Pre-AP Biology

Offer Pre-AP Biology at your school.

In Pre-AP Biology, students engage in real-world data analysis and problem solving that sparks critical thinking about our living world. As students engage in grade-level content, they utilize the kind of scientific reasoning skills needed to analyze the natural world—and to succeed in future science and social science courses in high school and college.


Areas of Focus

The Pre-AP science areas of focus are vertically aligned to the science practices embedded in high school and college courses, including AP. This gives students multiple opportunities to think and work like scientists as they develop and strengthen these disciplinary reasoning skills throughout their education in the sciences:

  • Emphasis on analytical reading and writing: Students engage in analytical reading and writing to gain, retain, and apply scientific knowledge and to carry out scientific argumentation.
  • Strategic use of mathematics: Students use mathematics strategically in order to understand and express quantitative aspects of biology, to record and interpret experimental data, and to solve problems.
  • Attention to modeling: Students go beyond labeling diagrams to creating, revising, and using models to explain key patterns, interactions, and relationships in biological systems.

Unit Foundations

These four big ideas are addressed across all units:

  • The process of evolution drives the diversity and unity of life.
  • Growth and reproduction in biological systems are dependent upon the cycling of matter and the transformation of energy.
  • Biological systems, occurring at various scales, respond and adapt to stimuli in order to maintain dynamic homeostasis.
  • Genetic mechanisms are essential to maintaining biological systems.

Course at a Glance

Pre-AP Biology has four main units. Their key topics and recommended length are outlined here:

  • Unit 1: Ecological Systems (~5 weeks)
  • Unit 2: Evolution (~4 weeks)
  • Unit 3: Cellular Systems (~10 weeks)
  • Unit 4: Genetics (~9 weeks)

Instructional Resources

These resources support teachers as they design instruction for each unit, but do not constitute a full day-by-day curriculum. They are intended to be used alongside local school or district materials to address objectives of the course framework:

  • Course framework: An anchor for model lessons and assessments, the framework defines what students should know and be able to do by the end of the course. Teachers can use this as the primary document to align instruction and course content.
  • Teacher resources: Available in print and online, these include a robust set of model lessons that demonstrate how to translate the course framework, shared principles, and areas of focus into daily instruction.

Additional Resources

Pre-AP Biology does require additional resources for model lessons. Most are commonly found in science stock rooms and are low-tech and low-cost, ensuring that all students can engage in inquiry-based investigations and reasoning. These include:

  • Consumable items that are usually replaced yearly (e.g., yeast, filters, pipettes, hydrogen peroxide)
  • General stock room equipment (e.g., flasks, beakers, Bunsen burners, microscopes). See the full list.

Assessments for Learning

Each unit contains:

  • In-lesson formatives: Short, open-ended formative assessment problems or questions embedded in model lessons. These highlight the targeted content and skills that students should master.
  • 2 learning checkpoints: These 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 in authentic context—to respond to questions that measure student understanding of the unit’s concepts and skills.
  • 1 performance task: Engages students in sustained problem-solving and asks them to synthesize the unit’s skills and concepts while answering questions in a novel context.
  • Practice performance task: 1 or 2 practice performance tasks with scoring guidelines and instructional suggestions.

A final exam allows students to demonstrate their success on the skills and content outlined in the course frameworks. This exam is optional. Pre-AP has not offered practice exams or published exam questions from prior years.