How to Approach Each Question Type on the AP Biology Exam
You have 48 seconds per question on the multiple-choice section of this exam. Remember that to ensure a great score on this exam, you need to correctly answer about 60 multiple choice questions or more. Here are a few rules of thumb:
1. Don’t out-think the test. It is indeed possible to be too smart for these tests. Frequently during these standardized tests I have found myself overanalyzing every single problem. If you encounter a question such as, “During what phase of meiosis does crossover (also referred to as crossing over) occur?” and you happen to know the answer immediately, this does not mean that the question is too easy. First, give yourself credit for knowing a fact. They asked you something, you knew it, and wham, you fill in the bubble. Do not overanalyze the question and assume that your answer is too obvious for that question. Just because you get it doesn’t mean that it was too easy.
2. Don’t be afraid to leave questions blank. This exam penalizes the random guess. It will take off 1/4 point for each wrong answer you give. For this reason, I do not recommend that you wildly guess at questions simply because you don’t want to leave anything blank. Think of it this way—let’s say you knew the answer to only 63 out of 100 multiple-choice questions. Imagine that you left the other 37 questions blank—unanswered. If you somehow get all 63 questions right, that gives you a Section 1 raw total of about 48 points. (Look back at the discussion on scoring if I have confused you.) Now, to get a 4 on this AP exam, you need to get approximately 50% of the essays correct. But if you randomly guessed on those 37 blank questions, you may need to do better on the essays to get that 4. A random guess is bad; an educated guess is good. If you can eliminate answers that you know for sure are not the right answers, and get it down to two or three choices, go for it! Take a stab! But no random pick guesses, please!
3. Be on the lookout for trick wording! Always pay attention to words or phrases such as “least,” “most,” “not,” “incorrectly,” and “does not belong.” Do not answer the wrong question. There are few things as annoying as getting a 1/4 point off on this test simply because you didn’t read the question carefully enough, especially if you know the right answer.
4. Use your time carefully. You have 45 seconds per question on the multiple-choice section of this exam. If you find yourself struggling on a question, try not to waste too much time on it. Circle it in the booklet and come back to it later if time permits. Remember that to ensure a great score on this exam, you need to correctly answer about 60 multiple-choice questions or more—this test should be an exercise in window shopping. It does not matter which questions you get correct. What is important is that you answer enough questions correctly. Find the subjects that you know the best, answer those questions, and save the others for review later on.
5. Be careful about changing answers! If you have answered a question already, come back to it later on, and get the urge to change it . . . make sure that you have a real reason to change it. Often an urge to change an answer is the work of exam “elves” in the room who want to trick you into picking a wrong answer. Change your answer only if you can justify your reasons for making the switch.
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