AP® Biology—Semester A

Crystal clear cellular service.

This course has been approved by the College Board, which indicates that the syllabus "has demonstrated that it meets or exceeds the curricular expectations colleges and universities have for your subject." Please contact sales@shmoop.com if you would like to add this course to your official record of AP course offerings.

Dr. Ian Malcolm once said that "life, uh, finds a way," but he didn't really go into the details. This Advanced Biology course is for those people who want to know more about just how life goes about its business.

We'll cover it all—whether you're interested in the pint-sized work done inside our cells, the DNA instructions that code for every protein we make, the grand detective story that is the history of life on Earth, or even if you just think plants and animals are cool and want to know more about them.

This course has something for everybody. Here's a taste of what you'll find:

  • In-depth interviews with the Fab Four of biology: carbs, fats, proteins, and nucleic acids
  • The pros of prokaryotes and the eus of eukaryotes (and how to tell them apart)
  • How plasma membranes help cells keep their insides in, their outsides out, and then shuffle stuff between those categories as needed
  • The cellular alternatives to Wi-Fi and notes passed in class (you'd think cells would use cell phones to communicate with each other, though)
  • Where all the free energy used by life on Earth comes from, and some of the clever ways that have been developed to use it up
  • How organisms grow big and strong by mitosis or put the usual cell cycle on spin cycle to pass their traits to the next generation using meiosis
  • Go beyond making puns about biology and make Punnett squares for how traits are inherited
  • A kitchen sink full of molecular genetics: DNA, RNA, proteins, transcription factors, horizontal gene transfer, and some of the ways scientists have taken advantage of all these things to do some mondo cool stuff
  • A guided tour of the man, the myth, the legend, Charles Darwin—and more importantly, the evidence for his theory of how life evolved

We've got in-depth, Shmoopy readings that lay out all the juicy details. We've got all kinds of activities to (figuratively) stretch your brain—including inquiry-based hands-on and virtual labs. We've got gobs of practice problems to hone your skills. In short, we've got it all.

Ready to spend your days dreaming about Punnett squares? Waxing poetic about evolution? Then come on, find a way to take this course.

P.S. Advanced Biology is a two-semester course. This is Semester A, and Semester B will be coming soon.

Unit Breakdown

  1. AP® Biology—Semester A - The Building Blocks of Biology

    Life looks really complex at first glance (and second glance, and after a lifetime of study), but it's built upon a fairly basic foundation. In this opening unit, we'll take a look at the basic building blocks of biology: the four macromolecules. Knowing the properties of carbohydrates, nucleic acids, proteins, and lipids gives us a leg up on understanding everything that's made out of them—which is pretty much everything in biology. We'll also want to know a thing or two about water and how it can carry other molecules around without requiring any extra energy. We're lazy, and our cells are, too, so we get a lot of mileage out of this.

  2. AP® Biology—Semester A - A Cellular Way of Life

    With the basics out of the way, we can start applying them to cells, the simplest form of life. We'll look at two different types of cells: those who messily dump all their components into the cytoplasm and those who package their innards into organelles. After that, we'll take a good look at the plasma membranes of cells. These things are made out of a double layer of phospholipids (which, hey, is a type of macromolecule), and they control what gets into or goes out of a cell or organelle. Plasma membranes of cells are part bouncer, part logistics manager. Then we'll see how cells communicate with each other over short, medium, and long distances.  The unit wraps up with the typical life cycle of a cell and how cells create more cells through mitosis. What a life.

  3. AP® Biology—Semester A - Metabolism and Homeostasis

    We've all been there—it's not even 10:30 a.m. and your tummy is rumbling because you're hungry like whoa. Even our cells have been there because they've got to eat, too. To be honest, we're hungry because they're hungry. That's because our cells need to take in and break down materials from our food to get the molecules and energy they need to maintain themselves. In this unit, we'll cover the hows and whys of metabolism. That includes the source of energy for all life on Earth, photosynthesis of the sun's energy by plants. The rest of us just mooch off of them, breaking down the sugars they make using cellular respiration.

  4. AP® Biology—Semester A - Mendelian Genetics

    If you've got your mother's eyes, your father's nose, or your great-grandpa's legendary tongue-twisting ability, you can thank your genes. A lot of the traits we have are inherited from our parents, according to a set of rules first discovered by a bored monk named Gregor Mendel. In this unit, we'll learn the laws for how traits are passed from one generation to the next, how those laws can be broken, and the genetic disorders that can happen when the genes themselves break. Along the way, we'll tackle meiosis and add Punnett squares, chi-square tests, and gene linkage maps to our biology toolkits.

  5. AP® Biology—Semester A - Molecular Genetics

    Now that we've learned about how inheritance works when talking about traits, let's dive into the nitty-gritty. In this unit, we’ll talk about how genetic information really gets transferred—at the molecular level—and makes us into who we are today. DNA, RNA, transcription, translation, mutation, regulation, expression...yeah, we'll cover all of that and more.

  6. AP® Biology—Semester A - Evolution

    We’ve been through the basics of genetics, but how does that translate into evolution? How do populations change over generations? How do we even know evolution is happening now and has happened in the past? In this unit, we'll lift the veil and demystify what evolution is, how it works, and the piles and piles of evidence scientists have used to learn about it in the past, present, and future.

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