How to Answer AP® Psychology Free Response Questions (FRQ) (2024)

If your goal is to do well on the AP® Psychology exam's free-response section, you've come to the right place! This article will cover critical strategies that will help you get a high score on the free response section of the AP Psychology exam.

Format of the AP Psychology FRQ Section

The second section of the AP Psychology exam is the free-response portion, which consists of two free-response questions (FRQs) and will make up 33.3% of your final AP Psychology exam score. These FRQs in Section II of the AP Psychology exam will always be in a certain format.

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How to Answer AP® Psychology Free Response Questions (FRQ) (1)

How to Answer AP Psychology Free-Response Questions

Students often find the FRQ section challenging because, unlike the multiple choice section, thereare no answer options to choose from, and students must come up with their answers, which is why the section iscalled "free response."

To do well on the FRQ portion of the APPsychology exam, you need a solid grasp of the tested content, a logical approach to tackling the questions,and effective time management. Although this portion of the exam can be intimidating at first, if you know how toapproach each type of FRQ you will encounter on the exam, you will be able to perform well. By following the tipsand strategies below and actively working on these skills, you will prepare yourself for success in the FRQ sectionof the AP Psychology exam!

Know how the FRQs are scored

AP readers score the FRQ responses. AP Psychology teachers and college instructors trained to usestandards for scoring serve as the readers. The reader awards a point when they conclude that a specific requirementdescribed in the scoring standards is in the FRQ response. Therefore, demonstrating your understanding of each partof the question is the key to earning maximum points.

  • Even though the AP Reader who scores your FRQ is an expert, you should write yourresponses in a simple way, as if you were explaining the concepts to someone who isn’t very familiar withpsychological theories and concepts.
  • Every AP Psych FRQ is different and will contain prompts for you to address. Forexample, you might need to compare or contrast individuals, take a stance on an issue, state how a list of termsapplies to a scenario, or draw a graph. Be sure to note which prompt(s) the question provides and ensure youranswer addresses each part of the question.
  • Before writing, carefully read and think about the question, and then organize yourthoughts for your response. Consider starting with a clear thesis statement and then adding points withsupporting evidence to your broader statement.
  • As you plan your response, look for ways to include evidence from your AP Psychologycourse to support your argument. Clearly state how this information applies to the question and informs youranswer.
  • Make sure to organize your answer so that it mirrors the organization of the questionitself. In other words, if the question has parts (a), (b), (c), (d), and (e), your answer should have the samelabels and be in the same order. Doing this will make it much easier for your reader to grade.
  • Write legibly using a blue or black pen, and be sure your answer is within the spaceprovided. The readers cannot give you points unless they can absolutely confirm that you meet the scoringcriteria. If you make a mistake, mark a line through the section you do not want scored. Don't bother scribblingeverything out or attempting to erase the ink.
  • As you explain a concept, ensure you express complete thoughts and use sentences.Remember to demonstrate your understanding, not just provide simple definitions. For example, if asked to applythe concept of negative reinforcement, you need to describe that an undesirable stimulus is removed as aconsequence of a behavior and explain that, in doing so, the behavior is more likely to be repeated. Simplysaying that negative reinforcement involves the removal of an undesirable stimulus may not be sufficient to earna point.
  • You won't lose points for incorrect answers (unless they directly contradict the correct information in your answer).Therefore, you should attempt to answer as many portions of the questions as possible within the time limit, even ifyou are unsure. You will probably know something about the concepts in each question, and there are oftenseveral ways to earn a point for a part of a question. The only way you will have zero points is by skipping aquestion! So make sure you give it your best shot!

Pay attention to the wording of the FRQ

If you successfully answer all parts of a question, you will earn full points. Therefore, it is important to payclose attention to what the instructions ask of you. You will find a list of common task verbs below withexamples to help you know what to do when they appear in a question.

  • As you read a question, circle or underline each instruction as you read it. Think about what you need to do toanswer that part of the question.
  • Mark off each part of the question as you finish writing that part of your answer. Doing this will help keep youon track and is a great way to be sure you have responded to everything the question asked. Before you go on tothe next question, double-check that you have not overlooked anything the current question asks you to do.

Use your time wisely

You will have 50 minutes to complete the FRQ portion of the AP Psychology exam. You can answer the two questions inany order.

The most efficient use of your time will be to start by answering the parts of the questions in which you feel mostconfident, earning you the most points in the shortest time. That is why spending some time in the beginning readingover the questions is critical. Doing this allows you to read the questions and create a strategy for earning themost points. However, you must remember that you can start writing at any point, so once you have your plan, you canstart writing.

  • Jot down notes that will help you stay on track in the margin of the test book while you write your answers.However, remember that only what has been written in the official, designated spaces will be scored.
  • If you get stuck while writing, just leave some room in your answer document and go to the next part ofthe question or the next question entirely. If you have time at the end, return to the unfinished question orpart of a question.
  • If you have spare time after finishing your answers, go back and read over your responses. Double-check toensure you have answered all parts of each question and completed everything asked of you in each question.

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How to Answer AP® Psychology Free Response Questions (FRQ) (2)

Write in complete sentences, but be concise

To make sure you receive full credit on each FRQ, ensure that everything you write contributes directly to answeringthe question. Focus on demonstrating to the reader that you understand the tested concept rather than worrying aboutflawless writing.

Remember that you do need to write in complete sentences (i.e., bulleted lists or outlines are not acceptable). Youwill not earn points simply by mentioning a term without demonstrating your understanding. Therefore, resist theurge to write many words to mention a word that will earn you a point because the FRQs do not work that way.

  • Always stick to the point and avoid writing anything that is not directly relevant to the question. Don'trephrase the question or write an abstract introduction; just focus on answering the question directly.
  • Stop writing once you’ve answered the question. If you keep writing, you might contradict something youwrote earlier that would have otherwise earned you a point.
  • When asked to provide examples, give only the number of examples requested by the question. Extra examples willnot be scored, even if they are correct and an earlier example you gave was incorrect.
  • Just do your best with spelling. And remember that you earn points by demonstrating your conceptualunderstanding, so if you can’t recall a particular term, explain the concept as best you can anyway.

Task Verbs and Their Meanings

The AP Psychology FRQs commonly use certain task verbs. To write the most effective answer to anFRQ, you need to know what each task verb means and the differences among them. Understanding these will help youearn the most points for each question.

  1. Construct/Draw
    For this type of question, you will create a visual representation or agraph,which may or may not require labels. Carefully think about what labels or titles your graph may need, as youwill typically be awarded points for them. Not including them could cause you to miss out on available points.

    Example: Draw a correctly labeled bar graph that depicts the study’s results.

  2. Define
    Here, you will state the precise meaning of a concept or term. You must pay carefulattention to what you are being asked to define and then do so thoroughly but concisely.

    Example: Operationally define the independent variable in this study.

  3. Describe
    You will provide information about a particular process, topic, or experiment. Inyour description, you will need to show that you understand the concept and any relevant aspects of that topic.

    Example: Describe how the fundamental attribution error relates to thecontext provided.

  4. Draw a conclusion
    Here, you will come to a decision or conclusion after evaluating the givenevidence in the question. This type of question tests your critical thinking skills. Be sure to provide evidenceor your reasoning for coming to that conclusion.

    Example: Using the data provided, determine if the study's results support theresearcher's hypothesis.

  5. Explain
    Here, you must explain how or why an association, occurrence, orconsequencehappened. Using specific examples or data from the question will likely be a good idea for this task. Also, makesure you have made the concept understandable to someone reading your answer.

    Example: Explain why the study described in the question stem is notlongitudinal.

  6. Identify
    This task verb requires you to indicate or give information pertaining to aspecific topic. For this type of prompt, you only need to provide a concise answer to the question, not anyreasoning or examples. Easy!

    Example: Identify the independent variable in the experiment.

Types of FRQs on the AP Psychology Exam

You will find a description of each type of question you will come across below. Although thedetails of eachquestion vary (e.g., type of experiment performed, scenario described, psychological concepts tested), the generaloutline is the same. Knowing what each type of question is testing will help you be prepared and earn an awesome FRQscore!

FRQ 1: Concept application

In this FRQ, you will be provided with a description of an authentic scenario. Then you will be asked to explainbehavior using psychological concepts and theories.

FRQ 2: Research design

In the other FRQ, you will analyze a psychological research study. Quantitative data, which you will need to analyzeand interpret, will also be provided.

Now that you have read about the specific skills necessary to approach each of the FRQs you will come across on theAP Psychology exam, If you use the tips provided here and practice the necessary skills, you will be sure to masterthis section of the exam!

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How to Answer AP® Psychology Free Response Questions (FRQ) (3)

Frequently Asked Questions

Every AP Psych exam will include two free-response questions (FRQs): one where you will explain behavior and another where you will analyze a research study.

AP Psych FRQs are graded by AP Psychology readers, who are AP Psychology teachers and college instructors who the College Board® has thoroughly trained on how to grade the FRQs. The two AP Psych FRQs comprise 33% of your total AP exam score.

The FRQ section of the AP Psychology exam lasts 50 minutes.

The College Board website allows you to access and download past FRQs, scoring criteria, examples of how studentsanswered the questions, and score distributions. However, the AP Psychology exam was updated in 2019, so the materialsfrom exams in 2019 and earlier may not be the best reflection of the current types of questions asked.

How to Answer AP® Psychology Free Response Questions (FRQ) (2024)
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