AP Psychology Exam Tips

Review strategies for answering the free-response questions on exam day.

Get to Know the Questions 

There are two free-response questions for AP Psychology: the Article Analysis Question (AAQ) and the Evidence-Based Question (EBQ).  

  • The AAQ gives you 1 summarized peer-reviewed source and asks you to respond to 6 question parts. You’ll analyze the source for the research methods and design elements used, statistics interpretation, ethical guidelines, generalizability, and application of psychological content. 
  • The EBQ gives you 3 summarized peer-reviewed sources on a common topic and asks you to respond to 3 question parts. You will propose a claim about the topic and provide 2 pieces of evidence to support your claim. You’ll also explain how the evidence supports your claim and connects to psychological content you learned in the course.  

Look for Task Verbs 

Pay close attention to the task verbs used in the free-response questions. Each one directs you to complete a specific type of response.  

Here are the task verbs you’ll see on the exam: 

  • Describe: Provide the relevant characteristics of a specified topic.  
  • Explain: Provide information about how or why a relationship, process, pattern, position, situation, or outcome occurs, using evidence and/or reasoning to support or qualify a claim.  
    • “Explain how” typically requires analyzing the relationship, process, pattern, position, situation, or outcome;  
    • “Explain why” typically requires analysis of motivations or reasons for the relationship, process, pattern, position, situation, or outcome.  
  • Identify/State: Indicate or provide information about a specified topic, without elaboration or explanation.  
  • Propose: Provide a claim for a specific topic using your own words.  
  • Support or Refute: Provide reasoning that explains whether a claim or evidence should be upheld or rejected.  
  • Use Evidence: Provide information from a study (i.e., data, rationales, conclusions, hypotheses) that is specific and relevant to a given topic. 

Plan Before You Start Writing 

Answering free-response questions takes training and practice. Students often begin to write immediately, which can create a string of disconnected thoughts. Instead, you should approach questions methodically and plan your answers before responding.  

  1. Carefully analyze the question, thinking through what is being asked, and identify the elements you’ll need to address in the response. Each AP Exam asks different types of questions. For AP Psychology, you will be asked to read source materials and then use those materials and the knowledge you’ve gained in the course to answer questions. 
  2. Next, consider what evidence from the source materials you can incorporate into your response. Consider how your evidence is related to content you learned during the year and then decide how it fits into the analysis.  
  3. Clearly explain why the evidence you use supports the claim or topic you’re referencing and how it connects to the knowledge you gained from the course. Don’t leave it to the reader to infer what you mean or how something illustrates a point.  
  4. Begin writing only after you have thought through the evidence you plan to use and determined what your argument will be. Once you’ve done this, you will be able to answer the question clearly. 

Practice Before Exam Day 

You may wish to work specifically on the free-response questions available in AP Classroom and on AP Central. Review the scoring rubrics for the questions to understand how the answers are scored. Sample responses for each point category are included in each scoring rubric.