CliffsNotes AP Biology 3rd Edition Review

Rating: ★★★★★

CliffsNotes is a series of study guides for students preparing for the AP Biology exam. The information is presented in pamphlet form in a clear and concise manner. These study guides are not meant to replace thorough review sources such as, textbooks or manuals. They serve as quick reference guides for reviewing material.

Many students in preparing for the Biology section of the DAT choose to study with CliffsNotes AP Biology. It is recommended to use the Third Edition when using this study guide as it is more relevant to the information covered on the DAT. The more recent Fourth Edition has been updated and is tailored more towards the updated AP Biology Exam. This edition has left out some of the information from the Third Edition needed for the DAT as well as it has added additional information for the updated AP Biology Exam that is not relevant to the DAT.


This is a review book for the AP Biology Exam, therefore not all the information in it is pertinent to the DAT. I will go through each part of the book and explain what information is covered.


The introduction will cover a review of the AP exam format and scoring which can be skipped. There are some test-taking strategies for multiple choice questions which may be helpful for the DAT. There are also hints for the essay questions of the AP exam which are not necessary to know. Lastly, it contains 14 principles of Biology which are good to know.

Part I: Subject Area Reviews

This section covers 14 subject areas of Biology and includes practice questions and answers at the conclusion of each subject. There are outlines for each subject that offer a clear overview of the subject. The important terms and concepts will be bolded throughout each subject which makes it easier to spot them and know which items are important to know. It is written in a straightforward, easy to read format that is clear and concise.

There are images and diagrams throughout the book to illustrate concepts. However, I found several of these images and diagrams to be lacking in detail. They could have been more useful if they were more detailed. There are also several concepts that did not have any images or diagrams with them and in my opinion these concepts would have been easier to comprehend by including an illustration.

The questions at the end of each subject will be multiple choice and essay questions. It is up to you whether or not you want to do the essay questions since the DAT only consists of multiple choice questions, but these might be beneficial to you as they will test your understanding of Biology concepts by making you process the information that you studied and explain it in answer format.

Part II: Laboratory Review

This section contains a review of all 12 AP laboratory exercises. These laboratory reviews will cover some concepts that may be on the DAT, but the DAT isn’t concerned with doing laboratory experiments so this section isn’t very useful for your studies. Your studies should focus on the Subject Area Reviews of the book.

Part III: AP Biology Practice Tests

The last section of the book contains two full-length practice tests that simulate the actual AP exam. There are also answers and explanations for all of the questions. These practice questions can be helpful in order to test your understanding of the material, however, it is more beneficial to do practice questions that have been formatted in the manner that the DAT will present them. Any specific DAT review material would have questions like this.

My Suggestion

Cliffs Notes AP Biology is a great review guide to help you prepare for the Biology section of the DAT. It is cheap, affordable, but also well-written so I would suggest it as a material to use for studying Biology.

It is very succinct and to the point, it reads like an encyclopedia. It contains all you need to know to prepare for the DAT. It is not as easy to read as Barron’s AP Biology, nor does it have as much content and illustrations, but it is a slightly better review guide in preparing you for the DAT.

Most students prefer CliffsNotes over Barron’s AP Biology if you have to pick between the two, as do I. But I would suggest using both review guides for your Biology study. I would study mainly from CliffsNotes, but would also do all of the practice tests and questions in Barron’s as well along the way and look to Barron’s when you need additional clarification with something. Also, you should use Barron’s for the Plants and Taxonomy sections instead of CliffsNotes as these sections are better explained in Barron’s. That way you will fill in all the gaps of information that you need to know for the DAT Biology section. They are both affordable review guides to purchase and both complement each other to adequately prepare you for the test.

If you have a weak Biology background then you might want to consider purchasing a more thorough review source like Campbell Biology to use in addition to the AP review guides. This way when you encounter material that you cannot understand from the review guides alone you will have a more thorough source to look to for understanding.

Another study tool to use in conjunction with the CliffsNotes AP Biology review guide is the CliffsNotes AP Biology Flashcards. They are a great study aid when used in tandem with the AP review guide. There are 950 print flash cards with a question/term on the front and the answer on the back of each card. They are divided into topics with each topic identified at the head of the card. There’s an additional 50 blank flash cards if you would like to create some of your own.

Flash cards provide students with a different style of learning which some prefer. It also would be helpful to use them for reviewing concepts and testing your understanding of Biology. Like the book, these flash cards are cheap and affordable.

CliffNotes AP Biology Review
Written by: Kip Nielsen
3 / 5 stars

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