AP Psychology Overview
AP Psychology introduces students to the scientific and systematic study of the behavior and mental processes of human beings and other animals. It’s goal is to provide students with instruction equivalent to an introductory college psychology class.
We’ll cover the course, exams, and our picks for the best AP Psychology books, Flashcards, and Review Guides for test year 2019 below, but if you just can’t wait, here’s the short list:
Getting a jump start on college level studies in Psychology can be extremely helpful for students interested in pursuing a degree in the field. It’s also a strong choice for students who aren’t sure what they want to study at the undergraduate level. Whatever your motivation for studying AP Psychology, we’re here to help you succeed!
A full Course Description for AP Psychology is available from collegeboard.org.
There are a large number of topics and themes covered by an AP Psychology course:
- History and approaches
- Understand how field developed, major historical figures, etc
- Research methods
- Differentiate types of research, predict validity of explanations based on quality of research, etc
- Biological bases of behavior
- Identify basics of biological influence on behavior, discuss the influence of drugs on neurotransmitters, etc
- Sensation and perception
- Discuss basics of sensory transduction, common sensory disorders, etc
- States of consciousness
- Describe them and their influence on behavior, describe uses and history of hypnosis, etc
- Describe mechanisms and methods of learning, quality of learning methods, etc
- Compare and contrast various cognitive processes, strategies for memory improvement, etc
- Motivation and emotion
- Identify and apply motivational concepts, describe research and theories on motivation, etc
- Developmental psychology
- Interaction of nature and nurture, how gender influences socialization, etc
- Explore theories on how personality traits develop, cultural influences, etc
- Testing and individual differences
- Define intelligence, how it’s assessed, etc
- Abnormal behavior
- Describe current and historical assessments of disorders, etc
- Treatment of abnormal behavior
- Describe characteristics of interventions, summarize effectiveness, etc
- Social psychology
- Apply attribution theory to explain motives, discuss attitudes and how they change, etc
Each of these topics are covered in the AP Psychology exam, in varying proportions.
Students taking the AP Psychology Exam are responsible for demonstrating knowledge of the above mentioned concepts and themes. The student’s knowledge is assessed through a 2 hour exam containing questions in either multiple choice or free response format. The exam is broken up into 2 parts, with the multiple choice section accounting for 66% and free response accounting for 33% of a final score between 1 and 5.
Section 1: Multiple Choice
- 70 minutes long and covers multiple themes and topics
- Accounts for 66.6% of the final score
Points are awarded for each correct answer, and no points are subtracted for incorrect or unanswered questions.
Section 2: Free Response
- 50 minutes long and contains 2 open ended questions
- Accounts for 33.3% of the final score.
Students are asked to analyze a general issue in psychology, using themes and concepts from the topics listed above.
The major course themes are represented on the exam in varying proportions ranging from 2-10%.
For exam dates, refer to The College Board AP Calendar.
Best AP Psychology Books
AP Psychology has several strong contenders for the best textbooks and review guides which we’ve ranked for you above. Continue on for detailed information on each one!
Barron’s AP Psychology
Pros: Tons of full length practice tests in multiple formats.
Cons: Some readers find the content too densely packed.
Best For: Supplemental study aid for the duration of the course and leading up to the exam.
Our Rating: 5 / 5
Our top pick for best AP Psychology book is Barron’s AP Psychology. It contains a wealth of information covering all of the concepts and themes covered in the AP Psychology course and exam. It also comes bundled with a number of full length practice tests, both in print and online. The full list of features include:
- Diagnostic test, 3 full length practice exams, and 3 bonus online tests.
- Abnormal psychology chapter updated with latest information from the DSM-5.
- 15 multiple choice questions at the end of each chapter.
- Analysis of the free response section of the exam with a sample essay.
You can’t go wrong supplementing other course textbooks with this guide. It has a comprehensive review of course material, and great practice material that really comes in handy leading up to the test. If you only pick up one book from this list, we think you’ll be best off with this one!
Cracking The AP Psychology Exam
Pros: Strong and well organized contents.
Cons: Limited number of full length practice tests compared to other books on this list.
Best For: Complimenting required course textbooks for study throughout the course.
Our Rating: 4.5 / 5
Cracking The AP Psychology Exam is our second ranked choice for best AP Psychology review book this year. It’s main drawback compared to our top pick above is fewer full length practice tests. The full list of features for this book includes:
- 2 full length practice tests with detailed answer keys.
- Up to date info for current year test.
- Practice questions at the end of each chapter.
- Online resources to help you form a study plan, review key terms, etc.
The online resources included with Cracking The AP Psychology Exam are extremely useful, and make this a great purchase. It’s a solid guide overall, with great print content as well. Whether you need a last minute review, or just want to supplement your other course books for year long study, this is a solid pick.
AP Psychology Crash Course
Pros: Narrow focus is easy to get through in a hurry.
Cons: Limited practice test resources, somewhat out of date.
Best For: Last minute review and cramming leading up to the exam..
Our Rating: 4.0 / 5
AP Psychology Crash Course is just that: a crash course in the key topics and themes tested on the AP Psychology exam. It cuts out all of the fluff and keeps a laser focus on just the info you need to succeed on the test. Features include:
- Targeted review focuses on just what you need for the exam.
- Contains strategy review for both multiple choice and free response portions of the exam.
- Access to online practice exam.
If you’re in a time crunch, this book is a good choice to help you focus on just what you need to know. It hasn’t been updated in a few years, but can still serve as a valuable resource if you keep that fact in mind.
5 Steps To A 5: AP Psychology
Pros: Solid digital resources compliment printed materials.
Cons: Less detail and depth than some guides on this list.
Best For: Year long study aid to compliment course textbook.
Our Rating: 4.0 / 5
5 Steps to a 5 AP Psychology is jam packed with online resources, and contains a solid review of the course and exam themes. Students will do well with this as a supplemental guide. Features include:
- 6 Full length practice tests (3 in the book + 3 cross platform)
- Proven strategies for both multiple choice and free response sections.
- Hundreds of practice questions with detailed answers.
- Comprehensive review of the exam and format.
5 Steps To A 5: AP Psychology doesn’t quite take the top spot, but it still serves as a great resource for anyone planning to take the AP Psychology exam. If you’ve used and enjoyed any of the other 5 Steps To A 5 books, don’t hesitate to pick this one up!
Best AP Psychology Flashcards
In addition to the excellent books mentioned above, AP Psychology students will see significant benefits in prepping for the exam using flashcards. Our top picks for Best AP Psychology Flashcards are outlined below.
Barron’s AP Psychology Flash Cards
Pros: Well organized and comprehensive.
Cons: Some of the cards are relatively simplistic.
Our Rating: 4.5 / 5
Barron’s AP Psychology Flash Cards serves as a fantastic way to memorize key facts and information tested in the exam in a way that’s fun and entertaining. It’s a great compliment to Barron’s AP Psychology guide, or any of the other books outlined above. Key features include:
- Over 500 flashcards.
- Covers all 14 themes from AP Psychology course.
- Updated with most recent DSM-5 guidelines.
- Access to full length bonus practice test.
We fully recommend flashcards as a supplement to any full length textbook or guidebook. Barron’s are our #1 recommendation for AP Psychology flashcards.
5 Steps to a 5 AP Psychology Flashcards
Pros: Huge number of terms covered.
Cons: Not as durable as Barron's version above.
Our Rating: 4.0 / 5
5 Steps to a 5 AP Psychology Flashcards cover over 600 terms which the author has identified as frequently appearing on the AP Psychology exam. The flashcards are a handy supplement to any of the books on this list. Key features include:
- Over 600 flashcards.
- Bulleted list of key information for each term.
- Multiple formats (including digital) available for purchase.
Memorization of key terms can be quite a chore. With these flashcards, the task is made easier and far less mind-numbing.
AP Psychology is a popular choice for high school students across the nation. There’s a ton of information crammed into the course, and supplemental resources will be critical to success for many students.
Our comprehensive list of top AP Psychology books are outlined above. Which one is right for you will depend heavily on your specific circumstances. To recap our list of recommendations:
|Top Overall Recommendation||Barron’s AP Psychology|
|Top Pick For Course Supplement||Barron’s AP Psychology|
|Top Pick For Last Minute Prep||AP Psychology Crash Course|
|Top Pick For Flashcards||Barron’s AP Psychology Flash Cards|
Our top pick overall and our choice for best review guide for year long study is Barron’s AP Psychology. It has a fantastic structure and breadth of content with lots of bonus materials.
For students facing more of a time crunch, AP Psychology Crash Course and Barron’s AP Psychology Flash Cards are fantastic resources with a strong focus on specific information in the exam.
Whatever your circumstance, supplemental study and review materials are a key part of ensuring success on the exam. We’ve listed some of the best AP Psychology resources available. Good luck, and study hard!