Is Campbell Biology enough to reach USABO Finals?

Hey guys, I was wondering if Campbell Biology is enough to reach the level of the National Finals exam (top 20) in the USABO. (I know that it’s not enough to make it to the team for IBO.) Are there any topics in the Semifinals exam that should require more preparation with additional resources? Also, how much biochemistry is involved in the Open and Semifinals exams (e.g. amino acid memorization, etc.)?

Probably not. Look at the 2020 semi exam posted on the usabo website to determine what you would need. https://www.usabo-trc .org/src-content-information

The exam categories are:-

  • :dog2: Animal anatomy and physiology: 25%
  • :basketball: Cell Biology: 20%
  • :dna: Genetics and Evolution: 20%
  • :shamrock: Plant anatomy and physiology: 15%
  • :rosette: Ecology: 10%
  • :thought_balloon: Ethology: 5%
  • :gear: Biosystematics: 5%

So if you know a lot about animal anat and mole/cell bio you should be fine for open and possibly semis. But to do well enough in semifinals to get into finals, you’d definitely need to read more than Campbells (maybe some anatomy textbooks, plant textbooks, books about different molecular biology techniques… unhealthy wikipedia obsession and so on)


Campbell is a very good but USABO is not only about knowledge. You need to practice lots of problem solving and do tons of past papers. In addition to Campbell, you should read Vander’s or Fox, Raven’s Plant biology, Alberts and Lehninger. All are awesome textbooks. There are USABO training camps too where these books are covered so this can speed up your learning process.