AP Biology: Insight into Free-Response Questions

Free-response questions on the AP biology exam may require you to provide information from a narrow area of biology, or they may consist of parts that require you to assemble information from diverse areas of biology. The questions that follow are typical of a broad and a more focused AP biology test question.

Sample directions: Answer the questions below as completely and as thoroughly as possible. Answer the question in essay form (NOT outline form), using complete sentences. You may use diagrams to supplement your answers, but a diagram alone without appropriate discussion is inadequate.

Define and explain how each of the following contributes to social behavior.

  • Pecking order

  • Territoriality

  • Traveling in herds or packs

  • Altruistic behavior

Describe each of the following animal behaviors as revealed in studies performed by the given researcher.

  • Fixed action patterns and Nikolaas Tinbergen

  • Imprinting and Konrad Lorenz

  • Classical conditioning and Ivan Pavlov

  • Bee communication and Karl von Frisch

Here are some tips for responding fully to test questions of this sort:

Question 1

For each part of this question, you should give a definition, an explanation of how the behavior increases individual fitness, and an example. For altruistic behavior, be sure to describe how inclusive fitness is increased through kin selection.

Question 2

These four pioneers in animal behavior and their classical studies are required knowledge for the AP exam. As in the first question, be sure to define each kind of behavior, explain how the behavior benefits the animal, and give a description of the behaviors observed by each researcher.