High School Biology Coursework

Thank you for your interest in CTY's fast-paced high school science courses. We hope you find this information helpful in deciding whether to register for Fast-Paced High School Biology, Chemistry, or Physics, or in preparing for a course if your student is already registered.

If you are unable to find the information you are looking for, please call 410-735-6185 and ask to speak with a member of CTY's Science Committee.

Course Descriptions for Fast-Paced High School Science Courses

Frequently Asked Questions

Should I consult with my child's school before signing up for a fast-paced high school science course?

Absolutely. Fast-paced high school science courses are designed for students who plan to take more advanced coursework in their home schools or at CTY. These courses are designed for acceleration, not for a review of old concepts nor for a preview of the science classes students will take in the fall at their home schools. Students who successfully complete a CTY fast-paced science course have received the pre-requisite content for the relevant AP or IB science course. Students who repeat the same material when they return to school in the fall are generally dissatisfied with their school experience. Before applying, families should, therefore, discuss credit and/or placement and the consequences of acceleration with a school official to determine if a fast-paced high school science course is an appropriate choice. (See "Credit and Placement" below.)

Keep in mind specific high school science courses are often graduation requirements. Please discuss whether CTY’s fast-paced high school science course will count towards any such requirements in your student’s district during this discussion.

Do students complete a year's worth of science in three weeks?

The goal of CTY’s fast-paced high school science courses is to teach students the same material covered in a year-long introductory high school science course. Specific content expectations for standard biology, chemistry, and physics courses vary from school to school and district to district. For example, the New York’s Regents program has different requirements and content emphasis than some other states’ programs. Because of these regional differences, families are strongly encouraged to discuss the school’s requirements with officials before signing up for a CTY fast-paced high school science course. Students who complete a CTY fast-paced high school science course successfully have been exposed to content and skills similar to those of a student who has completed a year-long course in a typical high school setting.

What if the curriculum at my child's school doesn't match the fast-paced high school science curriculum? Can accommodations be made?

These courses are designed to cover an entire year of high school science in three weeks, so there is not much room for curriculum changes during a CTY summer session. For most students, the curriculum does match. In case there are differences, many students have successfully sat for their home schools’ exams after taking our summer courses and reviewing certain topics not emphasized in them. For the best understanding of what will be covered during our courses, see the sample syllabi and content lists.

Is there any documentation at the end of the session to give schools proof that my child mastered the material?

Each student automatically receives a personalized narrative evaluation and a course description specific to his or her class section. Generally, this documentation is all the schools require to grant credit or placement.

After being assigned to a fast-paced high school science course, students complete a Fast-Paced High School Science Questionnaire  before the start of the summer program. The questionnaire asks students—with the help of their schools and parents—to provide information about their schools’ expectations. If your student’s school requires documentation in addition to our evaluation and course description, please include that information on the questionnaire so that we can gather this additional information during the summer session. For example, students from New York typically need copies of their lab work and certification of the laboratory hours they have completed during a course.

Are letter grades assigned?

CTY students are typically not assigned letter grades; instead, they receive a narrative evaluation of their overall course performance, highlighting their strengths and areas for improvement. If your student requires a letter grade, you may request one when completing the Fast-Paced High School Science Questionnaire or at any time by contacting ctyregsumm@jhu.edu. Grade requests typically take several weeks after the end of the summer sessions to complete. We strongly encourage families to make the request before the summer programs begin, and the fastest and easiest way to do so is when completing the Questionnaire.

Do fast-paced high school science courses really work? Will my student be ready for an AP or IB science course after just three weeks at CTY?

Research evidence shows that the answer is yes. CTY is engaged in long-term research on the overall effectiveness of the acceleration model utilized in fast-paced high school science courses. As part of the process of renewing CTY”s accreditation, CTY conducted a more focused research project on how well our fast-paced high school science courses prepare students for AP- or IB-level work. This research has shown that students who completed our summer fast-paced high school science courses do as well or better on AP exams than a control group of their CTY peers who instead completed other CTY Intensive Studies summer science courses. While these results are preliminary, all the evidence indicates our fast-paced high school science courses prepare students successfully for more challenging course work.

Course Content

The concepts covered in each fast-paced high school science course are available below. Additionally, the sample syllabi for each course can be found on the relevant course’s catalog page. We recognize that CTY's curriculum may be different from what is offered at your school. If this is the case, please describe what adaptations are necessary to fulfill your school's requirements on the Fast-Paced High School Science Questionnaire.

Please select a course:

Credit and Placement

Whether or not you get credit or placement for your summer programs course work depends on your school or district.

The Center for Talented Youth is accredited for grades 5 through 12 by the Commission on Secondary Schools of the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools, but does not award degrees or diplomas and cannot grant credit or placement. Credit or placement can only be awarded by the student's school. For fast-paced high school science courses, you must work with your child’s school to see if the school will grant credit or placement for a CTY course.

To help determine whether you should pursue placement, please review our Parents' Guide for Requesting Credit and/or Placement document.

Often, the documentation CTY automatically provides upon completion of a fast-paced high school science course is sufficient for receiving credit or placement. Also, in the past several strategies have helped parents work with schools for credit or placement. Families should ask schools whether they will allow a student to sit for the school/district final exam after the summer session to demonstrate content mastery. Additionally, they might ask the school what additional documentation CTY can provide for the student to receive credit or placement. For example, letter grades, lab notebooks, and exam scores can usually be provided when requested before the session begins; a copy of the final exam cannot. Additional documentation can be requested when completing the Fast-Paced High School Science Questionnaire. In rare cases, school officials have spoken to CTY science representatives about the course, labs, and final exam content to make a final determination about credit or placement.

Fast-Paced Science Questionnaire

CTY has developed a Fast-Paced High School Science Questionnaire that we ask participants in our fast-paced high school science courses to complete in consultation with their families and schools. This questionnaire allows families and schools to consider together what they will need from CTY in order to receive credit and/or placement. It also asks families to report information that will better allow the CTY summer instructor to tailor the course based on the students’ background preparation and needs. Families of registered students will be emailed the link to the questionnaire and can also access the form through MyCTY. The questionnaire should be completed online in MyCTY and not mailed to the office or brought to the site.


Recommended High School Coursework for Future Biology Majors

The Biology program at Iowa State University offers a uniquely flexible and robust curriculum. Students in Biology have the option to select from over 160 advanced courses, allowing them to customize their biology coursework to target specific interests and career directions.

In order to best prepare for coursework in the Biology major, the Biology Student Services Office recommends that high school students complete the following courses prior to beginning their adventure in Biology at ISU:


Chemistry is one of the primary supporting sciences students encounter in the Biology major. For this reason, it is important to have a strong foundation in high school chemistry. Our office encourages students to complete a minimum of one year of high school chemistry.


A firm understanding of introductory level physics can lead to greater success for students enrolled in the Biology program. One year of high school physics is recommended. Students in high schools with AP Physics offerings may choose to enroll in these courses in order to attempt college credit for physics.


Courses in Biology, such as Anatomy and Physiology, Genetics, and Advanced Sciences, are helpful for students entering the Biology program. However, these courses should not take the place of the Chemistry and Physics courses. One year of high school Biology is recommended. If students have the opportunity to enroll in additional Biology courses without sacrificing their supporting sciences, these courses may prove to be beneficial.


Math is an important factor in student success at the university level. Our office encourages students to complete Algebra I, Algebra II, Geometry, and Trigonometry in high school, if possible. Students with the opportunity to enroll in AP Statistics, Pre-Calculus, and/or Calculus I courses in high school may attempt college credit for Math.             


While a strong foundation in the sciences is certainly important, Biologists are also expected to communicate with colleagues from various backgrounds on a regular basis. Courses in English, Literature, and Speech Communication will be valuable in contributing to students’ overall success.

World Language

Although world language is not specifically required by the Biology program, our office encourages high school students to complete three years of foreign language prior to enrolling at Iowa State. This is particularly useful for students interested in obtaining a Biology degree from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, which requires 3 years of world language in high school, or 4-8 credits of world language at the university level.

Computer Courses

Students may find at least one high school computer course helpful before moving on to the university setting. At Iowa State, a student’s word processing, spreadsheet, presentation, and database building skills will likely be called upon in various courses and laboratories. 

The courses listed above are not required for entrance into the undergraduate Biology program at ISU. However, they may be helpful in fostering academic success within the Biology program.

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