New Online AP Psychology Study Guide – 2020 Changes

Published on Mar 26, 2020

๐Ÿ‘‹๐Ÿผ Hi, I’m Dr. John Mohl! I’m an AP Psych teacher and streamer at Fiveable. This year’s exam is different than we expected, but I’m here to help. I’ve put together this study guide to help keep you on track while you are studying from home. You can follow this guide on your own with a free Fiveable account! I’ll also be joining a group of students live on Thursdays @ 8pm ET during cram sessions. Pick up your cram pass to join us.

Format of the New Exam

This year, the AP Psychology exam will look different than you were expecting. As weโ€™re all on quarantine ๐Ÿ˜ท due to COVID-19, the College Board has decided to update the format and content of the test to fit an online testing format.

Youโ€™ll have 45-minutes to take the exam online and it will only cover units 1-7. If you have already studied content from unit 8 or 9, donโ€™t stress! Itโ€™s all worth knowing.ย 

These units are on the exam. Click the unit to see the study guide!

1 – ๐Ÿ‘ฉโ€๐Ÿ”ฌย  Scientific Foundations of Psychology
2 – ๐Ÿง ย  Biological Basis of Behavior
3 – ๐Ÿ‘€ย  Sensation and Perception
4 – ๐Ÿ‘ฉ๐Ÿปโ€๐ŸŽ“ย  Learning
5 – ๐Ÿค”ย  Cognitive Psychology
6 – ๐Ÿ‘ถ๐Ÿฝย  Developmental Psychology
7 – ๐Ÿคชย  Motivation, Emotion, and Personality

Not on the exam:

8 – ๐Ÿ›‹ย  Clinical Psychology
9 – ๐Ÿ‘ญย  Social Psychology

What will be on the test?

  • Two FRQs
    • Q1 = 25 minutes and will be 55% of your score
      • Concept application to apply theories
    • Q2ย = 15 mins and will be 45% of your score
      • Based on research methods

When is the exam and how do I take it?

May 19 @ 2p Eastern!ย Wherever you are in the world, this is the time youโ€™ll take the test. Unless you have been approved for the make-up date in June, but only your school can request that. Youโ€™ll take the test online. There will be a practice simulation posted by College Board within the next few weeks.

How do I prepare for the exam?

With so many school closures and the stress of a global pandemic, this review season will be different than usual. If this is your first AP exam, welcome! Donโ€™t worry, itโ€™s not usually this chaotic.ย 

Weโ€™ve put together this plan for you to follow between now and May. This will cover all of the units and leave you time to practice questions before test day. Some classes may have done units out of chronological order throughout the year, which is ok. The units donโ€™t have to be taught in order. If you are learning new material on your own and need some help, use the chat bubble on http://fiveable.me. Weโ€™ll answer any questions you may have.ย 

What resources does this study plan use?

All of the required resources are free, including the AP Psych cheat sheet. Youโ€™ll need to create a free Fiveable account to jump in.ย  Weโ€™ve also linked a few other websites, articles, and YouTube videos that you can access for free. Some of the suggested resources include paid products. There are some documentaries that you can find on streaming sites with a paid membership and weโ€™ll also list streams and practice questions that require a paid cram pass on Fiveable.


 

PRE-WORK: SET-UP YOUR STUDY ENVIRONMENT

Before we begin, take some time to get organized. Remote learning can be great, but it also means youโ€™ll need to hold yourself accountable more than usual.ย 

๐Ÿ–ฅ Create a study space.
Make sure you have a designated place at home to study. Somewhere you can keep all of your materials, where you can focus on learning, and where you are comfortable. Spend some time prepping the space with everything you need and you can even let others in the family know that this is your study space.ย 

๐Ÿ“š Organize your study materials.
Get your notebook, textbook, prep books, or whatever other physical materials you have. Download or print out your cheat sheet PDFs. Also create a space for you to keep track of review. Start a new section in your notebook to take notes or start a Google Doc to keep track of your notes. Get your self set up!

๐Ÿ“… Plan designated times for studying.
The hardest part about studying from home is sticking to a routine. Decide on one hour every day that you can dedicate to studying. This can be any time of the day, whatever works best for you. Set a timer on your phone for that time and really try to stick to it. The routine will help you stay on track.

๐Ÿ† Decide on an accountability plan.
How will you hold yourself accountable to this study plan? You may or may not have a teacher or rules set up to help you stay on track, so you need to set some for yourself. First set your goal. This could be studying for x number of hours or getting through a unit. Then, create a reward for yourself. If you reach your goal, then x. This will help stay focused!

๐Ÿงฉ Drill and practice.
Even though the exam will only contain FRQs, practicing multiple choice questions helps solidify your memory of terms and concepts (remember learning about retrieval practice?). Access the psychology-based trivia questions to keep your repertoire of knowledge strong!


 

๐Ÿ‘ฉโ€๐Ÿ”ฌ Unit 1: Scientific Foundations of Psychology

๐ŸŒถย Join the live cram stream: Review live with Dr. John Mohl. Sign up here!

Big takeaways:

The major part of this unit focuses on psychological research, statistics, and ethical guidelines. While this aspect of AP Psychology may seem intimidating to students (and sometimes teachers too!), the subtopics can mostly be broken down into vocabulary terms. Having a solid knowledge of each will make it much easier to apply on the FRQ. One other subtopic of this unit delves into knowing some of the major historical figures and what their contributions are to psychology.

Definitely do this:

  • ๐ŸŽฅ Watch these videos:
    • Approaches to Psychology: An overview of the major themes in psychology.
    • Statistics: The major statistical terms and techniques are covered here.ย 
    • Research: Different approaches to conducting psychological research.
  • ๐Ÿ“ฐ Check out these articles:
  • โœ๏ธ Practice:

If you have more time or want to dig deeper:


 

๐Ÿง  UNIT 2: Biological Basis of Behaviorย 

๐ŸŒถย Join the live cram stream: Review live with Dr. John Mohl. Sign up here!

Big takeaways:

There are several major themes that are part of this unit: neurons and the nervous system, the brain, the endocrine system, and consciousness (sleep, dreams, and drugs). Many terms from this unit have been used on previous FRQs. The applications are not too difficult if one knows the basic aspects of each vocabulary term.ย 

Definitely do this:

If you have more time or want to dig deeper:


 

๐Ÿ‘€ UNIT 3: Sensation and Perception

๐ŸŒถย Join the live cram stream: Review live with Dr. John Mohl. Sign up here!

Big takeaways:

Sensation refers to the physical stimulation of the sensory organs (e.g., light ways stimulating the retina, sound waves that move the hairs within the cochlea). Like in Unit 2, this involves memorization of anatomical parts, especially of the eyes and ears. Perception is the cognitive interpretation of the sensory inputs. Specific emphasis is placed on visual perception, including concepts of depth perception and perceptual constancy.

Definitely do this:

If you have more time or want to dig deeper:

  • ๐Ÿ’Ž Seeing Sounds (Medium): An interview about experiencing synesthesia
  • ๐Ÿ—บ Check out cool (mostly) optical illusions at the Illusion of the Year contest.

 

๐Ÿ‘ฉ๐Ÿปโ€๐ŸŽ“ UNIT 4: Learning

๐ŸŒถย Join the live cram stream: Review live with Dr. John Mohl. Sign up here!

Big takeaways:

This unit is broken down into three subunits: classical (or Pavlovian) conditioning, operant conditioning, and observational learning (modeling). Classical involves how an environmental stimulus effects (sic) a reflexive (involuntary) behavioral response. Operant conditioning refers to the environmental reaction to oneโ€™s behavior, and the likelihood of that behavior occurring again given the environmental response. Observational learning is when one starts doing a behavior through imitation of another.ย 

Definitely do this:

 

If you have more time or want to dig deeper:


 

๐Ÿค” UNIT 5: Cognitive Psychology

๐ŸŒถย Join the live cram stream: Review live with Dr. John Mohl. Sign up here!

Big takeaways:

Cognitive psychology involves memory, thinking, problem-solving, and language. The memory subunit is largely based on the Atkinson Shiffrin Model (i.e., sensory memory, long-term memory, etc.) and its modern adaptations. However, there is also a substantial amount of additional vocabulary that has appeared on previous FRQs (e.g., prospective memory). The remaining subunits are also vocabulary based, though the language unit also requires familiarity with competing theories. Intelligence is also part of this unit, which may require students to know some additional statistics that were not necessarily covered in Unit 1 (e.g., percentiles).

Definitely do this:

If you have more time or want to dig deeper:

  • ๐Ÿ’Ž Take a look at the website dedicated to research into Highly Superior Autobiographical Memory at the University of California Irvine
  • ๐Ÿ—บ The Learning Scientists Website is dedicated to using memory concepts and research to actually help you become a better learner

 

๐Ÿ‘ถ๐Ÿฝ UNIT 6: Developmental Psychology

๐ŸŒถย Join the live cram stream: Review live with Dr. John Mohl. Sign up here!

Big takeaways:

Stage theories (e.g. Piaget, Erikson, Kohlberg) are well-known parts of this unit, and the FRQ may ask students to employ a very specific stage. Names are also a big part of this unit (Baumrind, Harlow, Ainsworth, etc.). Students should not only know names but also their theories. Physical development and maturation are also significant aspects of this unit, which includes prenatal development and physical changes that occur in adolescence..ย 

Definitely do this:

If you have more time or want to dig deeper:

  • ๐Ÿ’Ž The Story of Thalidomide in the United States (New York Times)
  • ๐Ÿ—บ How Well do You Know Piagetโ€™s Stages? (Verywell Mind): Take a quiz and find out!
    • Some of the questions go beyond the scope of the AP Psych curriculum

 

๐Ÿคช UNIT 7: Motivation, Emotion, and Personality

๐ŸŒถย Join the live cram stream: Review live with Dr. John Mohl. Sign up here!

Big takeaways:

This unit is one of the most theory-rich units of AP Psychology. Motivation and emotion deal with a wide range of topics including hunger, love and attraction, the process of experiencing an emotion, instincts, and drives. The personality subunit primarily deals with theories that explain our enduring behaviors in different environments. This unit is a combination of theory, vocabulary, and names that need to be known in preparation for the exam.

Definitely do this:

  • ๐ŸŽฅ Watch these videos:
    • Theories of Motivation: What drives us to do things
    • Theories of Emotion: How we feel in reaction to our environment
    • Personality Theory: Some of the major theories of who we are and how we behave
  • ๐Ÿ“ฐ Check out these articles:
  • โœ๏ธ Practice:

If you have more time or want to dig deeper:

Study Guides for Every AP Psychology Unit

Study Guides for Every AP Psychology Unit

Studying for the AP Psychology exam? We've pulled together a list of study guides for every unit so you can focus your time on studying and not looking for resources! If you need more explanations, drop your questions in the community chat or join us for this week's...

Unit 1 Review – Scientific Foundations of Psychology

Unit 1 Review – Scientific Foundations of Psychology

This structured outline below has been adapted from the 2019 Course Description and framework published by College Board. Through this outline, which highlights must-know concepts and terminology, you can construct a more comprehensive guide to ensure you excel at...

6 Comments

  1. Avatar

    I need heeeeeeelp. I’m using the Barrons 8th edition book to study for ap psych. and it has 14 chapters whereas everyone is talking about those 9 units and now I don’t know what to study and what not so can someone please tell me what ch. is included and what not according to the Barrons book. please help

    Reply
    • Avatar

      If you look at the chapter names for Barron’s it roughly matches up with the AP units. (ex. Chapter 8: Motivation and Emotion along with Chapter 10: Personality would be the AP Unit 7) I’d start with learning the chapters in Barron that match up to the AP Units, and then if you have time left, just review everything in the book, as it can’t hurt to know extra information for the FRQ. I hope that helped a little bit!

      Reply
  2. Avatar

    In the Myers Psychology book there is an intelligence chapter. Could this be on the test?

    Reply
    • Avatar

      They actually call the chapter Testing and Individual Differences, but it talks about intelligence too

      Reply
      • Avatar

        The exam covers all material in the textbook other than chapters 12, 13, and 14 (Abnormal, Treatment, and Social).

        Reply
  3. Avatar

    Fiveable has been so so helpful. I watched all of the videos for the the Psychology AP, and it prepared me so much! Thank you to all of the streamers! I really really appreciate it.

    Reply

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