Overview of the AP Psychology Exam

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Natalie Boyd

Natalie is a teacher and holds an MA in English Education and is in progress on her PhD in psychology.

Many students take the Advanced Placement Psychology Exam to save time and money when they get to college. Watch this lesson to find out more about the AP psych exam, including topics covered, the different sections, and scoring of the exam. Updated: 03/16/2020

AP Psychology Exam

John is in high school, and he's very nervous. He's getting ready to take the AP Psychology Exam, and it's stressful! Advanced Placement, or AP, exams allow high school students to take a course or independent study and then take a test to gain college credits. It can save both time and money because it can reduce the number of classes that a person has to take in college. Pretty nice!

The College Board, which is the company that puts out the AP exams, offers tests in many different subjects. The AP Psychology Exam that John is getting ready to take contains content designed to reflect a college introductory psychology course. It's kind of like a final exam for an Intro to Psych class. Let's look closer at the AP Psychology Exam, including the topics covered, sections, and scoring of the exam.

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Coming up next: The Multiple Choice Section of the AP Psychology Exam

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  • 0:02 AP Psychology Exam
  • 0:57 Topics Covered
  • 3:33 Sections
  • 4:56 Scoring
  • 6:02 Lesson Summary
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Topics Covered

John has been working really hard to study psychology for the exam, but he's worried that he might be missing something important. What, exactly, will be covered on the exam? There are nine topics covered on the AP psychology test. They are:

1. Scientific foundations of psychology, which includes topics such as research methodologies, statistical analysis, the experimental method, and ethics in psychology.

2. Biological basis of psychology, which looks at biology, especially the brain, and how it affects psychology.

3. Sensation and perception is closely related to biology, and looks at how we receive and interpret information from the world around us.

4. Learning, which focuses on methods of learning, social factors in learning, cognitive factors in learning, classical conditioning and operant conditioning.

5. Cognitive psychology includes topic areas such as memory, intelligence, thinking, problem solving, and language.

6. Developmental psychology looks at how people grow and change with regards to psychology.

7. Motivation, emotion, and personality covers how human feelings and motivation influence how they behave, as well as theories of personality.

8. Clinical psychology, includes a wide variety of disorders and abnormal psychology, including schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, depression, eating disorders, addiction, and much more. It also covers treatment of those disorders from multiple perspectives, such as biological and psychological.

9. Social psychology looks at how people learn from and interact with others.

If that sounds like a lot, it is! But John has thoroughly studied his psychology textbook, so he has a solid base of knowledge of all of those topics. If he feels worried about any of the subjects, he can always watch online tutorials or ask his teacher for help.


Okay, John understands the material that will be covered on the AP exam. But what will the exam actually be like? What can he expect? There are two sections on the AP Psychology Exam: Multiple Choice and Free Response, which is kind of like an essay section.

The Multiple Choice section includes 100 questions that are worth 2/3 of the total grade. John will have 70 minutes to complete this section. That's not a lot of time, but John shouldn't worry too much. There is no penalty for guessing wrong, so if he's running out of time, he can always just guess on the remaining questions.

The Free Response section is 50 minutes long and includes two free response (or short essay) questions that are worth 1/3 of the grade. He'll be able to break up the time on the essays however he wants, so he can spend more time on one than the other, if necessary.

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