Three AP Biology Study Resources: Making a Five Starts Today

AP Biology Study ResourcesAP Biology Teachers know – you can not cram for the AP Exam! If your students are going to be ready at the end of the year, they must study the AP Biology Curriculum Framework from day one!

But what what resources are best? Ones that ALIGN to College Board’s CURRICULUM FRAMEWORK!

Three resources to use for the whole year – make a five from day one!

Here are best AP Biology study resources out there for year-long learning. Each one is aligned specifically to the College Board Curriculum Framework.

  • Bozeman Science Videos – one for each Essential Knowledge
  • POGIL Activities for AP Biology – practice using and understanding Models
  • Albert.io – the Masters of Multiple Choice

AP Biology Bozeman Science Videos

Mr Paul Anderson is the bomb.com of Science teachers. If you have never heard one of his YouTube videos, you are missing out.

During my first year teaching AP Biology Mr Anderson was a life saver. His AP Biology website at Bozeman Science contains a list of fifty-two videos, each one exactly aligned to the Essential Knowledge standards outlined by College Board. Fantastic!

He does a great job making topics clear and understandable – even the doozies like the Calvin Cycle, and Cell Communication! He is not flashy or fluffy – he gets to the point and is on-point with his content and delivery.

His AP Biology study videos include diagrams, drawings, and examples galore – most of them right off of the list provided on the AP Standards.

Plus, when you click on each video, and look down below, you will find FREE VIDEO GUIDES! I printed these right off and handed them to my students for each video they watched….which was all fifty-two.

Thank you Mr. Anderson! AP Biology students (and teachers!) love you!

POGIL Activities For AP Biology

I did not find POGIL. POGIL found me.

I was at an AP Bio training seminar the summer before my first foray into AP Biology teaching.

At the end of the week-long training, they handed out prizes to everyone attending. Awesome prizes like $150 Lab Kits and Complete Lesson Plan Guides and lab equipment like Gel Electrophoresis machines – all being given away!

Companies like Flynn Scientific and Carolina Biological had donated their best stuff in hopes to woo us newly-minted AP Bio teachers into using them in the upcoming school year.

Names of all forty attendees were drawn at random, one at a time. As names were called, each person was able to choose whatever prize they wanted – Dirty Santa style, except without the mystery…and without the stealing..

I had my eye on a few things – namely the Gel Electrophoresis machine (I knew the school I worked for did not have the budget for such equipment), and the Complete Lesson Plan Guides (would be so so very helpful!).

But alas, name after name was called…but not mine.

All the great stuff was gone within the first ten names. So I shifted my desires to lesser prizes, which I saw being given away one by one….until even they were all gone.

Finally I heard what I had been waiting to hear ‘Jessica Parker!’

I was dead last.

The only thing left was a boring looking black-and-white spiral bound book with some weird acronym on the front – POGIL.  I slunk up to the front, feigned an appreciative smile, and plodded back to my seat with my ‘prize’.

But as I sat, sulking in my apparent misfortune and half listening to the closing speaker, I began thumbing through this unassuming book…

And I began to get excited. In fact, before the session was over – I was super excited! I became convinced that I actually had the BEST prize in the whole room!

I had no idea what a jewel I was given! So what’s so awesome about this humble looking spiral bound book of questions?

Let me tell you about it.

POGIL is a workbook full of minds-on question sets that guide students into making connections with and between content. The POGIL people have made these books for many areas in science, besides AP Biology.

I can never remember what POGIL stands for, I had to look it up –Process Oriented Guided Inquiry Learning. Whew! That is a mouthful.

The book consists of thirty-two short lessons that focus on a particular subject – like Mass Extinction, Plant Hormones, Population Dynamics.  (click here to download the table of contents)

Each lesson is broken into parts, and each part is focused on a MODEL!

A model, like a drawing of the process or idea, that students have to figure out! Now this is super exciting because one of the areas that the AP Biology Exam really hammers on – and one of the areas (I have found) that my students struggled in – is understanding models.

All AP Biology study plans must include practice with making and analyzing models!  And this POGIL book delivers!

The study questions are designed to guide them to really look at the models and understand exactly what they are portraying. They are mostly open ended questions, with a handful of multiple choice here and there.

Sometimes students are instructed to add to the model – labeling or increasing the amount of information it contains.

If that is not awesome enough, the POGIL people have done even better by including a Teacher’s Guide for each lesson.

The Teacher’s Guide includes the Curriculum Framework standards that are covered (what a great idea!), knowledge that the students should understand before they can be successful with the lesson, and tips to help them with common misconceptions on each topic.

PLUS – they provide a list of additional resources that can be used to supplement the lesson!

AND – there is a CD Disk that contains a comprehensive answer key for every lesson! WOW!

I truly can not say enough about how much I love POGIL. I saw my students grow by leaps and bounds in their ability to read and understand Models and then be able to communicate their meaning in writing.

We used every single POGIL though the course of the year. I encouraged my students to save them in one place to use as a study guide before the AP Test. We spent some of our Study Sessions quizzing each other using the POGIL questions, and they proved to be a great resource for reviewing,

POGIL for the win!

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The College Board does a great job with resources to prepare for the Free Response essay questions. Take a look at the Free Response Friday method for helping students sharpen their essay writing skills!

Get a FREE list of College Board Release Free Response questions by topic! Find exactly the question you are looking for.

Free Response list of questions by topic - find the perfect question!
Free Response list of questions by topic – find the perfect question!

What about the multiple choice questions?

As I am sure you have noticed, the multiple choice questions asked on the AP Biology exam are not simple, fact based questions. They take deep thought and application of concepts and processes.

If your students are like mine – they do not come into AP Bio ready to tackle multiple choice questions of that caliber!

Just like the essay questions, the only way to get better at answering AP Biology level multiple choice questions, was to practice answering AP Biology level multiple choice questions.

And I soon found out that I was not capable of creating AP Biology level multiple choice questions! Try it! Its hard!

So I turned back to College Board for help. Thankfully they provide a handful of full practice exams. As a teacher you can access these when you are logged onto the College Board website.

The practice tests cover the entire curriculum – which is super helpful for end of year review! But not  so helpful when you need questions for a specific topic..which I did…for every unit..

At the start of my first year, I printed out all of the practice exams and went through them with four different colored highlighters – one color for each Big Idea.

Then I cut out each individual question (no joke) and put them into piles by Big Idea, then further marked each one for which Essential Knowledge they fell under! It took FOREVER and provided me with just a sprinkling of questions for each topic.

I needed more. A lot more.

And I found it (after much searching) at www.Albert.io

Albert.io – Masters At Multiple Choice

At the beginning of the school year, most teachers will advise that their students purchase an AP Biology study book. Barron’s AP Biology seems to be the favorite, and what I used to recommend. To be honest, though, I was always disappointed with these study books.

Often students would buy a study book but not take full advantage of it – maybe not even crack the cover until a week before the AP Test. And even more disappointing, some of the study books (including Barron’s) are very poorly aligned to the standards!

Plus, the practice questions in the books are more similar to the old AP Biology exam – simple and fact based. Those questions will not help prepare students for the deep, process based questions they will see on the AP Exam!

So this year I encouraged my students to sign up for Albert.io – a digital AP Biology study tool. Albert.io is a huge database of multiple choice questions
(actually for tons of subjects)

For the AP Biology study questions, each one is specifically organized and aligned to the Curriculum Framework. What a great idea! This makes it so easy for students to access and study whatever topic they need.

And these are not simple easy-peasy questions. They are super, robust, intense questions. Tough questions! Questions just like what your students will see on the AP Exam. What a great idea!

And again, the idea is to use Albert.io as a resource the whole year though, so that students are study AP Biology the right way (with good multiple choice questions) from day one.

There are three levels of questions for each topic – easy, medium, and difficult. Perfect for differentiation!

Albert.io also gives you (and your students) data! It will track progress, accuracy, what answer choices were selected for each question, and how many times a question was attempted. For the student, they get real time feedback on what they know and what they don’t know.

But there is more.

Albert.io does not just tell the student which answer is correct. It also provides a full and detailed explanation of why it is the correct answer – and why the other answers are incorrect! In my opinion, that is the most powerful feature of Albert.io. It truly allows students to learn from their mistakes.

Their website offers its first three question sets for free – Big Idea 1, Enduring Understanding 1A1, 1A2 and 1A3. Your students will have to purchase access to the other question sets.

To be sure, it is more expensive than Barron’s or Cliffsnotes…but I promise your students will get way more bang for their buck with Albert.io.

There is also a teacher’s option, which allows you to set up classes and assign question sets directly to your students though the website. Depending on how many students you have, this may be the most economical option, if every student donates part of the cost.

As a teacher, the website allows you to search for questions by standard to  make your own customized assignments. This means you can use Albert.io not just as a study tool, but an assessment tool! You can use it to make a test!

I don’t know about you, but i feel that making up good test questions ranks as one of my toughest jobs as a teacher. This is especially true for AP Biology – you want your questions to be AP Test level!

So I love this feature of Albert.io. Every questions are top notch, all you have to do is select and assign them to your students. The website does the grading for you, and provides you with all the data you need about each student’s level of performance, and how the class did over-all on each question.

Beat that Barrons!

So there it is. When I look back over a successful year, those are the  resources that I could not live without – that were essential for my students’ success.

Looking for more?  Check out this article about two FREE resources you can start using tomorrow to teach AP Biology!

Study and Review questions aligned to each AP Biology Enduring Understanding
Study and Review questions aligned to each AP Biology Enduring Understanding

How do your students study for AP Biology? Let me know if there is anything you and your students can’t live without! Sharing is caring!

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