AP Psychology gives you insight into your mind and the minds of others. But, unfortunately, the AP exam does not ask you to read minds. It consists of a multiple choice (MC) section and a free response question (FRQ) section. Here, I’ll break down the MC section, so you’re ready for test day.
Types of AP Psych Multiple Choice Questions
In the MC section, you will have 70 minutes (1 hour and 10 minutes) to answer 100 questions. That’s about 40 seconds per question with a few minutes at the end to check your work. Yes, 40 seconds. It is worth 67% (two-thirds) of your exam score. Each question will have 5 answer choices, A through E.
The MC questions cover a variety of topics from the course, but typically will ask you to do one of three things: define terms, recall facts, or apply theories and terms to scenarios. Fun fact: these question types align with Bloom’s Taxonomy
of question levels.
Define terms 📖
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These are the simplest MC questions, but can be easily missed. Knowing important terms is vital in AP Psych, and this is where your hours of memorization come in handy. These questions are exactly as they seem, no tricks involved. Here’s an example:
The type of explicit memory that involves an especially detailed remembrance of a very emotional event is…
With these questions, you really just have to know the definitions. Let’s use process of elimination.
Implicit memory: An implicit memory is created without conscious effort, including things like reflexes. But even if you didn’t know that, the question says its “a type of explicit memory”, so this one is out.
Procedural memory: This is a type of implicit memory, and includes the retention of skills. Not a recollection of an event -- this one is out.
Flashbulb memory: A flashbulb memory is a detailed recollection of a particularly emotional or influential event. Looks like it’s this one, but let’s finish to be sure.
Short-term memory: Short-term memory stores information briefly. But, the question does not say anything about the time frame, also short-term is not especially detailed.
Echoic memory: This only lasts for a few seconds, and it is a sensory memory of auditory stimuli. Nothing to do with an emotional event.
As you can see, even if you are unsure about some definitions (although that is not ideal) you can still find the answer. Carefully reading the question is extremely important. Being able to quickly recall the definitions of the terms you learned throughout the year can help you get through these questions quickly and efficiently.
For these questions, you have to study. The definitions of terms are not going to simply appear in your brain or on the test booklet; you have to know them in order to recall them.
Recall facts 🗂
These questions are really similar to the definitional questions. Same idea, except instead of definitions, you are being asked to recall facts. Most of these questions are focused on the biological side of psychology: the parts of the brain, neurotransmitters, effects of drugs, etc. For these, you need to know what and how: what it is (name, structure, etc.) and how it works (function, effects, etc.).
These questions can also be based on history -- famous psychologists and their experiments. This isn’t a history class, so dates and times are not important. Focus on who and what: who was it (name) and what did they do (experiment, contribution, theory, etc.). Here’s an example of a fact question:
Alfred Binet is most famous for his...
research with classical conditioning.
hierarchy of needs.
Stanford Prison Experiment
For these questions, you just need to know your stuff. This question’s answer is B. Classical conditioning is Pavlov, hierarchy of needs is Maslow, Stanford Prison Experiment is Zimbardo, and shock experiment is Milgram. Binet made the first IQ test.
These questions and the definitional questions rely on your ability to recall information. Again, in order to do this, you must study the information first! Applying this information is saved for the next question type.
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Apply knowledge 🧠
These questions are a bit more tricky. Not only do you have to know the meanings of the terms or the basics of the theories, but you have to be able to apply them to different situations. You have to know your definitions and facts to get those question types before you can truly master the application questions.
While you may be able to somehow work your way through the definitional and factual questions without knowing all of the definitions, it becomes much harder with these. Let’s take a look:
Marissa asks her boyfriend to take her to dinner, but he refuses. In response, she gives him the silent treatment and does not speak to him. After several days of being ignored, he agrees and finally takes her out to dinner. After finally agreeing to take her out, Marissa stops giving him the silent treatment. What type of consequence did he face after agreeing?
Here, knowing textbook definitions is necessary, but that’s not all. You have to be able to use them, and actually understand them. The textbook definition of negative reinforcement is when an undesirable (aversive) stimulus is removed after a specific behavior. That’s a start. In this example, the aversive stimulus is the silent treatment, and the behavior is taking Marissa out to dinner. The answer is D.
You must be able to make this connection. This is what these questions are really testing you on: your ability to connect textbook definitions to the real world. That’s what psychology is all about, right?
How to Approach the MC
Okay, so how do you actually answer them? More importantly, how do you answer these questions in just 40 seconds?
As you read the question, you should start to get an idea of the topic area and question type. Start thinking. Before you look at the answer choices, what do you think the answer is?
If your answer is there, great! Pick it, and on to the next. If it’s not, or if you have no idea, process of elimination is always a good approach.
Process of elimination only works if you’ve studied, though. Not an excuse to be unprepared! It’s for if you’ve completely blanked on the right answer. That means that you can identify the wrong answers, and get rid of them to find the right one.
There’s always at least 1 or 2 answers that are meant to be obviously wrong, and from there you should be able to narrow it down to 2 choices (if not 1) by using what you know. Then you have a fifty percent chance of getting it right, which is much better than a 20 percent chance.
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Process of elimination is great, but remember: you only have 40 seconds per question, and process of elimination can be time-consuming! Use it wisely.
If you really have absolutely no idea how to approach a question, make your best guess, mark it and come back later. Better to get the ones right that you know, than to miss them because you ran out of time since you spent all of your time on the ones you were clueless about.
Always keep the 40 second time limit per question in mind. You might have a bit of breathing room if you are able to answer some questions quickly, but be aware of your time constraint: 100 questions, only 70 minutes.
#1. Read carefully
Read the question carefully! If you don’t read carefully, you could miss key words like except, not, or least, which completely change the meaning of the question. Or, you could choose the distractor answer because you did not read the entirety of the question. Not only that, but you get hints toward the answer in the wording of some questions. Don’t miss out on free help!
Practice with the time constraint! Even if you’re not taking a full-length practice exam every time, always practice with the 40 second time limit, so you’re used to it by exam day. You should be taking at least one full-length practice test before the big day, to identify weak areas and get a feel for the timing. The last thing you want is for it to catch you by surprise.
#3. Think… but not too much
Do not overthink! Overthinking is more harmful than helpful. The College Board is not as tricky as they seem -- if you think something is the answer, it probably is. Don’t change your answer unless you’re 100% sure that’s the right choice. Most of the time, our gut feeling is right.
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#4. A class on success
In terms of studying, remember what you learned in class! AP Psych is amazing because it teaches you how to succeed, not just in this class but in others, too. As you learned in class, dIstributed practice (studying over time) is much more effective than cramming. Use what you’ve learned, try to identify phenomena from the textbook in real life, think about how you’re exemplifying that you’ve learned. That’s the best way to study: apply it to you.
You’ve got this! Don’t be daunted by the question count or the time limit. Need some more help? Head to app.fiveable.me
, we’ve got your back with practice questions and more.
1. Many people use the name ROY G. BIV to remember the order of the colors of the rainbow (Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, Violet). This is an example of…
a mnemonic device.
2. Which brain structure is responsible for balance and coordination?
3. Which psychologist is most famous for his or her studies on eyewitness testimony and false memories?
4. Jill is angry at her teacher for marking her tardy. Instead of yelling at her teacher, she yells at her mom when she gets home. Which defense mechanism is she exhibiting?
5. An increase in liking for something after seeing it repeatedly is known as…
the mere-exposure effect.
the reciprocity norm.
the halo effect.
Practice Question Answers: A, B, D, C, B