Scoring a 4 or 5 on AP Psychology can seem daunting. Fortunately, 45.6% of students who sat for the AP Psychology test scored a 4 or 5 on the exam! That means AP Psychology is a prime opportunity to boost your confidence and experience in taking AP exams. Hopefully after reading this list of comprehensive tips, you’ll feel better prepared to rock your AP Psychology test!
Now to the good stuff… here are 50 AP Psychology tips.
AP Psychology FRQ Essay Tips & Advice
1. Underline important clauses: It is easy to overlook a small but important part of an FRQ question. Make sure to use your writing utensil. Underline or circle important phrases in the prompt.
2. Identify the verbs: Look for these cues to as mental reminders of what to include in your response. Verbs that are frequently on the test include; describe, explain, compare, contrast, evaluate, apply, identify, etc. Identifying these cues will allow you to ensure you are addressing every part of the question at hand.
3. Bucket the course: What we mean is you should outline the AP Psychology course during your review sessions. Break down the important themes in the course and familiarize yourself with mentally cueing these “buckets” whenever you read an AP Psychology question. You can label certain topic areas to your own liking i.e. Area 1: History & Approaches, Area 2: Research Methods, etc. So if you see a question about William James, you may remember that this question is testing your knowledge of History & Approaches and mentally recall related concepts to different approaches and the history of psychology.
4. Budget your time: with just 50 minutes to answer the two FRQ questions, you need to prepare yourself to answer each question in roughly 25 minutes. A good way to approach the FRQs is to spend the first 3-4 minutes planning your answer before beginning to write for the remainder of the time. Keep your eye on the time and make sure you don’t spend too much time on one essay over another.
5. Put your best foot forward: Cliche, yes. But this is a really important tip to remember. At the end of the day, you may enter the AP Psychology test and not know every single part of the question you are responsible for. It’s okay! Take a deep breath and recall everything you do know. The name of the game is doing as well as you possibly can, and sharing with the reader/grader what you’ve learned. It is better to put your best foot forward and to try earning as many points as you can than to feel self-defeated and simply not write because you do not know a particular part of the question.
6. Use the proper terminology: When you can recall it, use the appropriate psychological term when responding to the FRQs. It is an AP Psychology test for a reason!
7. Be specific: One of the areas students struggle with on the AP Psychology test is being specific enough with their responses. If you survey the sample responses released by the College Board, you will see that many poorly scored responses are ones that lack specificity. Give examples and show that you truly understand what the question is asking.
8. Simplicity is the ultimate form of sophistication: We get it. You love complex sentences. However, students who are able to write simply and elegantly are often the best writers. When you can, break down your sentences. Write with clarity.
9. Understand the rubric: One of the best parts about taking AP tests is that you know what will be on test before you take the exam. Print out a copy of the AP Psychology FRQ rubric and learn it by heart. Once you internalize it, you will start to think about the test from the eyes of the test creator. You will become more aware of whether or not your responses are answering every part of the question being asked.
10. Write in complete sentences: I recommend answering your FRQs in complete sentences with a clear sentence for each part of the question. From example if the question asks you to define and explain, 4 terms, you would have a sentence defining the term and a sentence or two explaining the term. Make sure to clearly denote when you are transitioning from one term or idea to the next by indenting, skipping a line or having a bullet or word appropriately labeling the new section.
11. Read the question: This is very important! Don’t make the mistake of assuming what the rest of a question is asking, writing an entire response, and then realizing you’ve failed to answer the question. When you first open your FRQ packet, read both questions before starting to write. Then, make a decision on which one you feel more comfortable tackling first. This will not only boost your confidence and get you in the flow of writing before you have to tackle the question you have less expertise on.
12. Consider planning before answering: You should set aside a few minutes in the beginning of the free response section to plan your response before jumping in. It is well worth the time. Having a clear road-map of your response allows you to craft a coherent response.
13. Do not contradict yourself: You won’t be docked points for incorrect information, but you also won’t be given points for stating contradictory information. For example, you cannot say that positive reinforcement is rewarding a behavior to increase its frequency and rewarding for a behavior to decrease its frequency so even though you got the correct answer, since you contradicted it later, you would loose the point you had gained.
14. Cut the introduction and conclusion: You do not need an introduction or conclusion since the rubric is graded on your ability to hit specific points of the question. You can lead off with a response to the question. Remember, this is AP Psychology, not AP English.
15. Do not restate the question: With only 25 minutes per free response question, there are better uses to your time than restating the question. This goes in line with tip #14 of cutting the introduction and conclusion. However use parts of the question to show where your answers are located, for example, use the bulleted items you need to cover to label each section where the grader will find the answer.
16. Remember UDA:Underline the term or concept being tested, define the term without using the term itself in the definition, and apply the term to an example.
ie. Do not say, “Development psychology is about development…”
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AP Psychology Multiple Choice Review Tips
1. Understand what the question is asking: It seems simple, but sometimes students struggle to figure out what the College Board is actually asking of them. When you read the question, don’t be afraid to circle or underline the keywords in the question so that you can mentally think about what that keyword relates to conceptually.
2. Use POE: Often times you can eliminate an answer choice. POE stands for process of elimination. As you work through the AP Psychology multiple choice section, make X marks or dashes by answer choices that do not make sense with the question. This helps you in two ways: it makes you logically think about what are feasible answer solutions and it makes reviewing your test at the very end more efficient.
3. Practice progressively: Cramming for the AP Psychology exam the night before is not an effective method to prepare for the test. Make sure to begin your review several weeks before the exam. Practice a few questions every night and review whether or not you get the questions right or wrong. A good starting block is practicing ten questions a night two months before the exam. Then, ramp up your studying sessions with fifteen a night; before long, you can answer twenty a night. Remember, every 100 questions you practice is the equivalent of having taken one full AP Psychology multiple choice section.
4. Create flashcards for problem areas: When you are reviewing the practice questions you’ve completed each night, take out five to ten flashcards and create cards for any term or concept that seemed foreign to you. If you progressively build on this stack (it can even be virtual i.e. on Quizlet), you will have a go-to set of key concepts to review those final nights before the test.
5. Figure out WHY you are getting questions wrong: As important as it is to familiarize yourself with AP style practice questions, it’s equally as important to figure out the reason why you are getting questions wrong. Figure out how to identify why certain answer choices are right and why other answer choices are incorrect. Always ask yourself, “Why?” when you are feeling uncertain or need to walk yourself mentally through a question.
6. Remember MAPS:Mark the test-maker traps i.e. except, main, best, etc. Answer the question yourself before assessing the answer choices. Use POE (see #2 above) to narrow down the options. Skip the questions you don’t know the answer to until you’ve done a first pass through the rest of the multiple choice section. Put a star or question mark next to questions you are unsure about.
7. Questions are progressively harder: Remember questions 1-33 are typically easier than 33-63, and 63-100 are the most challenging of the AP Psychology exam.
Overall How to Study for AP Psychology Tips
1. Master the terminology: Knowing the terms frequently tested on the AP Psychology exam will go a long way to improving your score. Create ways to remember important names and contributions and ensure that you understand how theories and concepts interact with one another.
2. Group study: Studying for AP Psychology doesn’t have to be lonely! Tag team with your friends or classmates to prepare for the test. Group studying can be highly effective if everyone goes in with an open mind towards learning. It is a good way to bounce knowledge off of one another, and create a group facilitation effect. Teaching concepts to others is also one of the most effective ways to study.
3. Isolate your weaknesses: If you know something like the back of your hand, then there is no need to spend too much time reviewing it. Instead, focus your efforts on areas that you know you need to improve upon. Often students like studying to feel easy so they only review concepts they already know. While that is OK for confidence building, it isn’t a great strategy for preparing for the full exam.
4. Complete your reading: Often times students think they can just memorize several hundred psychology terms and be okay on the test. The problem is that if you do not complete your reading, you will struggle to apply the terms on the test. Your textbook is one of the best ways to make the connection between terms.
5. Rewrite your notes: A great way to review core concepts is by looking over your notes and identifying what you feel is most important. Then take what you thought was most important and summarize the notes in a more concise way. Isolating important ideas and rewriting them will help you become more familiar with the concepts so that when the test rolls around, you will be able to recall it quickly.
6. Complete test corrections: When you begin your AP Psychology review, review all of the tests you have taken this year in the class. Look at the questions you got wrong and be able to answer why you got the question wrong. Seeking continuous improvement in your weak areas is the key to great success on the AP Psychology exam.
7. Understand the test percentages: The test itself has a specific breakdown in terms of the relative frequency of concepts. You can find the outline below. Review this outline before you begin your review so that you can plan how to spend your review time.
|2-4%||History and Approaches|
|8-10%||Biological Bases of Behavior|
|6-8%||Sensation and Perception|
|2-4%||States of Consciousness|
|6-8%||Motivation and Emotion|
|5-7%||Testing and Individual Differences|
|5-7%||Treatment of Abnormal Behavior|
Tips Submitted by AP Psychology Teachers
1. Make a chart for the free response questions so you don’t forget anything and lose valuable points. Thanks for the tip from Cory S. from Laramie Senior High!
2. RELAX. If you are stuck on an question, go back to it. It’s important to answer as many correctly as you can. Thanks for the tip from Jennifer A. from Windsor High.
3. Stress makes people stupid, so relax. If you know your stuff you will be fine and if you don’t, well stressing out about it won’t help. Thanks for the tip from Ron E. from Goshen High.
4. Use the knowledge you are acquiring about your brain and behavior to your academic advantage. Be willing to adjust your studying and learning strategies to incorporate what you’ve learned to use your brain more efficiently. Thanks for the tip from Kristi B. from Traverse City Central High.
5. Be sure to read the essay questions carefully and relate the response to the prompt specifically. Thanks for the tip from Keith M. from Ball High.
6. Create themes for each of the Major Units so as to be well prepared for the two Free Response Questions. Thanks for the tip from Kelly G. from Timberline High.
7. Use flashcards. Know the vocabulary! Thanks for the tip from Michael S. at Roosevelt High and Matt D. from Waupun Junior/Senior High.
8. Know each perspective and the terms associated with each. This has helped students tremendously. Thanks for the tip from Sharon C. from Crestview High.
9. On the FRQ section, answer EVERYTHING, even if you think you don’t know it, try to answer it. It is better that you try and answer it than leave it blank. You never know where you’ll get points from! Thanks for the tip from Kristopher C. from Manvel High.
10. Students must know the language of the field in the multiple choice and they must prove they can apply that language to given scenarios on the AP Essay portion. I provide several different assessments that include theorist names, schools of thought, and language of the field so they can begin to “thread” theorist to school of thought to its language — because they are going to get those questions in one of those 3 forms. It works very well and always receive great feedback from students, accordingly. Layering the learning generates easier encoding from which to recall. Thanks for the tip from Jody Z. from Hammond High.
11. Use the Barron’s Review book: read it, annotate, and take the practice quiz-grade that and highlight the answer key in the end of the chapter explain “why I missed the question”. That becomes their “ticket in” to test corrections. That way the students have done some extra study to help clarify the material and are not simply guessing on the questions. Thanks for the tip from Ann F. from Centennial High.
12. Use Four Corner Flashcards. After making flashcards with traditional main term or concept and definition, I have my students add four other unit terms to the notes card, one in each corner.. I put a list of all important unit terms, researchers and studies in our unit packet. I ask the students to pick four of the terms (different terms for each note card), and place one term in each corner of the note card. After learning the definition, the student has to connect the main term on the card to each of the other four terms and mentally explain in FRQ format how the other four terms relate to the main term on the card. That way, students get practice connecting unit terms and concepts together. I also have them pick their best card and we complete a speed dating activity with each person sharing their card with each other. They only have one minute to share their “Four Corner Card” so two minutes each “date.” Then they switch to another person. After everyone has shared, students share which “date” was best, or which “date” they learned the most from. Thanks for the tip from Mike R. from Verona Area High.
13. Read the question for traps. Then if you pick an answer, stick with it….do not go back and change an answer. I have found that your first instinct is correct MOST of the time. So, unless you are certain of the answer, go with your gut and do not make a change. Review pairs that may be confusing like regression and repression….make sure you know the difference. Use acronyms when you study like SAME….Sensory Afferent…..Motor, Efferent. Thanks for the tip from Jamie H from North Davidson High.
14. Be absolutely familiar with the six major fields of study in psychology: Behaviorism, Psychoanalytic, Humanism, Cognitive, Biological, and Social learning. Key words on many multiple choice questions will help you determine the answer if you understand everything about these disciplines and the people responsible for them. An example would be “unconscious “– Psychoanalytic or Freud and ” perception “–Cognitive or Bandura. Thanks for the tip from Terry M.
15. Take at least four practice AP exams and then do an item analysis on what sections you are weak in. Then focus on those sections. Thanks for the tip from Domenic M. from Avon Grove High.
16. Create personal examples for each of the key terms, concepts or theories. There are A LOT of them throughout the course and attaching meaning to each will trigger your memory (Hint, hint– Elaborative rehearsal!!). Thanks for the tip from Maggie M. from Villa Joseph Marie High.
17. My MOST important tip on the day of the exam, 5 -10 minutes before entering the exam room, Power Pose – If you haven’t watch Amy’ Cuddy’s TED Talk. Thanks for the tip from Tammy D. from Lexington High.
18. During the free response, always remember to apply the term back to the situation given. Thanks for the tip from Diane L. from Elwood.
19. Organize your note cards and outlines BEFORE you start studying. Otherwise it can be very overwhelming. Thanks for the tip from Julianne H. at Stratford High.
20. Study interconnected concepts and themes between units. Do not focus so much on each term from the textbook. Memorization is most effective when students make meaningful and personal connections – build their schema. Thanks for the tip from Steve K. from Hillcrest High.
Are you a teacher or student? Do you have an awesome tip? Let us know!
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The AP Psychology exam tests your knowledge of the 14 key topics and fields of study in psychology and tests their ability to define, compare, and apply concepts and research findings. Questions are based on key terminology, scientific methodology, and theories associated with each subfield. Free-response questions may require students to interrelate different content areas and to analyze and evaluate psychological constructs and, more generally, theoretical perspectives.
To help you prepare, let’s break down the AP Psychology exam into sections and look at some tips on how to tackle each section effectively under the given time constraints — AP test time management is crucial to success on the exam.
How Long is the AP Psychology Exam?
The AP Psychology exam has two sections. The total exam is two hours long. The details of each section and part are outlined in the table below:
|Section I: Multiple Choice||100 Questions|
1 hour 10 minutes
66.6% of total exam score
|Section II: Free-Response||2 Questions|
33.3% of total exam score
First, let’s look at Section I in greater detail to help you prepare for this first part of the exam.
How Long is the AP Psychology Exam Section I?
The first part of Section I of the AP Psychology Exam is Multiple Choice. You will have one hour and 10 minutes to answer 100 questions, which works out to 42 seconds per question. This part accounts for 66.6% of your total exam score.
These questions require you to define and explain content from a range of course topics and apply skills of comparison and interpretation to course concepts, theories, and scientific methods. Let’s dive in further to explore ways to manage your time on the exam.
How to Manage Your Time in Section I of the AP Psychology Exam
While the exam structure may appear daunting, there are some things you should keep in mind to maximize your score on Section I:
It is important to recognize that most of the multiple-choice questions are independent. If you are having trouble answering one question don’t waste your valuable time struggling. Remember, you only have slightly more than one minute per question! Instead, move on to the next question, which you may be able to answer correctly. Cut your losses when you have to, and keep in mind that you can always double back to work on skipped questions if you have enough time. And in case you can’t figure out the correct answer, just take an educated guess, as there is no penalty for incorrect answers.
For questions that come in groups, try to use the information provided in some questions to answer a question that you are confused by. Pay attention to chronology and other context clues that you can pick up if you treat all the questions as belonging to a set. And it is not necessarily true that if you do not know the answer to one question in a set, you will be unable to answer all of them — make sure you attempt them all.
Tailor your studying to the course outline. CollegeBoard provides a detailed list of topics and focus areas that you should read thoroughly before you begin studying. Devote most of your time to areas in which you are weak, and more importantly, topics that will make up the bulk of the exam. For example, the Social Psychology topic of the exam could make up 8-10%, whereas the States and Consciousness topic could make up as little as 2% of the exam. Naturally, it would not be in your best interest to spend the same amount of time reviewing Social Psychology and States and Consciousness.
The course outline also contains several themes that are viewed as integral to the course. Understand why these themes are important, and think about their relevance when you are answering multiple-choice questions. Knowing why you are being asked a certain question can often help you answer a confusing question.
Hopefully, these tips will help you with your AP Psychology test time management. Now, let’s break down Section II of the AP Psychology Exam.
How Long is the AP Psychology Exam Section II?
Section II of the AP Psychology Exam is the Free Response Section. As you would expect, you are not given any choices to select. You have 50 minutes to answer two questions, which works out to 25 minutes per question. This section accounts for 33.3% of your total exam score.
Possible questions include, but are not limited to analyzing a unique scenario using concepts from different theoretical frameworks or subdomains in the field, or designing, analyzing, or critiquing a research study.
If you don’t understand early on how to go about following the instructions on the exam, you might find this portion more difficult than the multiple-choice section.
How to Manage Your Time in Section II of the AP Psychology Exam
Free Response questions can be a little scary because you can’t guess if you’re not sure of yourself. However, we believe these AP test time management tips will help you ace Section II:
Read the question multiple times to understand what is truly being asked. Getting to the core of the prompt will help you craft a concise thesis that serves as the centerpiece to your entire response, especially for the long-answer questions.
Following the thesis, construct a road map that serves as a guide to your reader. It will serve as an outline for subsequent paragraphs and conveys how they relate to your thesis. Organize the rest of your essay with topic sentences that directly follow from your thesis and provide a summary of the rest of the paragraph. Then, provide context, cite your evidence, and lastly, dive into the analysis that relates your evidence to your thesis. Following this strategy will develop a clear structure that will add clarity to your responses.
Do not restate the question. With only 25 minutes per free response question, there are better uses for your time than restating the question. However, use parts of the question to show where your answers are located, for example, use the bulleted items you need to cover to label each section where the grader will find the answer. An useful tool is the UDA method. Underline the term or concept being tested, define the term without using the term itself in the definition, and apply the term to an example.
Formulate your answers with the grading rubric in mind. One of the best parts about taking AP tests is that you know what will be on test before you take the exam. Once you internalize the rubric, you will start to think about the test from the eyes of the test creator. You will become more aware of whether or not your responses are answering every part of the question being asked. Pay attention to the what types of response earn you full points, and more importantly, which types of responses you should avoid. This will help you develop an optimal strategy for answering a question without wasting much time, and will lead to a response that will lead to the most points.
How to Practice Time Management for AP Psychology?
In addition to the AP test time management tips provided above, you may find it helpful to consult this post, which outlines the ultimate list of tips for the AP Psychology exam. The post discusses the specific topics which will be covered on the exam, common types of questions, and general strategies to help you solve them, along with a list of tips from AP Psychology teachers. And if you want to get some practice, check out these practice questions. The more you practice, the more familiarity you will build with different types of questions. Eventually, you will be able to identify which areas you are weaker in and can direct the bulk of your studying efforts to improving your understanding of those concepts.
Don’t forget to time yourself while you work on practice questions so you can test yourself on managing your time as well as reviewing concepts. Some multiple-choice questions are notorious for being significant time drains, which can cost you when answering the rest of Section I questions. If you find yourself stuck on a multiple-choice question for more than a couple of minutes, it may be in your best interest to cut your losses and utilize the process of elimination to guess the most likely answer. Don’t let one question you can’t solve prevent you from answering multiple questions you can.
Hopefully, these tips help with your AP test time management. Best of luck with your exam!
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