The multiple-choice questions are numbered, but that does not mean you must answer the questions in the given order. In fact, it’s highly unlikely that the questions will be presented to you in a confidence-inspiring, point-building, time-saving order. There is good news, though: You are free to navigate the section in a manner that highlights your strengths and downplays your weaknesses. All of the multiple-choice questions carry the same weight so you don’t get extra credit for correctly answering a hard question. In the end, colleges will never know which questions you answered correctly. All they will know is that you were smart enough to spend your time where it was more likely to turn into points.
Of the 60 multiple-choice questions, there are two distinct question types.
These questions typically make up a little over half of the AP Biology exam. Each Stand-Alone question covers a specific topic, and then the next Stand-Alone hits a different topic. The question stem may be as short as a single sentence, but it is not uncommon to see multiple paragraphs for a single question! In addition to words, many question stems will be accompanied by an equation, table, graph or figure. The next question is a typical Stand-Alone.
You get some information to start with, and then you’re expected to answer the question. The number of the question, 22, makes no difference because there’s no order of difficulty on the AP Biology exam. Tough questions are scattered between easy and medium questions.
Just as the name suggests, a group of two to five questions is preceded by data in one form or another. The data might be a simple sentence or two, but usually it is something more complex, such as:
- A description of an experiment (50–200 words), often with an accompanying illustration
- A graph or series of graphs
- A large table
- A diagram
The next question is a sample Data question.
Some Stand-Alone questions will require you to analyze data; the difference between Stand-Alone and Data questions is the number of questions associated with the data. In a Stand-Alone question, you will analyze the data then answer a single question. On Data questions you’ll get multiple questions referencing the same data.