How to Survive AP Biology As a Freshman

Somehow you've found yourself in a college level course as a ninth grader. Whether it be by choice, you were recommended from a previous teacher, or your test scores were off the charts, you're here and there's no backing out. Are you nervous? Afraid? Excited? Many emotions can be running through your mind as you come into an AP class. Here are some tips to help you not just survive, but thrive in AP Biology.


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    Understand your situation. You are a freshman taking a college level course almost five years sooner than need be. You may not have even had a general Biology class yet. Don't waltz into class thinking this will be easy, because it won't.
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    Get motivated. This is key. Being determined is a large part of being successful in AP Biology. You must be willing to do well and try your best. Always give 100%.
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    Brush up on things beforehand. One thing that can help is going over topics during the summer, before school starts. See if your school will let you check out an AP Biology textbook for the summer, or check out your local library for textbooks. You may want to look into Chemistry a bit as well, just to be prepared. Studying beforehand will help you avoid feeling out of the loop.
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    Attend class everyday. If you miss class, then there could be important things discussed that you miss. Be punctual and try to attend school every day, unless it is for a medical appointment, family emergency, or you are sick. If you miss a lot of school days, it is hard to catch up in any class, especially an AP.
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    Make a good first impression with your professor/teacher. It honestly does matter. If you're goofing off and talking the whole period on your first day, your teacher will tell that you aren't focused and motivated to do your best. Your behavior has a direct correlation with your grade, and being respectful, on time, etc. could help you move from an 88% to a 90%.
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    Be an active learner. Don't just sit there like a bump on a log; participate. Answer questions, even if you think you are wrong.
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    Do your work. It's as simple as that. Missing assignments or low points can really make a difference with your grade. Plus, doing your work is the only way to learn and be prepared.
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    Study, study, study. The unit tests are not a breeze, so be as prepared as you can be. Start getting ready at least a few days before. Pace yourself, and try not to cram. Avoid mindlessly memorizing notes and general ideas, so instead try to grasp large concepts and connect them to your pre-existing knowledge of the topic(s).
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    Vocabulary is a large part of your grade, so pay attention to that. Quizzes may be given in your class over vocabulary, and those points you score in these really rack up. If you don't have vocabulary tests/quizzes, then study all the terms anyway; it'll most likely appear in your AP exam.
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    Take notes on everything. Whenever you read a chapter, be sure to take notes on the important things. Taking notes on lectures, labs, and any additional power points, etc. your teacher has is also a good thing.
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    Cherish the lab work. It's hands on and a good way for you to learn and understand many concepts.
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    Do not procrastinate. It's the worst thing you can do. AP classes have a very large and demanding course load and the class is fast paced, so keep up. It'll only be harder if you fall behind.


  • Mark the day of the AP exam on your calender, and always be aware of how close it is.
  • Don't be upset by the shock, confusion, or the occasional teasing that comes along with telling people you're in an AP class as a freshman.
  • Take any opportunity for extra credit. It can help out your grade immensely.
  • Make a few good friends. They will most likely all be Seniors and Juniors, but do not be scared of them. Students taking an AP class are usually focused on their future and are the top people of their class. They're not slackers who goof off, get in trouble, and are out to make Freshman's lives miserable. Not only is meeting new people a great experience, but knowing a few others will help when you have to choose lab partners or groups for other projects.
  • Stay organized. Use a three inch binder with eight dividers labeled with appropriate sections, like: notes, homework, labs, essays, tests, quizzes, vocab, etc.
  • Keep up to date on assignments and tally your marks with a grade sheet or something similar, so you always know how you're doing.
  • Ask questions. This cannot be stressed enough. Even if the teacher isn't your favorite, they are there to help. Ask your classmates as well. The only way to learn is to correct your mistakes, and if you do not understand, don't hesitate to ask for help. It really isn't embarrassing at all to admit you don't understand something.
  • Form a study group with friends and classmates.


  • If you're not doing very well, don't worry. An AP class is a great opportunity for a lot of learning, and even if you get a C in AP Biology, you'll still learn a lot more than you would have in a regular class.
  • Being intimidated or afraid is normal, but don't let it get to you.
  • Don't try to take on too much. Being in a sport, an AP class, a club, and band, is a little much. It is possible, but just make sure you manage your time well.
  • Always take appropriate safety precautions in a lab setting. You do not want to get injured.
  • Try not to seem like a know-it-all. You're definitely smart if you're in AP Biology in grade 9, but acting like you're the best just because of that is off-putting.

Things You'll Need

  • AP Biology textbook
  • Binder and divider tabs to stay organized
  • Pencils, Pens, and Paper
  • Optional items:
    • A notebook for taking notes
    • Highlighters
    • Calculator
    • Prep book (Cliff's AP Biology and/or Barron's AP Biology work well)

Article Info

Categories: Advanced Placement Courses and Exams