Natalie is a teacher and holds an MA in English Education and is in progress on her PhD in psychology.
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.
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.
It's common to see a free response question that asks students, like John, to critique a study or to analyze a problem in psychology, like depression, from multiple psychological viewpoints. One thing that John can do is to familiarize himself with the test by taking practice tests and studying former AP Psychology Exams. That will help him get used to the format of the test and what he can expect from each section.
What can John expect once he's taken the test? The test will be scored by the College Board, and he'll be given a score on a scale of 1 to 5. A 5 is extremely well qualified. It's like getting an A in the college course and shows that John really knows his stuff! A 4 is well qualified. It's like getting a B, B+ or A- in the college course and shows that John is pretty good at psychology. A 3 is qualified. It's like getting a C, C+ or B- in the college course, and it shows that John knows the basics.
A 2 is possibly qualified, which is kind of like just barely passing the college course, and a 1 is 'no recommendation,' which is like failing the course. It is referred to as 'no recommendation' because if a student gets a 1, the College Board does not recommend that they be granted college credit. In general, students won't get credit if they get a 1 or a 2, but most colleges and universities will accept a 3 or higher.
The AP Psychology Exam allows high school students to receive credit for a college-level introductory psychology course by taking a test. There are 9 basic topics covered in the exam, including scientific foundations of psychology, biological bases of psychology, sensation and perception, learning, cognitive psychology, developmental psychology, motivation, emotion, and personality, clinical psychology, and social psychology.
There are two sections on the AP Psychology Exam: a Multiple Choice section with 100 questions that is worth 2/3 of the grade and a Free Response section that includes two short essay questions worth 1/3 of the total grade. Each exam is scored on a scale of 1 to 5, and most colleges will award credit for an exam that scores a 3, 4, or 5.
Following this lesson, you should be able to:
- Identify the 9 topics covered on the AP Psychology Exam
- Describe the structure of the AP Psychology Exam
- Explain how the exam is scored and which scores are generally accepted by colleges
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