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The Pre-AP Biology course emphasizes the integration of content with science practices—powerful reasoning tools that support students in analyzing the natural world around them. This ability is one of the hallmarks of scientific literacy, and it cultivates a more sustainable pathway to numerous college and career opportunities in science as well as numerous natural and social sciences. This course focuses deeply on the foundational biology knowledge and skills that matter most in preparing students for subsequent coursework in science. This course concentrates on the core areas of ecological systems, evolution, cellular systems, 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:

  • Actively participate 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. 

Areas of Focus

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: Ecological Systems

Timeframe: 4 weeks

Key topics:

  • Cycling of matter in the biosphere
  • Population dynamics
  • Defining ecological communities
  • Ecological community dynamics
  • Changes in ecological communities

Unit title: Evolution

Timeframe: 4 weeks

Key topics:

  • Patterns of evolution
  • Mechanisms of evolution
  • Speciation

Unit title: Cellular Systems

Timeframe: 9-10 weeks

Key topics:

  • Chemistry of life
  • Cell structure and function
  • Cell transport and homeostasis
  • Organisms maintaining homeostasis
  • Cell growth and division
  • Photosynthesis
  • Cellular respiration and fermentation

Unit title: Genetics

Timeframe: 9-10 weeks

Key topics:

  • Structure of DNA
  • DNA synthesis
  • Protein synthesis
  • Asexual and sexual passing of genes
  • Inheritance patterns
  • Biotechnology


Underlying Unit Foundations

These big ideas are addressed across units:

  • Biological evolution
  • Genetic inheritance
  • Biological systems
  • Interdependence

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 modeling as teachers design instruction for each unit.

Pre-AP Biology instructional resources include:

  • A course framework and targeted lessons for key concepts within each unit that provide guidance and models for teaching the course.
  • 1–2 laboratory investigations and 1 practice performance assessment for each unit.
  • Units with in-lesson recommendations for targeted Khan Academy® practice to support foundational skills in math.

Assessments and Feedback

Each unit includes:

  • 2 short online quizzes featuring multiple-choice questions modeled closely after the types of questions students encounter on SAT tests and AP exams. Unit quizzes require students to examine data, models, diagrams, and short texts—all set in authentic contexts—to respond to a targeted set of questions that measure concepts and skills from the unit.
  • 1 performance task that evaluates the depth of student understanding of key concepts and skills that are not easily assessed in a multiple-choice format. Performance tasks in the Ecological Systems and Cellular Systems units are modeled after the AP free-response question style. Performance tasks in the Evolution and Genetics units will engage students in hands-on data analysis and modeling skills.