Tips For Writing AP Biology Exam Essays
The AP exam is intentionally created to be difficult and challenging. It is not uncommon for the
national average on a giving essay to be 50% (5 out of 10 possible points). You have spent the
school year diligently preparing for this exam, so although it is likely that the test writers have
come up with some things you don’t know, it is also more than likely that you know several useful
and relevant facts for any possible essay question. Relax and prepare to enjoy your passing
score this summer.
Do these things:
1. Carefully read the question.
2. Carefully read the question – this is not a typo. It is easy to overlook things when you are
under pressure, and it is common for students to misread the question and write the wrong
3. Write neatly and clearly.
4. Answer the question in order – label parts a, b, and c if the question has parts a, b, and c.
5. Define and explain all the terms that you use. The scorers are looking to see that specific
terms are correctly defined and used, not merely mentioned and spelled correctly.
6. If you can’t remember a term or concept, include a complete description. You have already
noticed as you have practiced writing AP Bio essays that the scoring guides occasionally award
points for details and descriptions in addition to defining and explaining specific vocabulary.
When you lose the specific vocabulary, don’t panic. Just keep writing about it.
7. Label all of your drawings and refer to them in your writing. Unlabeled drawings aren’t even
looked at. A labeled drawing that you reference in your description might communicate more
clearly that you understand the concept.
8. If you are designing an experiment always:
include a hypothesis
include and identify these variables: independent variable, dependent variable, controls
describe your procedure (please don’t write 1. Gather materials.),
describe how you will collect and record data
describe how you will graph and/or analyze data
explain you will compare results to your hypothesis
explain you will repeat your experiment several times and use large sample sizes
9. If you are creating a graph always:
include a title (DV vs IV/ Y vs. X are good standards)
label both axes (include relevant units)
evenly divide and distribute the units on your axes
plot points and sketch the curve or line of fit that is relevant
10. Bring a watch to pace yourself.
Do NOT do these things:
1. Leave a question blank. At the very least you should be able to correctly define a term that is
related to the question.
2. Answer more than what was asked for – if the question asks you to choose two, choose two.
If you write three responses, the scorer is only going to read and score the first two.
3. Say the same thing twice. That’s a waste of time. Maybe you should develop the habit of
outlining your answers before you write them.
4. Waste your time with creative writing. Skip the clever introductory paragraphs and jump
straight to answering the question. You don’t have time to ramble.
5. Don’t obsess over spelling and grammar. If your writing is legible and the ideas show up
clearly you will get credit even if you misspell often and prepositions are what you end with.