How to Study for the AP Psychology Exam | Ivy Tutors Network
How to Study for the AP Psychology Exam

How to Study for the AP Psychology Exam

The AP Psychology exam is one of the shortest AP exams (just two hours long), but can be a challenging test for students, as it contains highly specific theory and has a strong emphasis on vocabulary. Unlike other exams, the AP Psychology exam relies less on intuition and fluency, and more on specific content that students will need to memorize and recognize. Fortunately, with a little bit of preparation, the AP Psychology exam can be easily tackled for a great score.

Lucy T
Lucy T
Advanced Placement
Test Prep

The AP Psychology exam is one of the shortest AP exams (just two hours long), but can be a challenging test for students, as it contains highly specific theory and has a strong emphasis on vocabulary. Unlike other exams, the AP Psychology exam relies less on intuition and fluency, and more on specific content that students will need to memorize and recognize. Fortunately, with a little bit of preparation, the AP Psychology exam can be easily tackled for a great score.

What Is on the AP Psychology Exam?

So what is on the AP Psychology exam? In short, you’ll be tested on nine units, from Scientific Foundations of Psychology to Social Psychology.

Like other exams, the Psychology exam consists of two sections: multiple-choice and free-response questions. The multiple choice section, which is allotted one hour and ten minutes, is worth two-thirds of a student’s score, and contains two distinct types of questions. The first type asks students to define and explain content from the course topics and the second asks them to apply skills of concept understanding, data analysis, and scientific investigation.

Free response questions, on the other hand, consist of two questions that are allotted fifty minutes in total, and are worth 33.3% of the exam score. The first question tests students’ understanding of psychology concepts, asking students to define, explain, and apply concepts, theories and perspectives. The second is a more holistic test of understanding that includes general concepts but also analyzing and interpreting scientific data and research studies.

Is the AP Psychology Exam Hard?

When compared with other exams, the AP Psychology has a medium difficulty level, with a 53.3% pass rate in 2021. Likewise, the 5 rate for the exam is 14.1%, which is average for most AP exams.

However, these statistics can be skewed given that AP Psychology is one of the more popular exams, meaning it attracts a wide range of students. Content-wise, succeeding on the test relies on memorization, especially for the multiple choice section. The free-response questions are considered more flexible, as they allow for a gradation of interpretation, but still require a solid understanding of concepts. In short, you need to have a strong understanding of the definition of terms and where and how to apply them for both parts of the exam.

What Is a Good Grade on AP Psych?

A 4 or 5 on the AP Psychology exam is an excellent score, though anything above a 3 is passing. A high AP score looks great on college applications, and can even earn your college credit.

What Percent Earns a 5 on the AP Psychology Exam?

Each year, only about 15% of students score a 5 on the AP Psychology exam.

AP Psychology Exam Tips

While studying for the multiple choice section of the test requires more traditional memorization and term review, the free response section of the test takes a bit more practice.

Here are some tips for how students should approach the free response questions:

  1. First, map out an answer and arguments before then beginning to write. Some questions may even ask students to construct a graph or visual in their answers, so be sure to read the question as closely as possible, making sure to answer all parts.
  2. Then, consider what evidence to fit into your answer, including psychological terms and what you know about conducting research studies.
  3. Finally, when using this evidence to answer the question, make sure to explain the subtleties between each piece of chosen evidence and how it fits into your greater intent. Each piece of evidence should be intentional and directly answer the question, which will help avoid a rambling narrative or string of generalizations.

Final Exam Preparation

When prepping for the exam, students should practice both sample multiple choice questions and longer free response answers. Our AP Psychology exam tutors will teach students how best to construct a strong thesis and choose effective evidence, create clear intent and connect the elements of their response into a strong cohesive argument. Students will also learn how to apply this methodology effectively to all free response questions, as well as learn study tips for answering multiple choice questions and understanding various AP Psychology terms.

Our tutors can also help keep a study schedule and supply practice exams and problems. Students will be able to master the analytical work needed before answering a question to best demonstrate understanding and achieve a great score.

Study Review Notes and Resources

For more information, check out the resources below:

Myers' Psychology for AP

​​Barron's AP Psychology Flash Cards

AP Psychology 2012 Practice Exam

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