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  • Feb 16, 2021

AP Biology Past FRQs by Topic

Updated: Sep 22

ap biology free response questions genetics

**Updated on 11/19/22 to include the 2020-2022 exams!**

If you are looking for past AP Biology free-response questions (FRQs) that are organized by topic, then you have come to the right place. In this post, we have linked every freely available past FRQ there is and organized it into the following major topics of AP Biology :


Metabolism & Energetics

Plants (note that this topic will not be tested on the official AP Biology exam this year in 2021, although some questions about plants also cover concepts that will be tested)

Physiology (note that this topic will not be tested on the official AP Biology exam this year in 2021, although many questions about physiology could also cover concepts that will be tested)

Need more AP-style practice problems?

Intensively doing and reviewing practice questions is proven to be much more effective than spending hours studying. Check out our AP Bio Practice Portal , which is an easy-to-use database of 300+ AP-style MCQ and FRQ practice questions. Students love the Practice Portal because it includes answers and explanations for every problem, tracks progress, saves time from Googling practice problems.

Try the Practice Portal >

How to make the most of past frqs from college board.

As noted above, the diversity of organisms, plants, and physiology will not be on the 2021 AP Biology exam. However, the exam could include questions about topics or hypothetical situations that are related to those topics. One great example is cell communication, which is used in multiple systems inside our bodies. Let’s say an FRQ was to appear about the immune system and how the immune cells communicate. That would be fair game as long as the question focuses on the cell signaling part, not the details of the immune system. If the question requires some background knowledge about the immune system, it will be provided.

If you want to do a whole practice FRQ set just like the ones on the real exam (which we highly recommend), all the freely available past FRQs by year are available here on the College Board website. Tip: time yourself and take the practice FRQ set in an environment that mimics how you imagine your actual testing environment to be.

If you would like to focus on a particular topic, then the section coming up is for you. Some FRQs will show up under multiple topics because they truly do test students’ understanding of multiple different topics.

Tip : Whether you are doing individual free-response questions or doing a full problem set in one go, it is extremely important and effective to do test corrections! Don’t only consult the scoring guidelines and model responses when you have no clue how to answer a question. You should be checking them for all the FRQs you do. When you find a difference between your answer and the scoring guidelines, it is important that you pause and analyze why your response is incorrect. Take the time to understand your mistakes and see how your answer could have been better. This will help you boost your scores the most efficiently.



Basic and organic chemistry concepts do not come up often on the FRQs (but of course, it’s better to be prepared). The properties of water and macromolecules come up occasionally.

2017 #7 and 8

Includes cell structure and function, cell transport and the proteins involved.

2019 #3 and 8

2018 #2, 6, and 8

2006 #1, 3, and 4

2001 #1 and 4

Metabolism & Energetics:

This topic includes enzymes, cellular respiration, and photosynthesis.

2021 #3 (cell respiration)

2019 #3 (cell respiration)

2018 #2 (cell respiration)

2017 #7 (cell respiration)

2017 #5 (photosynthesis)

2015 #2 (cell respiration)

2013 #2 (photosynthesis) and 4 (cell respiration & photosynthesis)

2012 #2 (cell respiration) and 4 (cell respiration & photosynthesis)

2010 #2 (enzymes)

2007 #3 (photosynthesis)

2006 #4 (photosynthesis)

2005 #1 (cell respiration & photosynthesis)

2004 #3 (photosynthesis)

Cell cycle & cell signaling:

This topic has shown up more frequently and in more difficult FRQs in recent years, especially cell communication. The trend will most likely continue.

2021 #1 (cell communication)

2019 #4 (cell communication)

2018 #8 (cell communication)

2017 #8 (cell communication)

2016 # 7 (cell division)

2015 # 4 (cell division)

2015 #5 and 7 (cell communication)

2013 #8 (cell communication)

2011 #1B (cell division)

2010 #1 (cell communication)

2006 #1B (cell division)

2004 #1 (cell division)

Genetics, Gene Expression and Regulation

This section includes the classic Mendelian genetics, with Punnett squares, crosses, and Mendel’s laws. It also includes DNA replication, protein synthesis, and gene expression regulation for both eukaryotes and prokaryotes.

2021 #6 (gene expression)

2021 #2 (heredity + pedigrees)

2020 #1 parts a-b

2019 #1 and 3

2018 #1, 4, and 7

2016 #4 and 7

2020 #1 parts f-j

2015 #3 and 6

2014 #2 and 4


2015 #2 (nervous system)

2014 #2 (immune system) and 6 (musculoskeletal system) and 7

2017 #2 and 3

2011 #2 and 4

2017 #2, 4, and 7b

2016 #3 and 5

2014 #3 and 4

Experimental design:

This is an additional section that isn’t focused on any particular topic or has significant data analysis involved. While most FRQs do pertain to a specific topic(s), some are simply there to test your knowledge of experimental design and understanding of statistical concepts such as performing Chi-Square tests and interpreting error bars on graphs. These types of questions have become more and more common on the AP exam, so it is important to feel comfortable and confident with them.

2020 #1 parts c-e

2016 #2 , 6 and 8

2014 #1 and 5

2013 #1 and 7

Hope these organized FRQs saved you some time so you can focus more on actually doing them and practicing! You can easily share this post with friends who may find it helpful as well.

How to Improve AP Biology FRQ Scores, Fast

Do a lot of FRQ practice problems and review the answers! Practice is key, especially for a subject as dense as AP Bio. Check out the AP Bio Practice Portal , which is our popular vault of 300+ AP-style MCQ and FRQ problem sets with answers and explanations for every question. Don't waste any more time Googling practice problems or answers - try it out now!

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Unit 9: Worked examples of AP®︎ Biology free response questions

About this unit, worked examples - 2015.

  • 1a-c, Responses to the environment (Opens a modal)
  • 1d-e, Responses to the environment & natural selection (Opens a modal)
  • 2a-b, Cellular respiration & common ancestry (Opens a modal)
  • 2c-d, Cellular respiration & cell compartmentalization and its origins (Opens a modal)
  • 3a-b, Phylogeny (Opens a modal)
  • 4a-b, Meiosis and genetic diversity (Opens a modal)
  • 5a-b, Responses to the environment (Opens a modal)
  • 6a-c, Population ecology (Opens a modal)

AP® Biology

Unit 1 | chemistry of life, long free response, on fertile ground, unit 2 | cell structure and function, short answer free response, why it's separate, salty celery, osmoregulation in fish, water potential, bacteria, and osmosis, structure vs. function in the fluid mosaic model, compartmentalizing of eukaryotic cells, urine for a surprise, properties of the cell membrane, transpiration with changing environmental conditions, unit 3 | cellular energetics, the effects of kelp on the $\text{ph}$ of disko bay, determining pigment activity, the evolution of energy, mechanisms of cellular respiration, intricacies of mitochondria and aerobic respiration, photosynthetic rate, energy in systems, factors affecting the rate of enzyme function, common chemiosmolarity, the respiration of peas, factors affecting transpiration, unit 4 | cell communication and cell cycle, analyzing hormone signaling in cells, investigating the cell cycle, pcb exposure as a selective pressure, from one to the next, cell communication, unit 5 | heredity, pedigree: it's more than a dog food, huntington's disease, familial hypercholesterolemia, deer of a different color, genetic variation, ironing out the mechanics of genetic disorders, unit 6 | gene expression and regulation, bacterial restriction map analysis, levels of control, everybody's shuffling, genetic engineering using bacteria, analysis of data for chlamydomonas reinhardtii, pass it down, polymerase chain reaction, controlling hiv, a tale of two regulation types, paternal dna identification, methods of bacterial transformation, thermosensitivity and sex determination, maternal care and acth level in rats, there is more than denim in your genes, unit 7 | natural selection, mouse evolution, common ground among cells, evolution of the horse, rounding up unwanted plants, evolution of the arctic hare, exploring hardy-weinberg equilibrium, cat evolution and ancestry, allele frequencies and effects of mutation on hiv resistance | 2 of 2, explain evolution in a population of galapagos finches, in defense of evolution, evolutionary comparisons using myoglobin dna sequencing, allele frequencies and effects of mutation on hiv resistance | 1 of 2, unit 8 | ecology, garlic mustard invasion, 24 days of growth, fruit fly kinetics, determining energy consumption based on metabolic lifestyle, it's all connected, crazy ants and ecosystem disruption, creeping of the kudzu, the new species in town, the trophic cascade and ecological change, energy transfer in deep sea communities, symbiotic gut microbes and digestion, rise of the lichens, directional selection and body mass of white-tailed deer.


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