AP Biology Course Syllabus

Murray High School



Jennifer Shake     jshake@murrayschools.org     (801) 264-7460 ext. 5334




The schedule is an 8 period A/B block schedule that allows classes to meet for approximately 86 minutes for two days one week and three days the next.  AP Biology is the equivalent of an entry-level college biology class required for pre-med and biology major students. Successful completion of this course depends on the passing of the AP Biology examination to be given in May.

This is a rigorous and demanding course. A great deal of material must be covered before the exam which requires that a strict schedule be followed. It is expected that you will come to class having read the material to be covered in lecture every day. You are encouraged to come to class with questions about the readings. You are expected to turn assignments in on time. Late work will not be accepted. You will need to devote AT LEAST one hour every night to AP Biology.

In addition to lectures, the class has a required lab component in which each student is required to maintain a formal lab book.  Each lab write-up demonstrates their understanding of the scientific method and variables.  Laboratory experiences, in addition to being hands-on fun, offer valuable experiences in collecting data and using equipment that many students will be using in the near future.  It also demonstrates the students understanding of the major topics presented in class.  Roughly 25% of each quarter is devoted to laboratory work.  At times, due to lab and schedule constraints, students will be asked to participate in Wednesday labs after school or Saturday lab sessions.

The eight majors themes discussed in the AP Biology Course Description (science as a process, evolution, energy transfer, continuity and change, structure and function, regulation, interdependence of nature, and science, technology and society) are stressed throughout the course with evolution as the underlying theme for the year.  After all, “Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution.” (Dobzhansky 1973)


Primary Text

Raven, Peter H., George B. Johnson, Susan Singer, and Jonathan Losos. Biology, 8th ed., McGraw-Hill Company (Blacklick, OH), 2007. (ISBN-13: 978-0-07-3227399)




Emphasized topics

Correlation to the College Board’s Topic Outline and Themes


Hands-On Labs



(1 week)


Independent variable, dependent variable, establishing control conditions, constants.

Importance of repetition and sample sizes for accuracy.

Graphing skills: types of graphs etc.

Interpreting data

Chi-squared analysis


Science as a process

Science, technology, and society


Read chapter 1

Students design an experiment to test habitat preference of wood lice. 

Lab #11 writeup

Chi-squared lab writeup

AP Lab #11: Habitat selection/animal behavior of wood lice

This lab will teach the scientific method, identifying independent and dependent variables, the importance of controls, and graphing.

Chi-Squared Lab

Students count the number of M&M’s of each color found in a bag, and compare the expected numbers to the actual results by performing a chi-squared analysis.


(3 weeks)


3 major tenets of Cell Theory

Origin of the Cell (Urey-Miller experiment, Sidney Fox's experiments on spontaneous formation of polymers and protobionts, RNA first hereditary molecule)

Domain approach of life – Archaea, Eubacteria, Eukarya

Differences between prokaryotes and eukaryotes

Eubacterial structure, reproduction and genetic diversity

Gram-stain lab techniques

Essential atoms of life and their atomic structure (Lewis dot diagrams)

Chemical bonding (emphasis on covalent – polar and nonpolar – and hydrogen bonding)

Carbon as the keystone of life (isomers, functional groups)

Carbohydrates (α and β glycosidic linkages with structure and function)


Lipids (ester linkages and structure/function of phospholipids)

Proteins (1º structure and peptide bond, 2º structure and hydrogen bonds between functional groups, 3º structure and attractions between R groups, 4º structure)

Fluid-mosaic model of membrane

Properties of water

Transport across membranes: passive (diffusion, facilitated diffusion, osmosis) and active (e.g. sodium potassium pump)

Eukaryotic subcellular organization with approach of structure relating to function



Unity within diversity

Science as a process

Science, technology, society


Structure and function

(Chemistry is fundamental to the understanding of structure relating to function and will be revisited constantly through the year.)




College Board topic correlation:

IB1-IB3 Cells

IA1-IA2 Chemistry

Read chapters 2-5

Properties of water essay

Organic macromolecule study guide focusing on structure dictating function

Domains and universal ancestor essay

Membrane structure and function essay

Hands-on modeling of polypepetide chains, levels of protein structure, dehydration synthesis and hydrolysis

Lab #1 writeup

Unit exam


AP Lab #1: Diffusion and Osmosis

Students will investigate the processes of diffusion and osmosis and the effect of solute concentration on water potential.

September – October

(2 weeks)


Free energy changes – exergonic and endergonic reactions.

Enzymes and catalyzing reactions by lowering EA

Coupled reactions and hydrolysis of ATP


Science as a process

Energy transfer

Relationship of structure to function


College Board topic correlation:

IA3-IA4 Chemistry

IC1 Cellular energetics

Read chapter 6

Enzyme essay focusing on structural orders and enzyme folding

Enzyme lab-based essay

Student designed lab investigating a factor that affects enzyme activity (pH, temperature, salinity, etc)

Lab #2 writeup

Unit exam

AP Lab #2: Enzyme catalysis

Students observe the conversion of hydrogen peroxide to water and oxygen gas by the enzyme catalase.  They  measure the amount o f oxygen generated and calculate the rate of the enzyme-catalyzed reaction.


(2 weeks)


Endosymbiotic theory of mitochondrion and chloroplast origin

Structure of mitochondrion and chloroplast as it relates to function

Oxidation-reduction reactions

Electromagnetic spectrum and photons

Photosynthesis (photosystems and light-dependent reactions and the Calvin cycle)

Photorespiration (C3 plants) and evolutionary events to counteract (C4 and CAM plants)

Aerobic respiration (glycolysis, decarboxylation of pyruvate, Kreb's cycle, electron transport chain and chemiosmosis)

Anaerobic respiration (lactic acid and alcohol fermentation)



Energy transfer

Relationship of structure to function


College Board topic correlation:

IC2-IC3 Cellular energetics

Read chapters 7-8

Membranes and photosynthesis essay

Cellular respiration lab-based essay

Photosynthesis concept map

Cellular respiration concept map

Lab #4 writeup

Lab #5 writeup

Unit exam

AP Lab #4: Plant Pigments and Photosynthesis

Students will separate plant pigments using chromatography and will measure the rate of photosynthesis of isolated chloroplasts. 

AP Lab #5: Cell Respiration

In this lab, students will measure oxygen consumption of nongerminating and germinating peas.  They will measure the change in gas volumes and will measure the respiration at different temperatures.

October – November

(2 weeks)


Eukaryotic chromosomes and their structure

Differences between eukaryotic and prokaryotic chromosomes

The cell cycle and mitosis

Differences between prokaryotic and eukaryotic cell division

Regulation of cell cycle (cyclin-dependent kinases, anaphase-promoting complex, density-dependent inhibition, anchorage-dependent inhibition)

Meiosis and gametogenesis, both spermatogenesis and structure of sperm and oogenesis and structure of egg

Discussion of problems associated with nondisjunction and related ethical issues


Continuity and change



College Board topic correlation:

IIA1-IIA2 Heredity

IB4 Cells

Read chapters 10, 11 and 13

Mitosis essay

Mitotic regulation essay

Mitosis and meiosis comparison chart

Lab #3 writeup

Unit exam

AP Lab #3: Mitosis and Meiosis

Using prepared slides, students will study plant mitosis and calculate the relative duration of the mitotic phases.

Secondly, using model beads, the students will demonstrate the process of meiosis, including crossing over and recombination.  Students will observe the arrangement of fungal ascospores to determine a percent of crossing over.

November (2.5 weeks)


Review of the structure of DNA molecule, analyzing the history behind DNA's structure and Watson and Crick's article

DNA replication and associated enzymes including helicase, primase, DNA polymerase, ligase and telomerase

Types of RNA: mRNA, tRNA, rRNA, snRNA

Transcription of DNA into mRNA (initiation, elongation, m termination, and modification)

Translation of mRNA code into a protein strand (initiation, elongation, termination

Prokaryotic gene regulation and understanding of both lac and trp operons

Eukaryotic gene regulation and understanding of transcription factors

Mutations and their affect on gene expression

Mendel's laws of heredity (law of segregation and monhybrid cross, law of independent assortment and dihybrid cross)

Exceptions to Mendel's rules of heredity (incomplete dominance, codominance, multiple allele traits, polygenic traits, epistasis and pleiotropy)

Morgan and sex-linked inheritance

Chromosomal theory of heredity

Recombination and gene mapping

Relating Mendel's laws of heredity to meiosis

Chromosomal mutations

Chi-squared analysis and predicting patterns of inheritance


Science as a process


Continuity and change


Science, technology and society

College Board topic correlation:

IIB1-IIB3 Molecular genetics

IIA3 Heredity

Read chapters 12, 14, 15, 16

Genetic disorder presentation involving deletions, inversions, translocations, or duplications

Pedigree chart assignment

Punnett square practice problems including a dihybrid cross

DNA replication essay

Transcription essay

Translation essay

Operon essay

Lab #7 writeup

Unit exam

AP Lab #7: Genetics of Organisms

Students learn the principles of genetic inheritance by mating female and male fruit flies carrying one or more genetic mutations.  Students will gather F1 and F2 data in order to come up with a null hypothesis for the type of inheritance and then compare their actual results to the predicted results using a chi-squared analysis.


November (0.5 weeks)


Viral structure

Lytic vs. lysogenic life cycles

Restriction enzymes and recombinant DNA technology


Gel electrophoresis


Science as a process

Science, technology and society

College Board topic correlation:

IIB4-IIB5 Molecular genetics

Read chapters 17 and 27

Lab 6 writeup

Written report on the process and uses of either gel electrophoresis, PCR, bacterial transformation or another approved biotechnology topic.

AP Lab #6: Molecular Biology

Bacterial Transformation

Plasmids of foreign DNA will be used to transform E. coli cells, conferring ampicillin resistance.

Gram-stain lab techniques will be used by students to observe prokaryotic shapes and determine the presence of peptidoglycan.

Gel electrophoresis

November – December

(2 weeks)


Miller-Urey experiment and the early evolution of life

Historical understanding of concept of evolution including Plato and Aristotle's viewpoints, Cuvier's idea of catastrophism, Hutton's concept of gradualism, and Lamarkian evolution

Natural selection as proposed by Charles Darwin

Evidences of evolution including fossil record, anatomical homologies and molecular homologies, drug-resistant HIV viruses, and Grants' study concerning finch beak depth in the Galapagos Islands

Evolution of populations and Hardy-Weinberg equilibrium under certain conditions but when those conditions are met a population could undertake microevolution

Mechanisms of microevolution include mutations, nonrandom sexual reproduction, genetic drift, gene flow, and natural (only natural selection makes population better suited for its environment)

Modes of natural selection (stabilizing, diversifying, directional)

Natural selection cannot fashion perfect organisms, only better organisms for a given environment

Biological species concept of a species and the arise of new species – macroevolution

Modes of speciation (allopatric speciation vs. sympatric speciation)

Tempo of speciation (gradualism vs. punctuated speciation)


Science as a process


Continuity and change

Relationship of structure to function

Interdependence in nature

Science, technology and society

College Board topic correlation:

IIC1-IIC3 Evolutionary biology

IIIA1 Diversity of organisms

Read chapters 20-22

Dobzhansky article and evidences of evolution essay (general)

Darwinian concept of natural selection and Grant's finches essay

Hardy-Weinberg problem set

Cladogram and phylogeny assignment

Timeline with explanations of major scientific studies leading to our current understanding of evolution

Lab #8 writeup

Unit exam


AP Lab #8: Population Genetics and Evolution

Students will learn about Hardy-Weinberg equilibrium and study the relationship between evolution and changes in allele frequencies by using populations of Teddy Grahams

December – January

(3 weeks)


Parsimony, phylogeny, cladistics

Phylogeny and characteristics of prokaryotes

Phylogeny, characteristics, and the life cycle of fungi

Survey of “protists” (organisms that do not fit into other groups), brief overview of more complex and accurate phylogeny

Phylogeny of 4 major plant groups (bryophytes, seedless vascular, gymnosperms, angiosperms) and evolution from charophyte green algae

Animals are characterized by body plants and divided into groups based on these plans (unicellular, diploblastic, triploblastic, acoelomate, pseudoceolomate, eucoelomates, protostomes, deuterostomes)

Classification of major animal phyla based on above terminology (Porifera, Cnidaria, Platyhelminthes, Mollusca, Annelida, Arthropoda, Echinodermata, Chordata)

Characteristics of chordates

Characteristics of vertebrates

Overview of evolution of vertebrates: phylogeny and basic characteristics (fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, mammals)


Science as a process


Continuity and change

College Board topic correlation:

IIIA2-IIIA4 Diversity of organisms

Read chapters 23, 26, 28-35


Fungi life cycle chart


Chart summary of major plant phyla with an emphasis on key characteristics and significant evolutionary adaptations


Chart summary of major animal phyla and vertebrate classes with an emphasis on key characteristics and significant evolutionary adaptations


Unit exam


January – February

( 3 weeks)


Problems and solutions overcame to move from aquatic to terrestrial environment (location of resources needed, gravity, dessication, UV radiation, reproduction)

Alternation of generations in bryophytes, seedless vascular, gymnosperms and angiosperms, including a detailed account of the seed, structure and function of flower, and angiosperm reproduction

Plant structure and cell types of leaves, stem, and roots and function of each plant organ and cells that comprise them

Meristems and primary growth

Role of membranes in symplast and apoplast movement of materials in root absorption

Water and its unique properties

Transport of water and minerals from roots to shoots in xylem by means of transpiration-cohesion-tension mechanism

Stomata and guard cells control transpiration rates

Transport of sugars produced in photosynthesis from shoots to roots in phloem

Plant nutrition and mycorrhizal relationships

Plant hormones and responses to physical stimulation of light (phototropism), touch (thigmotropism), and gravity (gravitropism)



Energy transfer

Relationship of structure to function


College Board topic correlation:

IA1 Chemistry of water

IIIB1-IIIB3 Structure and function of plants


Read chapters 36-39 and 41-42

Evolutionary traits to be acquired before plants move on land essay

Lifecycle of angiosperms essay

Transpiration essay

Design-a-lab dealing with giberillinin and plant growth essay

Lab #9 writeup

Unit exam


AP Lab #9: Transpiration

Students will apply what they already know about water potential to the transport of water in plants.  They will measure transpiration rates under various environmental conditions.  They will also understand how plant stem and leaf organization relates to transpiration. 

February – March

(4.5 weeks)


Nonspecific lines of immune defense – first line of defense is skin, second line of defense is neutrophils and macrophages

Specific line of defense includes the immune response involving T and B cells

Cell mediated immune response

Humoral immune response

Neuron structural organization

Resting membrane potential and maintaining a membrane potential

Ion channels open and close to create depolarizations which could summate to an action potential when a nerve actually transmits a signal

Propagation of nervous signal down axon and from one nerve cell to another nerve cell or target cell using neurotransmitters


Structure of skeletal muscle and sarcomere

Muscle contraction and the sliding filament theory

Control of muscle contraction based on Ca++ and nervous stimulation

Excretory system conserves water while ridding organism of nitrogenous waste

Protonephridia of flatworms

Nephridia of annelids

Malpighian tubules of arthropods

Nephron of vertebrates with most of emphasis placed on nephron’s structure and function

Regulation of water retention based on ADH, renin, angiotensin, aldosterone and ANH to maintain homeostasis



Energy transfer

Relationship of structure to function


College Board topic correlation:

IIIB1-IIIB3 Structure and function of animals

Read chapters 43-54

Action potential and neuron structure/function essay

Muscle contraction essay

Kidney diagram with written explanation of nephron structure and function

Homeostasis essay

Lab #10 writeup

Unit exam

AP Lab #10:  Physiology of the Human Circulatory System

Students will learn how to take blood pressure and pulse rates and apply this knowledge to determine the effect position and exercise on blood pressure and heart rate.  The students will then determine the effect of temperature on heart rate.


(1.5 weeks)


Biotic and abiotic factors affecting species distribution, habitat vs. niche

Animal behavior

Population ecology and carrying capacity

r-strategists vs. K-strategists

Symbiotic relationships

Food chain/web trophic levels

Primary vs. secondary succession

Biogeochemical cycles

Primary productivity

Global climate change



Energy transfer

Continuity and change

Interdependence in nature

Science, technology and society

College Board topic correlation:

IIIC1-IIIC3 Ecology

Read chapters 55-59


Terrestrial biome chart


Animal behavior essay


Population essay


Primary productivity essay


Lab #12 writeup

Unit exam

AP Lab #12:  Dissolved Oxygen and Aquatic Primary Productivity

Students will learn how to use dissolved oxygen sensors to determine the effect of temperature on amount of dissolved oxygen present and the effect of diminishing light on the effect of primary productivity.


(4 weeks)


Writing free response questions

Laboratory design

Emphasis on other topics that students feel need more review


Group presentations – each on one of the major themes in the course description.


Practice free response questions