Free Response Questions – Info, Tips & Strategies
Remember how the AP Psychology exam is set up…
AP Psychology Exam Format
Multiple Choice Section
Free Response Section
Note: the 2006 FRQ #1 offers a good, clean example of questions and sample answers.
Essay tips from a reader since 1992 (a person who grades the exams)….
- Take a deep breath and believe in yourself. Free responses usually give you a "I don't know any of this!" reaction. Yes, you do. Plus, you don't need to know ALL of it, just some. You can do this. What's the average score for an FRQ?
- Typically, there are about 6 to 12 items that you need to address. Look at the 2011 Free Response question below, it has 7 items and thus 7 possible points.
- Your job is to get points, period. The readers are looking for something specific and, if you hit on it, you get a point. Essentially, they have a rubric that is a checklist. They look for the info addressing each part of the question in your response, then check off the corresponding spot on their checklist earning you points.
- You don’t get points off if you write something wrong, you simply don’t earn a point. So, write as much as you can because you just might stumble on the correct answer.
- Use "official" psychology terms whenever you can. Often the reader awards points if you apply the correct term.
- This is not an essay. Do not think of it as a five paragraph, English-class type of essay, it’s not. It doesn’t even have an introduction or conclusion.
- It’s okay to skip a line between each item. The reader I spoke with actually said he likes this because readers like clues (it says, “I’m done with this one, I’m starting the next one”). Some people number them, label them, or even put bullet points.
- Don’t waste time…
- Writing an introduction or conclusion.
- Erasing stuff, just draw a line through it.
- Rewriting the question. None of these things earn you points.
- You only get 1 point for each item. So, don’t try to really do great on one you know thinking it’ll make up for one you don’t. You only get 1 point for each item.
- Each part of the question is independent of the other. When moving to the next part, put on your blinders and focus solely on that one. Anything you’ve written up ‘til then has nothing to do with it.
- Along these lines, watch your pronouns, like “it.” If you referred to “it” in the previous section, don’t start our referring to “it” in the next. The parts are independent.
- Again, this is not an essay that’s read as a whole. Think of it as independent “point-units.”
- When the 2 free responses are noticeably different in length/quantity, you might want to start with the shorter one. This is because each question is of equal value, yet each individual part of the question with fewer items is weighted more heavily.
- The reader I spoke with revealed his “magic formula” for earning points for each item. He said that for a question asking you to “identify” or “describe” something, he likes a definition and an application. Simply defining the term does not earn a point, but it does show you know it and sort of exercises your mind--gets you thinking in the right direction. Telling how the term is applied or used in psychology and in that situation gets a check mark on the rubric checklist and earns you a point.
2011 Free Response question #1…
What does an FRQ look like? See Crump's example below.
AP Test Information:
The AP Psychology Exam, which debuted in 1992, is a relative newcomer among AP Exams. The exam tests knowledge of topics included in a one-semester introductory college course in psychology. The following table reflects the approximate percentage of the multiple-choice section of the exam devoted to each content area:
2-4% history and approaches
8-10% research methods
8-10% biological bases of behavior
6-8% sensation and perception
2-4% states of consciousness
8-10% cognition6-8%motivation and emotion
7-9% developmental psychology
5-7% testing and individual differences
7-9% abnormal behavior
5-7% treatment of abnormal behavior
8-10% social psychology
A note about the DSM and the AP Psychology Exam
The fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) was published in May 2013 with revisions to the criteria for the diagnosis and classifications of mental disorders. In the interest of fairness and to allow time for publishers to integrate such changes into pertinent sections of AP Psychology textbooks, the College Board has made the following decisions regarding upcoming AP Psychology Exams:
Questions on the 2014 AP Psychology Exam will adhere to the terminology, criteria and classifications referred to in the fourth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual(DSM-IV-TR). Beginning with the 2015 AP Psychology Exam, all terminology, criteria and classifications referred to among multiple-choice and free-response items will adhere to the new fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-5).
For sample multiple-choice questions, refer to the Course Description.
AP Psychology Course Description, Effective Fall 2013 (.pdf/445KB)
The free-response questions evaluate students' mastery of scientific research principles and their ability to make connections among constructs from different psychological domains. Students may be asked to analyze a general problem in psychology (e.g., depression, adaptation) using concepts from different theoretical frameworks or subdomains in the field, or they may be asked to design, analyze, or critique a research study.