Top AP Psychology Exam Multiple-Choice Question Tips

April 1, 2024
Top AP Psychology Exam Multiple-Choice Question Tips

Two-thirds of your AP Psychology exam grade depends upon your performance on the multiple-choice questions. You will take the multiple-choice section of the test first. It is comprised of 100 questions, and you will be allotted 70 minutes to answer them. This section of the test includes a mix of easier and more difficult multiple-choice questions. Therefore, don’t be alarmed if you have more trouble answering some of the questions: do your best and move on! If you have time after finishing all the questions, you can look back at the items you had trouble with and think about them a bit more. Below, we summarized a few AP Psychology multiple-choice question strategies we think will help you with the exam.

AP Psychology Exam Multiple-Choice Question Strategies

AP Psychology Multiple-Choice Exam Question Strategy #1: Sometimes you don’t even need the answer choices!

Once you’ve prepared for this test you’ll see that in order to answer many of the questions on the test, you don’t even need to look at the answer choices. In fact, it’s a good test-taking strategy to try to answer multiple-choice questions before you look at the choices. That way, once you do look at the answer choices, you have a good sense of what you are looking for. For example, consider the following question:

Here’s another example:

The correct answer is B, as hormones and neurotransmitters are examples of the kind of neurochemicals the biomedical psychologists believe influence thought and behavior.

AP Psychology Exam Multiple-Choice Question Strategy #2: Read all the answer choices.

Always read all the answer choices before making your final selection. Even though it is helpful to imagine what the answer might be without reading the answer choices, it is essential that you read and carefully consider all the choices presented. Occasionally, particularly on the more difficult questions, one of the answer choices will be appealing, but another answer is superior. Remember that on a multiple-choice test you are supposed to identify the BEST possible answer.

AP Psychology Exam Multiple-Choice Question Strategy #3: Narrow down the possible answers.

Sometimes the questions on the exam are more difficult than the examples above and you will not be able to identify the correct answer before reading the answer choices. That is the beauty of the multiple-choice format: even if you are not sure you completely understand the concept in the question, you should be able to narrow down the possible answers by using what you do know about psychology. As mentioned above, you should always carefully read each of the answer choices. When you decide a choice is incorrect, cross it out, and eliminate it from consideration. You will be able to use this method often to identify the correct answer.

AP Psychology Exam Multiple-Choice Question Strategy #4: When I don’t know the answer, should I guess?

Some tests include a “guessing penalty” to discourage students from guessing on multiple- choice items (past versions of the AP Psychology exam included a guessing penalty). Beginning with the 2011 administration of the AP Psychology exam, the score for the multiple-choice section of the AP test is based on the number of questions answered correctly, and no points are deducted for questions answered incorrectly or left blank. Since there is no penalty for guessing on the exam, you should answer each multiple-choice question, even if you feel like you are guessing.

AP Psychology Exam Multiple-Choice Question Strategy #5: Don’t get bogged down.

If you come to a question you find difficult, do not spend an inordinate amount of time on it. Remember, this is a timed test, and there’s no sense in spending a long time worrying about one question if it’s going to impede you from getting to the last five questions! After you read a question and look at the answer choices, make your best guess and move on. If you doubt your answer, mark the question in your test booklet so that if you have time at the end of the section, you can come back and think more about it. 

In addition, don’t let any thoughts about having missed a question get in the way of your doing well on subsequent questions. Rather than dwell on negative thoughts about a few difficult questions, focus on all the information you know. Don’t “psych” yourself out!

AP Psychology Exam Multiple-Choice Question Strategy #6: Guess smart.

When you are not sure of the answer to a question and therefore are trying to eliminate incor- rect choices, a few other suggestions about how to make good guesses on multiple-choice tests may help you.

AP Psychology Multiple-Choice Exam Strategy #7: Budget your time.

While most students find that they have enough time on the multiple-choice section of the exam, you should make sure not to spend an undue amount of time on any of the questions. Wear a watch to the exam and make sure to note the time the section begins and when it is scheduled to end. Since you have 70 minutes to answer 100 questions, you have just over two-thirds of a minute for each question. Read each question and use the techniques we have suggested. If you find yourself ­confused, skip the question and plan to come back to it once you have completed the section. If you are debating among several answer choices, choose one ­temporarily, but mark the ­question so that you will remember to review it once you have finished the other questions.

AP Psychology Multiple-Choice Exam Strategy #8:  Apply some of what you’ve learned about psychology to how you study. 

  • It’s better to space out your studying over many days than to cram for the same amount of time right before the exam.
  • Studying is important, but so is sleep. You’ll think better if you’re well rested. According to the Yerkes-Dodson law, a moderate level of arousal will help you perform well on the test. Although you do not want to be so anxious that you can’t focus, you will want to “psych” yourself up for the test. 
  • In cognitive psychology research, retrieval practice is one of the most effective study methods. Made sure you quiz yourself after you study content. In addition, you can use the “blank paper” technique: after you read about a group of concepts, close the book, get out a blank sheet of paper and write down everything you can remember. This technique helps you realize what you actually learned from the reading and what you need to review.

AP Psychology Exam Multiple-Choice Practice Questions & Top Tips

AP Psychology Multiple-Choice Tip #1: Use your common sense.

Don’t get so caught up thinking about what you learned that you forget to use your common sense. For instance, consider the following question: 

What is the likely correlation between the amount of time students spend studying psychology and their scores on the AP Psychology exam? 

(A)   -.80 

(B)   -.25 

(C)   -.18 

(D)   .62 

(E)   .97 

Assuming you know that “0” represents no correlation and that “1” is indicative of a perfect, direct relationship between the variables, your common sense can help you choose the answer. Since one would suspect that the relationship between these variables is a positive one, you are ­choosing between choices D and E. As an answer, .97 seems too strong; clearly some of the variation in how people do on the test is related to factors other than time spent studying (for example, prior knowledge, how rested they are, and test anxiety). Therefore, common sense dictates that .62 is the best of these choices.

AP Psychology Multiple-Choice Tip #2: Use your knowledge of the psychological perspectives.

Sometimes language used in the stem of the question can give you a clue about the right answer. Each perspective uses certain terms, and the correct answer will frequently use language from the perspective indicated in the stem of the question. For example, consider the following question: 

How would a behaviorist like B. F. Skinner explain how people learn table manners? 

(A)   Table manners are learned by interpreting events we have observed. 

(B)   Table manners are learned as a result of reinforcement and punishment. 

(C)   Table manners are a product of repressed childhood events in the unconscious. 

(D)   Table manners are controlled by brain chemistry and evolutionary forces. 

(E)   Table manners are learned by remembering and thinking about past social events we have experienced.

The stem of the question tells you that the correct answer must be one that a behaviorist would agree with, so you know you’re looking for an answer that uses behaviorist terms and concepts. Options A and E use cognitive psychological terms (interpreting, thinking, remembering). Option C uses psychoanalytic language (repressed, unconscious), and Option D uses bio-psychological language (brain chemistry and evolutionary forces). Only Option B uses terms from the behavioral perspective (reinforcement and punishment), so it must be the right answer.

AP Psychology Multiple-Choice Tip #3: Avoid extreme answer choices.

Choices that contain words like all or never or everyone are rarely (notice we don’t say never) correct.

AP Psychology Multiple-Choice Tip #4: Be wary of answer choices that are very similar to one another.

Remember, you’re looking for the best answer. If some of the choices are so similar that one cannot be better than the other, neither can be the correct answer.

How many questions do I need to get right to pass the AP Psychology exam? 

Each exam is different. Assuming your essays are average (keep in mind that they will deter- mine one-third of your grade), you need to earn approximately 60 points on the multiple-choice section to earn a “3,” 70 points to earn a “4,” and 80 points to earn a “5.”