AP® Psychology Exam Format

The AP® Psychology exam is one of the most popular AP exams! AP Psych is taken by thousands of students every year. If you've decided to take the AP Psych exam, it's a good idea to become familiar with it. Learning the actual format of the exam will help you create an effective and comprehensive study plan that will get you one step closer to your goal: success on the AP Psychology exam. In this article, we'll review the AP Psych exam structure and look into the exam length, format, and other details to jumpstart your AP preparation.

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What Is the Format of the AP Psychology Exam?

To help you understand the test’s format better, let’s begin by addressing a few questions about the time, structure, and length of the AP Psych exam.

How long is the AP Psychology exam?

The AP Psych exam length is two hours. You will be given 1 hour and 10 minutes to complete Section I, and 50 minutes to complete Section II.

Are there any essay questions on the AP Psych exam?

Yes, there are two essay questions in Section II of the AP Psychology exam.

How many FRQs are there on the AP Psych exam?

There are two FRQs on the AP Psychology exam.

How is the AP Psychology exam structured?

The AP Psych exam structure consists of two sections: Section I contains 100 multiple-choice questions (MCQs), and Section II contains two free-response questions (FRQs). The table below explains the AP Psych exam format in detail and the weight given to each section. Let's have a look:

Section Question Types Questions Time Exam Weight
Section I Multiple-Choice Questions (MCQs) 100 1 hour 10 mins 66.7%
Section II Free-Response Questions (FRQs) 2 50 mins 33.3%

As you can see from the table above, the MCQ section carries a greater weight than the FRQ section. This means that scoring well in Section I will heavily impact your overall AP Psychology exam score. It’s a good idea to keep this in mind while preparing for your AP Psych exam and take enough AP Psychology practice tests. This way, nothing will surprise you.

The overall score for the AP Psychology exam is calculated on a scale from 1 to 5. Colleges vary on what score is required for course credit, with some accepting a score of 3+, 4+, and some even requiring a 5. Because every college has its own set of AP credit requirements, you should inquire about the AP credit policies of the colleges where you plan to apply ahead of time.

Types of Questions on the AP Psychology Exam

Now that you are familiar with the AP Psychology exam format, we are ready to explore the types of questions you can expect to see on the test. We will discuss each section in detail to better understand how the AP Psychology course content reflects on the overall exam weighting and what skills you need to focus on while answering them.

Section I: Multiple-Choice Questions (MCQs)

For the first section, consisting of 100 MCQs, you must select the correct response from the five answer choices provided for each question. The trick to answering this section efficiently is to carefully evaluate all the answer choices and eliminate the ones that are either obviously incorrect or only partially answer the question.

The multiple-choice section is worth 66.7% of the total exam score, and it assesses your skills and knowledge of the content you learned during your AP Psychology course. The units and topics covered during the course also carry specific weight in this section. This weighting of units will determine the number of questions you will likely get from a certain unit on the exam. In other words, the exam will contain more questions from the course units with higher weights and fewer questions from the ones with lower weights.

Knowing this information will help you organize an efficient study schedule and teach you crucial time-management skills. The table below lists the AP Psychology course units and their respective weights in the MCQ section. Let’s check it out.

Course Units Exam Weight
Unit 1: Scientific Foundations of Psychology 10–14%
Unit 2: Biological Bases of Behavior 8–10%
Unit 3: Sensation and Perception 6–8%
Unit 4: Learning 7–9%
Unit 5: Cognitive Psychology 13–17%
Unit 6: Developmental Psychology 7–9%
Unit 7: Motivation, Emotion, and Personality 11–15%
Unit 8: Clinical Psychology 12–16%
Unit 9: Social Psychology 8–10%

As mentioned earlier, performing well on the MCQ section will significantly improve your overall score for the AP Psychology exam. Learn how to approach the AP Psychology MCQ section with the help of our step-by-step instructions, tips, and AP Psychology sample questions to ace the AP Psych exam's MCQ section!

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Section II: Free-Response Questions (FRQs)

Section II of the AP Psychology exam assesses your knowledge of psychological concepts, perspectives, and research methodology. To succeed in this section, you need to answer the questions clearly and within the prompt's context.

The first FRQ will assess your ability to apply the concepts and theories learned during the course to real-world scenarios. The second question will test your ability to assess a research study and interpret quantitative data. The table below summarizes the AP Psychology exam's FRQ section and its question types:

Section II: Free-Response Questions
No. of Questions 2
Exam Weight 33.3%
Time Allotted 50 minutes
Question Types Question 1
A concept application question that evaluates students' abilities to explain behavior and apply ideas, theories, and views in real-world situations.
Question 2
A research design question assesses students’ ability to analyze psychological research studies and interpret quantitative data.

Because the time allotted for this section is less than an hour, you need to be precise in your analysis of the problems and demonstrate your understanding explicitly through your answer.

The College Board® does not accept lists or outlines without suitable explanations as valid answers.

If you are interested in learning tips, tricks, and more information on how to ace this section, our expert guide on how to approach AP Psychology FRQs is here to help.

AP Psychology Exam - Paper or Digital Mode

In 2024, the AP Psychology exam will be administered in a paper-and-pencil format.

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  1. AP Psychology. (n.d.). apcentral.collegeboard.org. Retrieved February 8, 2024, from https://apcentral.collegeboard.org/courses/ap-psychology 
  2. AP Course Overview - AP Psychology. (2021). apcentral.collegeboard.org. Retrieved February 8, 2024, from https://apcentral.collegeboard.org/media/pdf/ap-psychology-course-overview.pdf 
  3. AP Psychology Course and Exam Description. (2020). apcentral.collegeboard.org. Retrieved February 8, 2024, from https://apcentral.collegeboard.org/media/pdf/ap-psychology-course-and-exam-description.pdf 
  4. 2024 AP Exam Dates. (n.d.). apcentral.collegeboard.org. Retrieved February 8, 2024, from https://apcentral.collegeboard.org/exam-administration-ordering-scores/exam-dates 
  5. Key Facts About 2024 Digital AP Exams. (n.d.). apcentral.collegeboard.org. Retrieved February 8, 2024, from https://apcentral.collegeboard.org/exam-administration-ordering-scores/digital-ap-exams/key-facts

Read More About the AP Psychology Exam

Reviewing the College Board CED PDF takes time. This simple-to-read AP Psychology course description gives a quick overview of all the units and topics.
See how AP Psychology scores are calculated—including score distribution info, crucial rubrics, and a test score calculator to project your score easily.
Want to know the ultimate tips and best resources to get the highest score in AP Psych? Click here for the step-by-step guide to help you score a 5 in AP Psychology.
Want to learn all the ins and outs of the AP Psychology Exam in a single document? Here’s a complete exam guide where you will learn all about the AP Psychology exam.
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