AP Bio, Inside and Out
While it’s impossible to cram an entire year of Advanced Placement Biology into a 45 minute video, Cerebellum’s AP Biology Exam Prep is a good start. It doesn’t attempt to teach the year’s worth of college-level curriculum, yet has a good review of the material and excellent printable worksheets. At $50 for the two disc set, it is money well spent to get a class ready for the big test in May.
Meant for 11-th graders, the set uses Cerebellum’s Standard Deviants troupe of teenage actors to tell the story of life. The program starts with a good overview of what to expect from the test, how it is graded and how the total score adds up. It is chock full of general test taking advice and specific strategies for success in the AP Bio exam.
The hallmark of the Cerebellum exam prep series is “30 in 30.” This section attempts to compress the details of 30 biology concepts in 30 minutes. In this case, it actually takes 45 minutes. The video goes through the major themes and ideas one at a time, from photosynthesis to genetics.
From goofy to earnest, the video snippets are an effective communications tool for teenagers. The topics are comprehensive and presented in a quick-moving lively format that they will have trouble ignoring. Unfortunately, the onslaught of edutainment leaves some of the weightier subjects for the end when attention starts to waver.
As ambitious as the exam prep program is, it can only be useful as an outline to key students into what they need to review in depth and relearn. Happily, it totally ignores the controversy about evolution and deals with just the science.
Unfortunately, there are several gaffes that mar it. On top of irrelevant backgrounds (like a skulls and bones pattern), some of the kid actors have trouble with the accepted pronunciations of scientific terms. The two most embarrassing faux pas, however, are when “Assortment” is spelled as “Assorment” in a headline about Mendelian genetics and the list of 5 major hormones that actually contains 6 chemicals. More important to teachers and prospective test-takers seeking a comprehensive look at biology, the program doesn’t even mention digestion.
The real gem is the second disc, which contains 5.4MB of worksheets and printable material to pass out to the class. The 42-page workbook has illustrations, fill-in-the-blanks exercises and lots of descriptive material that does a good job of summarizing the curriculum and quizzing students.
On the downside, like Cerebellum’s other text prep discs, these study aids are meant to be printed and not filled in electronically. To me, this misses out on an opportunity to integrate it into the emerging digital classroom with. An iPad or Android tablet version would be a worthwhile effort.
Unfortunately, the Cerebellum exam prep set has an inherent use by date on it because the College Board is revamping the format and material on the biology test. The new test is scheduled to debut in 2013, followed by new exams for history in 2015.
For now, if you have a group of kids anxious about the upcoming AP Bio test, Cerebellum’s Exam Prep set is a great way to let them get a handle on what they know and what they don’t know.
+ Good review outline
+ Excellent printable worksheets
+ Lively quick-moving format
+ Insight about test format
- Can’t contain entire syllabus
- Typos and odd backgrounds
- Worksheets meant to be printed