AP® Psychology Course And Exam Description

If you plan to take AP® Psychology, going through its course and exam descriptions is an excellent place to start. But reading through the hundred-plus pages of the official AP Psych Course and Exam Description (CED) provided by the College Board® can be a bit tiring. Don't worry! We've simplified the AP Psychology Course and Exam Description to help you understand what to expect when you take the course. This comprehensive article will guide you through the units, topics, key concepts, and skills you need to learn to succeed in the AP Psych course and exam.

AP Psychology Course Overview

Before we explore the course curriculum, let's address a few commonly asked questions you might have before taking this course. One question we frequently encounter is whether the AP Psychology course is a dual credit course in high school. AP Psych is equivalent to a one-semester introductory college course in psychology. If you are wondering what college course is equivalent to AP Psych, the answer is that you can get credit, placement, or both for a first-semester introductory psychology course at your college. Because colleges differ in what they call their introductory psychology course, talk to your prospective college admissions department to find out the exact name of the equivalent college psychology course.

AP Psychology, like all other AP courses, is not a dual credit course. Additionally, because there are no prerequisites, any high school student interested in psychology can take it. Now, how does the College Board classify AP Psychology? Is it a science course or a social science course? Psychology is the scientific study of behavior and the mind in humans and animals. Because it deals with human behavior, the College Board classifies AP Psychology as a social science course.

The AP Psychology course comprises two parts — course content and course skills. These two parts work together to help you build a strong foundation in psychology and succeed on the AP Psychology exam. Now, let's explore the AP Psychology units, topics, and key concepts you will learn in the course.

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AP Psychology Units, Topics, and Key Concepts

The AP Psychology course content has nine units. Each unit focuses on a set of topics that explore the theme of that unit. In this section, we'll look at these units and their weighting on the end-of-course exam.

Each AP Psychology unit carries a specific weight on the exam. While the College Board publishes the unit weighting for the exam's multiple-choice (MCQ) section, the amount each unit will apply toward the free-response (FRQ) section is always confidential. If you are wondering what unit weights are, a unit's weight determines how often questions from that unit appear on the exam. So, you can expect to encounter more questions from a unit with a higher weighting than another unit with a lower weighting on the exam. The table below shows the unit weights for the MCQ section of the AP Psychology exam:

Units 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%

AP Psychology - 9 Units and Their Topics

Now that you understand the nine units in the course and their relative weights on the exam, let's dive deeper into the topics and key concepts you will learn in each unit. Click on the tabs below to learn more about AP Psychology units and their respective topics in detail:

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What Skills Do You Learn in the AP Psychology Course?

AP Psychology skills describe the abilities you will acquire while working through the course. These skills include understanding psychological concepts, analyzing data, and analyzing research studies. These skills form the basis of tasks on the AP Exam.

There are three skill categories for the AP Psychology course and exam. They are as follows:

Skill Category 1: Concept Understanding

The 'concept understanding' skill category includes defining, explaining, and applying concepts, theories, and perspectives to explain mental processes in authentic, real-life contexts.

Skill Category 2: Data Analysis

The second skill category, 'data analysis,' will enable you to analyze and interpret quantitative data that forms the backbone of psychological research studies.

Skill Category 3: Scientific Investigation

Under the third skill category of 'scientific investigation,' you will learn how to analyze psychological research studies. This skill borrows from the first two categories you will learn during the course.

Now that you have explored the topics, concepts, and skills you need to know in the AP Psychology course, make sure you master those skills with our AP Psychology practice tests. UWorld provides detailed answer explanations, flashcards, and quality MCQs to help you get that 5!

Frequently Asked Questions

AP Psych is a great introductory course for students beginning to explore AP courses. The passing rates are typically higher, and there are no prerequisites for the course. AP Psych requires hard work, dedication, and effort for success, just like every other AP subject. Remember that all AP courses are equivalent to college-level introductory courses. These courses require more work than the regular high school classes.

Based on their respective exam weights, the most important AP Psychology topics are:

  1. Unit 5: Cognitive Psychology (13 – 17%)
  2. Unit 8: Clinical Psychology (12 – 16%)
  3. Unit 7: Motivation, Emotion, and Personality (11 – 15%)
  4. Unit 1: Scientific Foundations of Psychology (10 – 14%)

Yes, you can take AP Psychology without having taken high school psychology. This AP course has no prerequisites.

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Read More About AP Psychology

Are you looking for five-star exam-winning techniques for AP exams? Check out our expert-written AP Psychology study guide for all the advice you need to get a 5 with ease.
Wondering how the AP Psych Exam is graded? Learn all about the AP Psychology scoring system here, including score distributions, rubrics, and a calculator to project your scores.
Do you want to know if you’ll do well on the AP Psychology exam? Our complete guide to the AP Psych exam will help you understand what’s on the test, why you should take it, and more.
Want to learn about the AP Psych exam format? This clearly-explained article is about the exam structure—question types, number of questions, topic-wise weight, and more.
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