AP Psychology

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AP Psychology is designed to introduce students to the systematic and scientific study of behavior and mental processes. Students are exposed to the psychological facts, principles and phenomena associated with each of the major subfields within psychology. They also learn about the ethics and methods psychologists use in their science and practice. According to surveys of comparable curricula at four-year colleges and universities, it is equivalent to a one-semester college-level course.

Topics covered on the exam include:

History and Approaches (2–4%)

  • Philosophical perspectives
  • Theoretical approaches in explaining behavior
  • Domains of psychology
  • Major historical figures in psychology

Research Methods (8–10%)

  • Types of research
  • Research design and reasonable conclusions
  • Independent, dependent, confounding and control variables
  • Random assignment of participants and random selection of participants
  • Validity of behavioral explanations
  • Purposes of descriptive statistics and inferential statistics
  • Descriptive statistical concepts
  • Ethical issues and legal guidelines

Biological Bases of Behavior (8–10%)

  • Basic processes and systems in the biological bases of behavior
  • Influence of drugs on neurotransmitters
  • Effect of the endocrine system on behavior
  • Nervous system and its subdivisions and functions
  • Role of heredity, environment and evolution in shaping behavior
  • Adaptive value of traits and behavior

Sensation and Perception (6–8%)

  • Basic principles of sensory transduction
  • Sensory processes
  • Common sensory disorders
  • Principles of organizing and integrating sensation
  • Influence of experience and culture on perceptual processes
  • Role of attention in behavior

States of Consciousness (2–4%)

  • States of consciousness and their impact on behavior
  • Sleep and dreaming
  • Historical and contemporary uses of hypnosis
  • Psychoactive drug categories and classifications
  • Drug dependence, addiction, tolerance and withdrawal

Learning (7–9%)

  • Classical conditioning, operant conditioning and observational learning
  • Influence of practice, schedules of reinforcement and motivation on learning
  • Biological constraints and learning predispositions
  • Insight learning, latent learning and social learning
  • Behavior modification, biofeedback, coping strategies and self-control

Cognition (8–10%)

  • Cognitive processes
  • Psychological and physiological systems of memory
  • Encoding, storage and construction of memories
  • Strategies for memory improvement
  • Biological, cognitive and cultural factors in acquiring, developing and using language
  • Problem-solving strategies
  • Creative thought and creative thinkers

Motivation and Emotion (6–8%)

  • Motivational concepts
  • Biological underpinnings of motivation
  • Motivational theories
  • Research findings in specific motivation systems
  • Theories of stress and the effects of stress
  • Theories of emotion
  • Cultural influences on emotional expression

Developmental Psychology (7–9%)

  • Interaction of nature and nurture in the determination of behavior
  • Conception and gestation
  • Maturation of motor skills and cognitive abilities
  • Influence of temperament and other social factors on attachment and appropriate socialization
  • Models of moral development
  • Maturational challenges in adolescence
  • Physical and cognitive changes in aging
  • Role of sex and gender in socialization and other aspects of development

Personality (5–7%)

  • Theories and approaches to explaining personality
  • Research methods used to investigate personality
  • Cultural context and personality development

Testing and Individual Differences (5–7%)

  • Intelligence and measuring intelligence
  • Cultural influence on the definition of intelligence
  • Historical and contemporary theories of intelligence
  • Test design and scoring
  • Testing practices

Abnormal Behavior (7–9%)

  • Contemporary and historical conceptions of psychological disorders
  • Use of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM)
  • Major diagnostic categories
  • Strengths and limitations of approaches to explaining psychological disorders
  • Intersection between psychology and the legal system

Treatment of Abnormal Behavior (5–7%)

  • Characteristics of psychotherapeutic intervention
  • Treatment orientations, formats and effectiveness
  • Cultural and ethnic influences on treatment
  • Prevention strategies

Social Psychology (8–10%)

  • Attribution theory
  • Structure and function of different kinds of group behavior
  • Attitude formation and change
  • Impact of the presence of others on individual behavior
  • Influence of social and cultural categories on self-concept and relations with others
  • Altruism, aggression and attraction

Read the full course description and exam information with sample questions.

AP Psychology Development Committee

Committee Co-Chairs

  • Adam Goodie, University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia
  • Alice Kwong-Ballard, Lowell High School, San Francisco, California

Committee Members

  • Susan Baker, James Madison University, Harrisonburg, Virginia
  • Mike Hamilton, Hopkinton High School, Hopkinton, Massachusetts
  • Steve Jones, City of Medicine Academy, Durham, North Carolina
  • Jennifer A. Stevens, University of William and Mary, Williamsburg, Virginia

College Board Advisor

  • Terri Lindenberg, Lake Park High School, Roselle, Illinois

Chief Reader

  • Elizabeth Hammer, Xavier University of Louisiana, New Orleans, Louisiana