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Pre-AP Biology sparks student motivation and critical thinking about our living world as they engage in real-world data analysis and problem solving. Through the Areas of Focus, students engage deeply with science practices to construct and refine their biological knowledge and strengthen their cross-disciplinary reading, writing, and mathematical skills as they analyze data. Pre-AP Biology fosters student growth as they make meaningful connections among the structures, processes, and interactions that exist within and across living systems—from cells to ecological communities. Pre-AP Biology motivates students to be active participants in analyzing real-world phenomena and to collaborate productively with their peers in dialogue, investigations, and problem solving.  

Areas of Focus

Each Pre-AP course focuses on a small set of discipline-specific instructional priorities that support both teacher practice and student learning within the discipline. These areas of focus reflect research-supported reasoning practices that should receive greater emphasis in instructional materials and assessments than they often do. Pre-AP recognizes that many teachers and schools already embrace these disciplinary practices, and now we're offering resources that specifically emphasize these areas of focus.

Pre-AP Biology Areas of Focus:

  • 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 labeling diagrams to modeling biological processes to demonstrate and revise understanding of key patterns, interactions, and relationships.

Underlying Unit Foundations

These big ideas are addressed across units:

  • Evolution
  • Energy
  • Interdependence

Course at a Glance

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

Unit 1: Ecological Systems
Timeframe: 4–5 weeks

Key concepts:

  • Cycling of Matter in the Biosphere
  • Population Dynamics
  • Defining Ecological Communities
  • Ecological Community Dynamics
  • Changes in Ecological Communities 
Unit 2: Evolution
Timeframe: 3–4 weeks

Key concepts:

  • Patterns of Evolution
  • Mechanisms of Evolution
  • Speciation
Unit 3: Cellular Systems
Timeframe: 9–10 weeks

Key concepts:

  • Chemistry of Life
  • Cell Structure and Function
  • Cell Transport and Homeostasis
  • Organisms Maintaining Homeostasis
  • Cell Growth and Division
  • Photosynthesis
  • Cellular Respiration and Fermentation
Unit 4: Genetics
Timeframe: 8–9 weeks

Key concepts:

  • Structure of DNA
  • DNA Synthesis
  • Protein Synthesis
  • Asexual and Sexual Passing of Genes
  • Inheritance Patterns
  • Biotechnology

    Instructional Resources

    Schools that officially implement a Pre-AP course will receive access to instructional resources for each unit. These resources don’t constitute a full day-by-day curriculum. Instead, they provide support and model lessons as teachers design instruction for each unit.

    Pre-AP Biology instructional resources include:

    • A course framework and model lessons for key concepts within each unit that provide guidance and support for teaching the course.
    • One or two practice performance tasks with scoring guidelines and instructional support suggestions for each unit. 

    Assessments for Learning

    Each unit contains:

    • Short, open-ended formative assessment problems or questions embedded in some model lessons to show targeted content and skills, related to the lesson’s learning objectives, that students should master.
    • Two online learning checkpoints per unit that feature multiple-choice and technology-enhanced questions modeled closely after the types of questions students encounter on SAT tests and AP Exams. Learning checkpoints require students to examine graphs, data, and short texts— often set in authentic contexts—to respond to a targeted set of questions that measure student understanding of unit concepts and skills.
    • One performance task per unit that engages students in sustained problem solving and asks them to synthesize skills and concepts from across the unit to answer questions about a novel context.
    • A final exam allows students to demonstrate their mastery of the skills learned throughout the course. This exam is optional.