active participants in analyzing real-world phenomena.
  • Apply science practices to construct and revise their knowledge.
  • Regularly collaborate with their peers in dialogue, investigations, and problem solving. 

Instructional Shifts

Pre-AP Biology instructional resources focus on the following key instructional shifts:

  • Emphasis on analytical reading and writing: Students engage in analytical reading and writing to gain, retain, and apply scientific knowledge.
  • Focus on applying mathematics: Students use mathematics to understand and express the quantitative aspects of biology, to record and interpret experimental data, and to solve problems as they arise.
  • Attention to modeling: Students go beyond just labeling diagrams to modeling biological processes to demonstrate and revise understanding of key patterns, interactions, and relationships.

Course at a Glance

The tabs below show the four main units in Pre-AP Biology, the recommended length of each unit, and the key topics in each.


Unit title: Ecology

Timeframe: 4 weeks

Key topics:

  • Biogeochemical cycles
  • Ecological roles and species niche
  • Food webs and energy flow in ecosystems
  • Population and community dynamics
  • Changes to biodiversity

Unit title: Evolution

Timeframe: 4 weeks

Key topics:

  • Patterns and rates of change
  • Common ancestry
  • Mechanisms of evolution
  • Micro and macroevolution
  • Modern evolution and classification

Unit title: Cellular Systems

Timeframe: 10 weeks

Key topics:

Cellular Structure and Function (5–6 weeks):

  • Biochemistry
  • Cell organelles
  • Cell differentiation
  • Cell cycle and regulation
  • Cell growth and repair (mitosis)

Cell Transport and Energy (4–5 weeks)

  • Osmosis and diffusion
  • Homeostasis
  • Photosynthesis
  • Aerobic and anaerobic respiration

Unit title: Genetics

Timeframe: 10 weeks

Key topics:

Introduction to Genetics (4–5 weeks):

  • DNA structure and function
  • Genetic mutations
  • RNA and protein synthesis

Human Heredity (5–6 weeks):

  • Meiosis
  • Patterns and probability of inheritance
  • Genetic disorders
  • Genetic engineering

Underlying Unit Foundations

These big ideas are addressed across units:

  • Biological evolution
  • Genetic inheritance
  • Biological systems
  • Interdependence

Instructional Resources

  • A course framework and targeted lessons and tasks for each unit provide teacher support and student scaffolding for implementing the instructional shifts and shared routines.
  • Local school or district materials can be used alongside the Pre-AP resources during the unit with continued infusion of instructional shifts and routines.
  • Units include in-lesson recommendations for targeted Khan Academy practice to support foundational skills in math.

Assessments and Feedback

Each unit includes:

  • Assessments: Short, digital formative quizzes, or learning checkpoints, offer opportunities for actionable feedback within each unit.
  • A performance task (assignment): This performance-based task is scored by the teacher. It features a multistep real-world problem that builds readiness for free-response questions on the AP Exam.