AP Bio Test Format Changed


Nate Rosen

In some AP classes, test banks are less guarded.

Don’t bank on the banks.

In the past, test banks – loosely defined as a “bank” of questions and answers provided by textbook publishers – have been sometimes used by teachers to devise their own tests.

However, many of the test banks are actually available online. If a student ever got a hold of the test bank, a teacher was using, it could spell trouble.

With rumors abounding that students use the test banks to cheat on tests, when is it okay to use a test bank, and when is it not? And will tests in the future rely on test banks?

In fact, many students find a useful purpose for the banks, particularly at exam times. Extra questions and answers can only help students achieve mastery of a subject, students said.

“I still use test banks this year to study. They are still relatively useful for preparing for tests,” said Avery Wallace ’15.

However, even the College Board seems to grasp the predicament of the tests. Beginning this year, the College Board overhauled the AP Biology curriculum in an attempt to focus less on factual recall and lessen the emphasis on test banks.  Consequently, Staples’ AP Biology adjusted its curriculum.

“The AP curriculum changed in that there was a decrease in content but an increased emphasis on inquiry-based labs and application of content,” Dr. Michele Morse, an AP Biology teacher at Staples, said.

The goal is, according to the College Board’s AP Biology Curriculum Framework, to shift from a traditional model to a “model of instruction to one that focuses on enduring, conceptual understandings and the content that supports them. This approach will enable students to spend less time on factual recall and more time on inquiry-based learning of essential concepts, and will help them develop the reasoning skills necessary to engage in the science practices used throughout their study of AP Biology.”

This new curriculum has directly affected the types of questions students see on regular AP Biology tests.

“The open-ended part is more about labs and coming up with questions, rather than listing facts,” Claire Sampson ’15 said. “The multiple-choice section is different in that it is less fact-based than what I have seen from old tests. Rather than ask what something is, they would give a long lab procedure for you to read, or a passage of information and then ask questions about it.”

She added, “I think the point was to make it more like ‘real life science.”

Dr. Morse echoed Sampson, saying, “The multiple choice questions are not as content driven as in previous years, but contain more reading comprehension-type questions – analyzing graphs and data, for example.”

Overall, students agree that this method of critical thinking is better than the former factual recall method.

“Open-ended questions have helped me learn the subject more in-depth because it forced me to learn all the little details about each biological process in order to write as much as possible on a given topic,” Reni Forer ’15 said.

Sampson agreed. “I like the push towards making the test more ‘thinking-based’ rather than pure memorization and facts,” she said.