How Do I Self-Study AP Psychology?

6 min readdecember 16, 2021

Dalia Savy

Dalia Savy

AP Psychology 🧠

334 resources
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Thinking about self-studying for AP Psych? You're in the right place 😉.
Many students either take AP Psych as either their first AP course or their first self-study course. It is highly recommended for both and usually shows up in most student's high school schedules 📅

Pros and Cons of Self-Studying AP Psych

Pros ✅

  • There are lots of resources readily available.
  • Concepts are mostly easy to understand.
  • Interaction with a teacher 👨‍🏫 👩‍🏫 is not necessary.
  • Can easily be applied to everyday life.
  • Simple exam format.

Cons ❌

  • Lots of memorization 🧠 and content to cover on your own.
  • Requires motivation to pace yourself throughout the year 📅
  • Textbook is expensive💰
  • If you aren't heavily interested, some units may feel boring.

The Course and Exam Description (CED) 🔖

For every AP Exam, College Board creates a CED to go along with it. The CED includes an outline of the course and an extensive guide to each part of the exam. Here is the 2020 AP Psychology CED.
Almost any question about the course can be answered by looking at the CED. The CED is separated into 3 sections: Course Framework, Instructional Approaches, and Exam Information.
The most that you can get out of this guide is in the Course Framework section, which is split up by each unit. This section also includes the skills ⚙️ required for success in AP Psych.
Each unit splits up into key topics. Each key topic has a page with a list of concepts or ideas that you should 100% know for the AP exam.
These key topic pages don't go in-depth! They just list a few main ideas and vocab terms/concepts that are in that key topic.
Here is an example of Unit 1, Key Topic 3 (or Topic 1.3):

Image Courtesy of AP Psychology CED - College Board. The CED always contains useful information. In 1.3 specifically, it is essential to memorize that correlational research cannot prove causation.

The CED can be very helpful for a self-studier! We highly recommended looking at it if you want to know what's on the exam.
The CED also has major points listed for each key topic.
There is a ton of exam information, and there are even practice questions in the Exam Information section. You might want to look at this at least twice throughout the year and complete the questions closer to the exam date.
Here's the exam breakdown:
Units Weighted on the Exam
UnitsWeight on Exam
Unit 1: Scientific Foundations of Psychology10-14%
Unit 2: Biological Bases of Psychology8-10%
Unit 3: Sensation and Perception6-8%
Unit 4: Learning7-9%
Unit 5: Cognitive Psychology13-17%
Unit 6: Developmental Psychology7-9%
Unit 7: Motivation, Emotion, and Personality11-15%
Unit 8: Clinical Psychology12-16%
Unit 9: Social Psychology8-10%
Looking at the exam breakdown, you can identify which units you should prioritize over the others. Since about 13-15% of the exam will be about cognitive psychology 🧠 and 12-16% will be about clinical psychology 🛋️, you should focus on these two units more than sensation and perception 👀

Study Schedule 📅

Pacing and staying on track is important when preparing for the exam. It may seem stressful, but setting weekly goals for yourself will really help relieve this stress 😌
It is best to study by the units in order ➡️ Some units require the knowledge of previous units, so learning them in order is the perfect way to digest the material.
👉AP Psychology Pacing Guide
Fiveable has created the perfect pacing guide to help you self-study throughout the year! It includes 3 resources per key topic to ensure you have a deep understanding of everything covered on the AP Exam 🤗

Ways to Learn 🤔

There are tons of different ways to learn AP Psych, and every single one of these ways are effective!
  • Textbooks 📚: Using just a textbook would be really effective for AP Psych. All of the content is written cohesively with tons of diagrams and visuals 👀 to help you out. Textbooks usually include practice questions❓ after each unit and a few practice exams at the end of the whole textbook. Taking notes while using the textbook would be the most effective way to prepare with textbooks. However, they are usually very expensive 💰 Try to borrow one from school!
  • Prep Books 🔖: Depending on the prep book you get, they can replace a textbook. They may have a variety of diagrams and visuals, and the practice questions 🧐 may not be AP style. We recommend using a prep book in combination with a textbook, rather than a prep book alone.
👉Best Textbooks and Prep Books for AP Psychology
  • Videos 🎬: There are lots of YouTube channels that cover AP Psychology content, and their videos often vary in length. The Advanced Placement YT is still available as well, but it may be more useful during AP studying in April. There are a few channels that go along with the popular Myers' AP Psychology Textbook. Also, don't forget Crash Course!
    • For general AP Psych knowledge (not specific to AP), you could also watch some documentaries or listen to a few podcasts 🔊
  • Flashcards 🗂️: Since AP Psychology is heavily focused on vocabulary terms and concepts, flashcards are perfect to use to test your knowledge!
👉Best AP Psychology Quizlet Decks
Don't be afraid to try out all of these and use a mixture of these resources. Find the way that works for you! You got this!

Practice Tests ✍️

After knowing the content, practice, practice, practice! It's essential 😉
You could honestly find practice questions anywhere, but official AP questions are more difficult to find. Unfortunately, the College Board only releases previous exams' FRQ questions. Multiple-choice questions are only accessible by teachers 👩‍🏫 👨‍🏫, so you may want to ask them if you could have a few for practice. However, you must destroy the MCQ packets after you complete it for confidentiality.
Otherwise, textbooks, prep books, and online resources have a lot of AP style multiple-choice questions and free-response questions. Make sure to take advantage of these! You not only want to know the content, but you also want to know how to apply it to ace this exam 💯
When you are taking a practice exam, set a timer, and create the conditions of the real AP exam. Try to make yourself comfortable, and do it without your notes beside you ❌. Creating the atmosphere of the AP exam multiple times will relieve your stress and make you feel more confident 😅. That is what we want!

Assessing Yourself 🤨

Hm... once I take the practice exam, what do I do?
First off, while you take the practice exam, circle questions you struggled with 🥴 and star questions you completely guessed on. This gives you an idea of your areas of weakness and will allow you to improve 😊
Once you grade yourself and check the answer key, make a spreadsheet and note every question you got wrong ❌, the unit the question belongs to, why you got it wrong, and why the right answer is correct. Identifying your weaknesses helps you in the long run.
If you have another method that works for you, go ahead and do it. As long as you keep track of your progress, the practice tests will remain effective.

Taking the Exam 🤔

First things first, does your school offer the AP course?

If it does.... 🥳:

  • Talk to your counselor or an AP Coordinator about signing you up to take AP Psych. They will most likely direct you to an AP Classroom link and sign you up for the exam there.

If it doesn't... 😕:

  • Check out a few websites of the schools near you and if they have AP Psych. Email or call that school and ask them if you could take the AP Exam there!

Closing Thoughts

Trying to keep yourself on track may seem difficult, but once you get into it, it'll be part of your everyday schedule 🗓️
Set a daily or weekly goal for yourself and treat yourself for completing it. Have fun with the class!
If you ever feel overwhelmed or stressed, take a mental health day. You got this, we believe in you. Good luck 🍀 😊

Browse Study Guides By Unit
🔎Unit 1 – Scientific Foundations of Psychology
🧠Unit 2 – Biological Basis of Behavior
👀Unit 3 – Sensation & Perception
📚Unit 4 – Learning
🤔Unit 5 – Cognitive Psychology
👶🏽Unit 6 – Developmental Psychology
🤪Unit 7 – Motivation, Emotion, & Personality
🛋Unit 8 – Clinical Psychology
👫Unit 9 – Social Psychology
📚Study Tools
🤔Exam Skills

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