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The AP Changes You Need to Know

In the summer of 2019, the College Board® released some of the changes for its Advanced Placement® program. The changes have been discussed with teachers at the AP® Summer Institutes (APSIs), at the AP® Annual Conference (APAC), and through video tutorials on the College Board’s website.

Carolina appreciates the work teachers continuously do to improve student education. As part of our continuing, year-round efforts to provide valuable resources and support to the teacher community, we’ve listed answers to common questions about the AP® Biology, AP® Chemistry, and AP® Environmental Science (APES) updates.

AP course changes

The College Board has released a Course Exam and Description (CED) for each class. This document is designed to clearly outline the required course content and how that content will be accessed at the year-end exam.


The course content has been organized into 8 commonly taught units. The body systems unit has been removed to continue the College Board’s goal from 2012, which is depth over breadth.


There are no major content changes. The course content has been organized into 9 commonly taught units.

Environmental science

The course content has been organized into 9 commonly taught units. This provides more information about specific learning objectives and course content than was previously available.

Frequently asked questions

  1. Will I have to teach the course any differently?

    All courses: no. While the College Board has provided unit outlines for each course, individual teachers are still free to teach the course in the way see fit as long as they cover the required course content and skills. The unit sequence for each subject represents those found in widely adopted college textbooks for the respective subject and those followed by AP teachers.

    Additionally, the College Board has spiraled the big ideas and science practices through the unit organization.
  1. How are the labs changing?

    All courses: no significant changes to the lab experiences. All Carolina Investigations® kits can still be used in your courses in the same areas they have always been used. The content and experiences will still provide value to your students.

    Biology and Chemistry: updated example labs that reflect the new version of the course exam and description. However, the labs themselves have not changed. The course exam and description provide guidance on where in the unit plan each investigation could be carried out.

    Environmental Science: at this time, it still does not have a set of example labs.
  1. How is the exam changing?

    Biology: The grid-in responses have been removed from the exam. Instead of 8 free response questions (2 long, 6 short), there are now 6 free response questions (2 long, 4 short).

    Chemistry: The exam is not changing. This was emphasized during the review at the AP Annual Conference (APAC) and the ChemEd conference.

    Environmental Science: instead of 100 multiple-choice questions, there are now 80. A new multiple-choice question type has been added that requires students to analyze texts. Instead of 4 free response questions, there are now 3. This is accompanied by a time change, from 1 hour 30 minutes to 1 hour 10 minutes. The question types will remain the same from year to year.
  1. Is there anything else I need to know?

    The College Board has added a variety of instructional approaches to each of the courses. Within the course exam and description, they have provided sample instructional activities for each unit.

    AP Classroom, an online resource for teachers and students, is now available. It provides free resources for AP and pre-AP, including an online question bank, instructional support, and progress checks.

    The College Board has moved the exam registration to the fall. Their research shows that an early fall commitment to take an AP exam improves a student’s chances for earning college credit.

For more information, refer to the course exam descriptions:

We encourage you to visit your respective subject area on the College Board’s website.

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