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Biology Merit Exam

Group of high school students holding a sign for the 2014 Biology Merit Exam.

The Clemson University Department of Biological Sciences annually conducts the Biology Merit Exam to recognize and promote outstanding achievement in the biological sciences among middle and high school students in South Carolina.


Lots of Opportunity

Group of students in orange shirts with Clemson Tiger mascot.

Students participating in the Biology Merit Exam will have an opportunity to:

  • Test their biology knowledge.
  • Acquaint themselves with Clemson University.
  • Tour the Clemson campus, explore the museums, attend special science exhibits and demonstrations (as part of Bio Science Expo when held in-person).
  • Prepare for the Advanced Placement exam.
  • Prepare for success on the biology end-of-course exam.
  • Explore a college atmosphere (when held in-person) and see what a college freshman exam might look like.
  • Compete against students at grade level for awards.


Any middle school or high school students who have completed or are currently enrolled in a biology or life science course and who have been identified by their teachers as having a strong interest and aptitude in the biological sciences are eligible to participate. Home-school students and students from out of state are welcome to participate.

Exam Structure

The Biology Merit Exam consists of 40 multiple-choice questions of varying degrees of difficulty that are distributed among the major areas of biology. Each year the exam has a different theme animal. Examples of previous exam themes include the biology of the yellow jacket, polar bear, wandering albatross, tiger, killer whale, T-rex, frog and octopus. Biology content areas include:

  • General principles.
  • Molecular biology.
  • Cellular biology.
  • Genetics.
  • Ecology.
  • Taxonomy.
  • Plant structure and function.
  • Animal structure and function.

Three divisions

Students compete only against others in their own division, and awards are given to the top three students as well as honorable mentions in each division.

  • Division I: Middle school students having completed or presently enrolled in life sciences or high school students having credit for middle school life science only.
  • Division II: High school students having completed or presently enrolled in their first biology course.
  • Division III: High school students having completed or presently enrolled in a second year of a high school life science.

Additional Information

The Department of Biological Sciences will again host an online and free edition of the annual Biology Merit Exam on April 26, 2024. The animal theme this year is the Burmese python.

  • Quick Overview

    Pre-registration is required and due one week out by 10 a.m. April 19. See below for registration information.

    • The exam will be offered online, through Canvas at Clemson University, at any time between 8 a.m.–3:45 p.m. — your choice — on April 26.
    • Students will have up to 75 minutes to take the exam once they begin. Students must begin the exam no later than 3:45 p.m.
    • Award winners in each division will be announced as in the past, but we are unable to mail plaques or medals.
    • BME T-shirts will be available for students and teachers to purchase individually online for $20 each and will ship to whoever places the order. The T-shirt ordering site will be open the entire month of April.
  • Preregistration

    Use the group preregistration form to pre-register students by submitting their names, email addresses and BME divisions by 10 a.m. April 19. Please use a student email address that can receive external email (from and Divisions are defined on the form. Email Ginger Foulk to have the form emailed to you. Otherwise, download the forms (Microsoft Excel files):

    Students may register individually if the student is the only representative from a school or class. Use the individual preregistration form.

    Once preregistered, and after April 23 students will be registered for a Canvas account and receive an email from Canvas asking them to finish the registration process. More information on this process and instructions on how to log in to Canvas will be provided to all teachers/students. The Canvas registration process is simply asking students to create a password which they will need to remember — and then use to log in to Canvas to take the exam on April 26.

  • Fees

    Fees are as follows:

    • Student registration: No fees for online BME in 2024.
    • T-shirt (optional): $20 each. Price includes shipping and handling.
  • Schedule

    The exam will be given between 8 a.m. and 3:45 p.m. April 26. Students will have up to 75 minutes to complete the exam once started. Most students complete the exam in 45 – 55 minutes). The exam must be completed in one sitting.

  • Awards

    Winners will be announced for the top three places in each division. Other high-scoring students will be announced as honorable-mention winners. Unfortunately, no physical awards, plaques or medals can be shipped for this virtual exam.

  • Souvenir T-Shirts

    Biology Merit Exam 2023 T-shirt, gray, with wolf and Clemson Department of Biological Sciences logo.T-shirts with the Biology Merit Exam year on the front and exam theme on the back (Burmese python in 2024) are available for $20. T-shirts are available to purchase individually online and will ship to whoever places the order. One caveat: If we do not reach a minimum order of 50, we will be unable to purchase the shirts from our vendor and will refund all money back to the credit cards used for the purchases. T-shirts must be ordered by April 29 and will ship within three weeks after the exam.

    • Available sizes: Adult S, M, L, XL, XXL, XXXL.
    • Cost: $20.
    • Order online: This link will remain open through April 29.

    Click the image of the T-shirt to see a larger version in a new window.   

  • Sample Exams

    Are you ready for the Biology Merit Exam? Find out! Take a practice test!

    The Biology Merit Exam consists of 40 multiple-choice questions of varying degrees of difficulty that are distributed among the major areas of biology. A number of previous exams — and answer keys — are available.

Additional Questions?

For additional information, or to get answers to any questions not addressed here, contact Ginger Foulk, Biology Merit Exam director, 132 Long Hall, Department of Biological Sciences, Clemson University, Clemson, SC 29634. Email:

Department of Biological Sciences
Department of Biological Sciences | 132 Long Hall, Clemson, SC 29634