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AP® Biology - Part 1: The Cell

ap biology free response cell transport

About this course

Preparing for the AP Biology exam requires a deep understanding of many different topics in biology as well as an understanding of the format of the AP exam and the types of questions it asks. This course is Part 1 of our AP Biology series designed to prepare you for the AP Biology exam.

In Part 1, you will learn about the cell, its structure, its functions, and the chemistry that drives all of the processes cells carry out on a daily basis.

As you work through this course, you will find lecture videos taught by expert AP Biology teachers, practice multiple choice questions and free response questions that are similar to what you will encounter on the AP exam and tutorial videos that show you step-by-step how to solve problems. By the end of the course, you will be prepared to take on the AP exam!

This course is authorized as an Advanced Placement® (AP®) course by the AP Course Audit. The AP Course Audit was created by the College Board to give schools and students the confidence that all AP courses meet or exceed the same clearly articulated curricular expectations of colleges and universities.

By taking an AP course and scoring successfully on the related AP Exam, students can:

Advanced Placement® and AP® are trademarks registered and/or owned by the College Board, which was not involved in the production of, and does not endorse, these offerings.

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Free Response Questions (FRQ)

Unit 2 FRQ (Intercellular Transport) Answers

2 min read • november 17, 2021

AP Biology   🧬

(a) Sodium and potassium ions are both necessary for life and constantly move across cellular membranes. Identify the transport method that both sodium and potassium use together to move across membranes. 

(b) A bulk amount of protein is created in a cell’s endomembrane system and needs to evacuate the cell. Explain the method the bulk substance should use to exit the cell.

(c) Human cells require multiple substances to pass in and out of their membranes regularly. Design an experiment to test which molecules, listed below, can pass through the membrane via simple diffusion.

Carbon dioxide


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AP CENTRAL FRQ's  2021    2019-1999    2020 Exam questions available in AP Classroom question bank


2021 #1    2021 All Questions       Scoring Guidelines  coming after exams are scored Plasma membrane Na+/K+ ATPase Signal transduction pathway Protein kinases Experimental design Dependent variable/controls Explain data Calculate expected Predict/justify results of a change

2019 #1       2019 Free -Response Questions          Scoring Guidelines        Sample Responses Q1 Central Dogma Effect of genetic mutation on pathway Make a prediction/Justify Feedback mechanisms Mutualism

2018 #2     2018 Free-Response Questions     Scoring Guidelines           Sample Responses Q2 Read a diagram Cell structure/function Predict e ffect of change in pathway Location of pathways/proteins in cell Effect in hypotonic enviroment Make/support a claim Justify claim with evidence Immune response

2018 #6    2018 Free-Response Questions        Scoring Guidelines             Sample Responses Q6 Location of cellular processes Cell Structure/Function Transport/Tonicity Affect of mutation (CFTR) on cell processes

2016 #1  2016 Free-Response Questions                 Scoring Guidelines              Sample Responses Q1 Construct a bar graph from data Effect of salinity on allele frequency Make a prediction from data Osmoregulation Make a prediction/Justify

2013 #6  2013 All questions        Scoring Guidelines        Sample Responses Q6 Use data provided Identify cell function Use data to support answer

2011 #1 2011 AP CENTRAL ESSAYS             2011 ?'s            Scoring Guidelines             Sample Responses Q1 Eukaryotic organelles Prokaryotes vs eukaryotes Endosymbiotic theory

2008 B #2 2008 All Questions       Scoring Guidelines        Sample Responses Q2 Structure function Organization of subunits into: ~ A eukaryotic chromosome ~ mature angiosperm root ~ a colony of bees ~ An inner membrane of a mitochondrion ~ An enzyme

2007 #1   2007 All Questions           Scoring Guidelines          Sample Responses Q1 Molecular components of plasma membranes Structure/function Role of membranes in: ~ muscle contraction ~ fertilization of an egg ~ chemisomotic production of ATP ~ intercellular signaling

2006 #1  2006 All Questions             Scoring Guidelines                        Sample Responses Q1 Eukaryotic organelles structure/function Prokaryotes/Eukaryotes differences DNA Ribosomes Cell Wall Endosymbiotic theory

2006B #2   2006B All Questions              Scoring Guidelines             Sample Responses Q2 Impact of structure on function of: ~ enyzme/catalysis ~ RNA/protein synthesis ~ cell membranes/signal transduction ~ membrane proteins/facilitated diffusion & active transport

2005 #2 2005 All Questions          Scoring Guidelines              Sample Responses Q2 Structure/function of eukaryotic chromosomes Evolutionary significance Prokaryotes/Eukaryotes

2001 #4     2001 All  Questions          Scoring guidelines          Sample Responses Q4 Protein structure Roles of DNA/RNA in protein synthesis Roles of proteins in membrane structure/transport

OLD FRQ's  prior to 1995

(1998)   Cells transport substances across their membranes.   Choose THREE of the following four types of cellular transport.         ·          Osmosis         ·          Active Transport                           ·          Facilitated diffusion                  ·          Endocytosis/exocytosis

For each of the three transport types you choose a.   describe the transport process and explain how the organization of cell membranes functions in the movement of specific molecules   across the membrane. b. explain the significance of each type of transport to a specific cell (you may use different cell types as examples.)

(1994)     Discuss how cellular structures, including the plasma membrane, specialized endoplasmic reticulum, cytoskeletal elements, and mitochondria, function together in the contraction of skeletal muscle cells.

(1993)     Membranes are important structural features of cells.         a.      Describe how membrane structure is related to the transport of materials across a membrane.          b.      Describe the role of membranes in the synthesis of ATP in either cellular respiration or photosynthesis.

(1987)     Discuss the process of cell division in animals. Include a description of mitosis and cytokinesis, and of the other phases of the cell cycle. Do not include meiosis.

(1984)     Describe the structure of a generalized eukaryotic plant cell. Indicate the ways in which a nonphotosynthetic prokaryotic cell would differ in structure from this generalized eukaryotic plant cell.

(1983)     Describe the fluid-mosaic model of a plasma membrane. Discuss the role of the membrane in the movement of materials through by each of the following processes.         a.      Active Transport         b.      Passive Transport

(1981)     Describe the structural arrangement and function of the membranes associated with each of the following eukaryotic organelles:         a.      Mitochondrion         b.      Endoplasmic Reticulum         c.      Chloroplast         d.      Golgi Apparatus

(1978)     Describe a model of the cell membrane of a eukaryotic cell and discuss different ways in which substances move across the membrane.

(1975)     All living cells exploit their environment for energy and for molecular components in order to maintain their internal environments. Describe the roles of several different membrane systems in these activities.

(1970)     Electron microscope studies have revealed the probable structures of plasma membranes and the membranes of various cell components.         a.      Describe the kinds of observations and experiments that are used to study the basic structure and molecular components of these membranes.         b.      Discuss mechanisms by which materials are thought to move across membranes.         c.      Discuss the significance of membranes in the biochemical events which occur in mitochondria and chloroplasts.

(1969)     Suppose a team of scientists is examining the cells of a newly discovered species. They observe under the light microscope an organelle that appears to be different from any that has been described before. Assume that you are the director of the research team. Describe the methods that you would have the team use to determine whether the structure is a mitochondrion, ribosome, lysosome, nucleolus, or indeed a new organelle. Discuss the advantages and limitations of each method in revealing the role of the unknown organelle in the living cell.    

(1964)      a. Describe the structure of the cell membrane as revealed by electron microscopy and biochemical studies. b. Explain how the passage of substances through the cell membrane is regulated by the    physical and chemical properties of the substances involved. c. Explain how the concentration of a solute on either side of a semi-permeable membrane   affects osmosis.

(1960)     a. Make a schematic diagram of a generalized plant or animal cell, showing the structure of its parts as revealed by electron microscopy.       Make a diagram the size of a full page and label it completely, indicating whether the cell is from a plant or an animal. b. List the parts included in your diagram and describe briefly the activities or functions thought to be performed by each one.

(1959)     Some of the differentiated structures of plant and animal cells are cell walls, plasma membranes, chromosomes, chloroplasts, mitochondria, and spindle fibers. Discuss four of these with respect to:           1) function   and              2) physico-chemical nature.

(2007)  Membranes are essential components of all cells.

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Cell Transport AP Bio Cheat Sheet by giofrombio

An AP Bio Study Guide

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AP Biology Past FRQs by Topic

Updated: Nov 19, 2022

ap biology free response cell transport

**Updated on 11/19/22 to include the 2020-2022 exams!**

If you are looking for past AP Biology free-response questions (FRQs) that are organized by topic, then you have come to the right place. In this post, we have linked every freely available past FRQ there is and organized it into the following major topics of AP Biology :


Metabolism & Energetics

Plants (note that this topic will not be tested on the official AP Biology exam this year in 2021, although some questions about plants also cover concepts that will be tested)

Physiology (note that this topic will not be tested on the official AP Biology exam this year in 2021, although many questions about physiology could also cover concepts that will be tested)

Need more AP-style practice problems?

Intensively doing and reviewing practice questions is usually much more effective than spending hours studying with notes or the teacher's slides. If you are looking for more College Board-style problems, check out our AP Bio Practice Portal which is an easy-to-use database of 300+ AP-style MCQ and FRQ practice questions. Students love the Practice Portal because it includes answers and explanations for every problem, tracks progress, saves time from Googling practice problems.

Try the Practice Portal >

How to Make the Most of Past FRQs from College Board

As noted above, the diversity of organisms, plants, and physiology will not be on the 2021 AP Biology exam. However, the exam could include questions about topics or hypothetical situations that are related to those topics. One great example is cell communication, which is used in multiple systems inside our bodies. Let’s say an FRQ was to appear about the immune system and how the immune cells communicate. That would be fair game as long as the question focuses on the cell signaling part, not the details of the immune system. If the question requires some background knowledge about the immune system, it will be provided.

If you want to do a whole practice FRQ set just like the ones on the real exam (which we highly recommend), all the freely available past FRQs by year are available here on the College Board website. Tip: time yourself and take the practice FRQ set in an environment that mimics how you imagine your actual testing environment to be.

If you would like to focus on a particular topic, then the section coming up is for you. Some FRQs will show up under multiple topics because they truly do test students’ understanding of multiple different topics.

Tip : Whether you are doing individual free-response questions or doing a full problem set in one go, it is extremely important and effective to do test corrections! Don’t only consult the scoring guidelines and model responses when you have no clue how to answer a question. You should be checking them for all the FRQs you do. When you find a difference between your answer and the scoring guidelines, it is important that you pause and analyze why your response is incorrect. Take the time to understand your mistakes and see how your answer could have been better. This will help you boost your scores the most efficiently.



Basic and organic chemistry concepts do not come up often on the FRQs (but of course, it’s better to be prepared). The properties of water and macromolecules come up occasionally.

2017 #7 and 8

Includes cell structure and function, cell transport and the proteins involved.

2019 #3 and 8

2018 #2, 6, and 8

2006 #1, 3, and 4

2001 #1 and 4

Metabolism & Energetics:

This topic includes enzymes, cellular respiration, and photosynthesis.

2021 #3 (cell respiration)

2019 #3 (cell respiration)

2018 #2 (cell respiration)

2017 #7 (cell respiration)

2017 #5 (photosynthesis)

2015 #2 (cell respiration)

2013 #2 (photosynthesis) and 4 (cell respiration & photosynthesis)

2012 #2 (cell respiration) and 4 (cell respiration & photosynthesis)

2010 #2 (enzymes)

2007 #3 (photosynthesis)

2006 #4 (photosynthesis)

2005 #1 (cell respiration & photosynthesis)

2004 #3 (photosynthesis)

Cell cycle & cell signaling:

This topic has shown up more frequently and in more difficult FRQs in recent years, especially cell communication. The trend will most likely continue.

2021 #1 (cell communication)

2019 #4 (cell communication)

2018 #8 (cell communication)

2017 #8 (cell communication)

2016 # 7 (cell division)

2015 # 4 (cell division)

2015 #5 and 7 (cell communication)

2013 #8 (cell communication)

2011 #1B (cell division)

2010 #1 (cell communication)

2006 #1B (cell division)

2004 #1 (cell division)

Genetics, Gene Expression and Regulation

This section includes the classic Mendelian genetics, with Punnett squares, crosses, and Mendel’s laws. It also includes DNA replication, protein synthesis, and gene expression regulation for both eukaryotes and prokaryotes.

2021 #6 (gene expression)

2021 #2 (heredity + pedigrees)

2020 #1 parts a-b

2019 #1 and 3

2018 #1, 4, and 7

2016 #4 and 7

2020 #1 parts f-j

2015 #3 and 6

2014 #2 and 4


2015 #2 (nervous system)

2014 #2 (immune system) and 6 (musculoskeletal system) and 7

2017 #2 and 3

2011 #2 and 4

2017 #2, 4, and 7b

2016 #3 and 5

2014 #3 and 4

Experimental design:

This is an additional section that isn’t focused on any particular topic or has significant data analysis involved. While most FRQs do pertain to a specific topic(s), some are simply there to test your knowledge of experimental design and understanding of statistical concepts such as performing Chi-Square tests and interpreting error bars on graphs. These types of questions have become more and more common on the AP exam, so it is important to feel comfortable and confident with them.

2020 #1 parts c-e

2016 #2 , 6 and 8

2014 #1 and 5

2013 #1 and 7

Hope these organized FRQs saved you some time so you can focus more on actually doing them and practicing! You can easily share this post with friends who may find it helpful as well.


AP® Biology

Cell membrane: ap® biology crash course review.

Cell Membrane - AP® Biology Crash Course Review

In AP® Biology , there is a lot of information about cells. Cells have many organelles to memorize and understand. One of the organelles that you must know for the AP® Bio exam is the cell membrane . In this AP® Biology Crash Course Review , we will go over the important information that you need to know for the AP® exam about cell membranes. We will first go over the structure of the membrane. After we understand its structure, we will be able to use that knowledge to understand its function in the cell. Finally, we will go over a question that you might see on your AP® Biology exam .

The cell membrane is primarily made up of phospholipids . Phospholipids are composed of a phosphate head and a fatty acid tail. The phosphate head is hydrophilic meaning “water-loving,” while the fatty acid tail is hydrophobic “water-fearing.” Because of this, the phospholipids arrange themselves in a bilayer. The phosphate heads are on the outside of the bilayer, leaving the fatty acids on the inside, away from all of the water. The cell membrane acts as a thin barrier, which separates the living cell from the aqueous environment.

The hydrophilic heads are polar as well. Because of this, polar molecules are not able to freely pass through the membrane; this limits the traffic into and out of the cell and allows certain substances to cross more easily than others.

Additionally, cholesterol is found in the cell membrane. Cholesterol molecules are amphipathic , meaning that they have both hydrophilic and hydrophobic regions. Cholesterol functions to moderate the fluidity of the membrane and stabilize it. There are also proteins in the membrane, let’s review that next.

Membrane Proteins

Polar molecules must be able to pass through the membrane. In order for the molecules to pass through the membrane, there must be membrane proteins. Membrane proteins can aid in the crossing over of specific material across the cell membrane.

There are three classes of membrane proteins:

1. Channels: Channel proteins act as cylinders carved into the membrane. Specific ions are able to enter into the channel, allowing them passage into or out of the cell.

2. Carriers: Carrier proteins carry a molecule across the cell membrane. The molecule is bound to the protein causing a conformation change. The conformation change places the molecule on the opposite side of the membrane.

3. Pumps: Pump proteins use active transport to bring in molecules. Active transport is done against the direction of the electrochemical gradient by breaking the phosphate bond of an ATP molecule.

Integral and Peripheral membrane proteins

These membrane proteins allow certain molecules to exit and leave the cell. Though they cause the cell membrane to be permeable, they are very specific in which molecules are able to move. These membrane proteins are also called integral proteins because they penetrate the lipid bilayer across the entire membrane. There are another set of proteins called peripheral proteins, which are loosely bound to the surface of the membrane and serve as antigens. They do not assist in the transport of molecules but rather as identity markers.

These proteins assist smaller molecules in moving across the membrane but there are size restrictions to these proteins.

Large Molecules Across the Cell Membrane

Large molecules will not be able to be moved using membrane proteins; they are simply too small. The large molecules must use moving vesicles and vacuoles. There are two modes of transportation: endocytosis and exocytosis . Endocytosis is when the cell is accepting a vesicle or vacuole, while exocytosis is when the cell is excreting a vesicle or vacuole.

We will first review the method of exocytosis. In exocytosis, the cell assembles the molecules from the cytoplasm into a secretory vesicle . The secretory vesicle will then fuse with the cell membrane, opening the vesicle and allowing its contents to spill into the extracellular space. One example of exocytosis is found in the neuronal cells. When a neuronal cell has been excited, it will secrete a neurotransmitter into the extracellular space near its neighboring neuron. The neighboring neuron will receive the neurotransmitter and understand it as a message.

There are three major ways that endocytosis occurs in the cell:

1. Phagocytosis : Phagocytosis is when the cell is ingesting something as food. The “food” will be taken in when the cell membrane fuses around the molecule. The contents will then be sent to the lysosome for digestion.

2. Pinocytosis: Pinocytosis is a much less specific process. The cell takes in the molecules and is able to process them based on the signal that it receives.

3. Receptor-mediated endocytosis: Receptor-mediated endocytosis is triggered by a molecular signal. Usually, a cell will receive the signal by the binding of another molecule to the antigen. This will cause the cell to take up the surrounding molecules to process the signal. An example of this is found in the neuronal cell. As we discussed, one cell will release neurotransmitter signals that the other cell will receive. The neighboring cell will receive the neurotransmitter by receptor-mediated endocytosis.

Water has a different form of transportation across the membrane called osmosis . The direction of osmosis is determined by comparing the solute to the solvent. The universal solvent in biology is water; therefore, water will always move across a concentration gradient. Water will move into an environment that has a higher concentration of solute.

The process of osmosis is important, because water must be able to move freely in order for the cell to survive. Hypotonic cells , cells with more water than solute, will lyse due to too much water pressure. Think about hypotonic cells like balloons that have filled with too much air and burst. Too little water poses a problem as well;  hypertonic cells , cells which have a higher concentration of solute, will shrink and die. If you would like to visualize this, think about a dried piece of fruit.

AP® Biology Exam Question

In order to test our knowledge, let’s review a question about the cell membrane found on the AP® Bio exam in 2007.

Membranes are essential components of all cells. Identify three macromolecules that are components of the plasma membrane in a eukaryotic cell and discuss the structure and function of each.

Here is an example of a full point answer:

The cell membrane is made up of phospholipids, cholesterol, and proteins. Phospholipids form a bilayer with hydrophilic heads pointing out and hydrophobic tails pointing in. The phospholipid bilayer provides selective permeability and fluidity to the membrane, allowing certain nonpolar molecules to pass through the membrane. Cholesterol is an amphipathic steroid that is embedded in the bilayer. Cholesterol functions to stabilize the membrane. Finally, there are many proteins found on the bilayer. Proteins are made up of amino acids. The proteins on the membrane function to transport molecules across the membrane and also to identify the cell.

In this AP® Biology Crash Course Review, we have covered the information you must know about cell membranes for the AP® Biology exam. We first went over the structure of the membrane, then we went over other components found in the membrane that assist in its function. Finally, we went over a question that you might see on your AP® Biology exam.

Thank you for reading this article, Cell Membranes: AP® Biology Crash Course Review ! We really appreciate your feedback, let us know how we did! If you want to study more with us, check out our article, Cell Organelles: AP® Biology Crash Course Review !

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