Class Description

AP Biology

Mr. Mahon

773-534-8600 ext. 26135


Course Overview and Objectives

The AP Biology course is designed to be the equivalent of a full-year introductory biology course usually taken by biology majors during their first year.  Many colleges offer college credit for passing the AP Biology exam and/or allow students to take upper level biology courses as freshman or register for courses for which biology is a prerequisite.  As such, students and parents should be aware that the course is far more demanding than a regular high school course. 

The AP course differs significantly from a usual high school biology class with respect to the level of textbook used, the range and depth of topics covered, the kind of laboratory work performed and the time and effort required by students.  Content covered and exams will be much more thorough, and laboratory complexity will be much greater.  Grades will be assigned as if the student was taking an introductory college course. 

The two overarching goals of AP Biology are to help students develop a conceptual framework for modern biology and to help students gain an appreciation of science as a process.  The ongoing knowledge explosion in biology makes these goals even more challenging.  Primary emphasis in the course will be on developing an understanding of concepts rather than memorizing terms and technical details.  Laboratory experiments will be a major part of the class and students should expect to spend a good amount of time outside of class completing their lab reports.   

Goals have been set by The College Board for the percentage of the course covering 3 major topics:

  1. Molecules and Cells, 25%
  2. Heredity and Evolution, 25%
  3. Organisms and Population, 50%

These areas have been subdivided into major categories with the percentage goals for each category.  These percentages have been used as a guide in the development of this class syllabus and are used for constructing the exam itself.  

Taken from copyrighted Course Description for AP Biology

This course is designed around the unifying concept of evolution and around 8 major themes.  In each unit we will address the following: science as a process, evolution, energy transfer, continuity and change, the relationship of structure to function, regulation, interdependence in nature and science, technology and society. 


Course Materials

  • Campbell, Mitchell and Reece.  Biology, Seventh Edition.  Benjamin/Cummings Publishing Company, Menlo Park, CA, 2005

Please keep your textbook at home!  There is a class set available for use during class.  Be aware that loss of a school-issued textbook or laboratory manual will result in a mandatory replacement fee

Course Requirements and Policies

  • Attend class everyday on time and prepared – we don't have time to waste
  • READ AND OUTLINE the chapters – this is an important skill for college
  • Formal lab reports will be required of all AP labs.  Reports must be typed and properly formatted.  Students may work together on lab reports.
  • Prior to each lab, a pre-lab assignment must be completed.  Students will not be able to participate in labs until their pre-lab assignment is completed. 
  • There will be a short quiz every Friday so students can evaluate their understanding of the material
  • Every Friday, as a group, students will write a practice essay, score that essay and revise it to prepare a portfolio of strong AP essays.    
  • Unit exams will be given after each major unit.  These will be structured similar to the AP Exam.  Both past AP test questions and similar questions will be asked.  These exams will include essays.
  • Exam corrections can be completed after every unit exam.  Up to half of all missed points may be recovered.  Exam corrections are due 2 weeks after the exam. 
  • Students are expected to take the AP Biology Exam on May 9th, 2011
  • There will be a comprehensive final exam for the first semester, worth 15% of the overall grade
  • There will be a final exam immediately prior to the AP exam, worth 15% of the second semester grade
  • Plagiarizing an assignment will not be tolerated and will result in an automatic zero.
  • Allowing another student to copy your work will also result in an automatic zero.
  • Missing class for any reason is not an excuse for missing classwork.  It is the student’s responsibility to make meet with Mr. Mahon outside of class to make up missed work.

Late Work Policy

  • All work is due at the beginning of class on the day assigned
  • 10% of the total points will be taken off for each day that the assignment is late (assignments turned in after class on the due date will lose 10%).  No work will be accepted more than a week late
  • If you have an excused absence on the date an assignment is due you must contact me before class via phone or email or your assignment will be considered late.
  • On unit exam days you must let me know ahead of time for an excused absence, or you will lose 10% of your grade every day until you take the exam. 
  • Please talk to me ahead of time if you are struggling to complete an assignment or have an issue that merits you being given more time.  No extensions will be given on the due date. 

Contacting Mr. Mahon

  • Parents and students please feel free to contact Mr. Mahon with any questions or concerns
  • Email is preferable, but you may also use my school phone. 
  • If you think you could have done better on an exam, quiz or laboratory report please see me and we will discuss options for making up points.  It is up to you to come talk to me. 
  • Mr. Mahon is available for drop-in help every day before school starting at 6:30 am.  Students may also meet with Mr. Mahon during lunch periods 3 and 4 and/or after school by prior arrangement.
  • Students are expected to check their email and check the website on a regular basis. 

Course Website

  • Please see the course website for copies of powerpoints, assignments, unit schedules as well as the class syllabus.


The grading scale, in accordance with JCP policy, will be as follows:

Percent of Total Points Letter Grade

92-100 A

83-91 B

74-82 C

65-73 D

0-64 F


Grades will be weighted according to the following categories and percentages

Unit Exams: 30%

Lab Reports: 15%

Weekly Quizzes: 15%

Weekly Essays: 10%

Chapter Outlines: 10%

Final Exam: 20%

Grades can be viewed at all times by parents and students using the CPS website.  Please remember that this is a college-level course and will be graded as such.  It is essential that students complete all reading outlines, lab reports and other assignments, as well as study outside of class.