Part III: About the AP Psychology Exam

AP Psychology Premium Prep - The Princeton Review 2021

Part III: About the AP Psychology Exam


The AP Psychology Exam is divided into two sections with the following time allotments:

→ Section I—Multiple-Choice

100 questions…………. 70 minutes

→ Section II—Free-Response

2 essay questions………. 50 minutes

Section I

Section I of the AP Psychology Exam contains 100 multiple-choice questions. You have 70 minutes to complete the section, and your Section I score counts for approximately two-thirds of your overall AP Psychology grade.

If you did a double-take when you saw that you are given only 70 minutes to do 100 questions, take a deep breath. Although having less than a minute per question poses a definite challenge, knowing certain techniques, which we will discuss in more detail in Part IV, will make this severe time constraint seem much less daunting.

Section II

Section II of the AP Psychology Exam consists of two free-response questions (aka essays). They each count for the same percentage of your grade, and you must answer both. Section II counts for approximately one-third of your AP Psychology grade. You have 50 minutes to complete BOTH essays—again, take a deep breath. Part IV will teach you strategies so that you can be a smart essay-writer. Plus, you will have several opportunities to practice writing essays before exam day. Use your tools and your practice tests to master this portion of the exam. When the time comes, you will have all the tools you need to create high-scoring essays in a limited period of time.


Your Section I score counts for 66 2/3 (two thirds) of your overall AP Psychology Exam grade. Why the unusual division? Only the College Board knows, and it’s not saying. Regardless, you can score well on this section with the techniques covered in this book. Similarly, Section II accounts for 33 1/3 percent of your total score. With this breakdown, you can think of the exam as totaling 150 points, with Section I accounting for 100 points and Section II accounting for the remaining 50 points.

How Much Is Each Section Worth?

Each of the two essays in Section II is worth 25 of the total 150 points, and based on data most recently released by the College Board, most essays ask for 7 pieces of information. On average, each piece of information is usually worth a little bit more than 3 points.

Even with all this information, we don’t know exactly how many points are needed to score a 5, but we know exactly how well students have performed in the past. The May 2019 score distribution is provided in the following table.


The revised AP Psychology test was scheduled to debut in May 2020, but because of the coronavirus, the testing format was changed. The first administration of the new test is now planned for May 2021, so please refer to your free online Student Tools to see if there have been any breaking updates regarding the wording of questions or the representation of each content area within the test.


The multiple-choice questions in Section I cover the 9 units of the AP Psychology course, as outlined by the College Board. The College Board gives a range for the number of questions devoted to each topic. For example, 8—10 percent of Section I will be devoted to social psychology.

Which Topics Are Tested the Most?


Notice that we have divided the review portion of this book (Part V) into chapters based on those units for your convenience. Again, by focusing strictly on psychology as it’s tested by the AP Exam, we’ll teach you what you need to know to make the grade.


Different colleges use AP Exam scores in different ways, so it is important that you go to a particular college’s website to determine how it uses those scores. The following three items represent the main ways in which AP Exam scores can be used.

· College Credit. Some colleges will give you college credit if you score well on an AP Exam. These credits count toward your graduation requirements, meaning that you can take fewer courses while in college. Given the cost of college, this could be quite a benefit, indeed.

· Satisfy Requirements. Some colleges will allow you to “place out” of certain requirements if you do well on an AP Exam, even if they do not give you actual college credits. For example, you might not need to take an introductory-level course, or perhaps you might not need to take a class in a certain discipline at all.

· Admissions Plus. Even if your AP Exam will not result in college credit or even allow you to place out of certain courses, most colleges will respect your decision to push yourself by taking an AP course or even an AP Exam outside of a course. A high score on an AP Exam shows mastery of more difficult content than is taught in many high school courses, and colleges may take that into account during the admissions process.


There are many resources available to help you improve your score on the AP Psychology Exam, not the least of which are your teachers. If you are taking an AP class, you may be able to get extra attention from your teacher, such as obtaining feedback on your essays.

Another wonderful resource is AP Students, the official site of the AP Exams. The scope of the information at this site is quite broad and includes the following:

· Two free full-length practice tests from 1994 and 1999

· Free Response Question prompts from previous years

· Essay scoring guidelines

· Sample essay responses

· AP score distributions by year

· AP fee information, including fee reductions

· up-to-date information about changes to the format of the AP Psychology Exam


Note that the method for scoring multiple-choice sections changed after the May 2011 AP Psychology Exam, so when browsing older tests, make sure you also download the corrections from AP Students and that you compare the content to the course description.

The AP Students home page address is

The AP Psychology Course home page address is

Finally, The Princeton Review offers tutoring for the AP Psychology Exam. Our expert instructors can help you refine your strategic approach and add to your content knowledge. For more information, call 1-800-2REVIEW.


In Part I you identified some areas of potential improvement. Let’s now delve further into your performance on Practice Test 1, with the goal of developing a study plan appropriate to your needs and time commitment.


Don’t Forget!

Register your book online to access your AP Psychology Study Guide by following the directions on the “Get More (Free) Content” page!

Read the answers and explanations associated with the multiple-choice questions (starting at this page). After you have done so, respond to the following questions:

· Review the content topics on this page and, next to each one, indicate your rank of the topic as follows: “1” means “I need a lot of work on this,” “2” means “I need to beef up my knowledge,” and “3” means “I know this topic well.”

· How many days/weeks/months away is your AP Psychology Exam?

· What time of day is your best, most focused study time?

· How much time per day/week/month will you devote to preparing for your AP Psychology Exam?

· When will you do this preparation? (Be as specific as possible: Mondays and Wednesdays from 3:00 to 4:00 P.M., for example.)

· Based on the answers above, will you focus on strategy (Part IV), content (Part V), or both?

· What are your overall goals in using this book?

Based on your answers to these questions, you should now have a better understanding of how to study for the exam. Use your answers to build a study plan that meets your specific needs based on the amount of time you have until test day. It is important to tailor your study plan to your schedule and topics you need to further review.