Introduction: Using This Book - Barron's AP Psychology, 7th Edition

Barron's AP Psychology, 7th Edition (2016)

Introduction: Using This Book

The purpose of this book is to provide you with the best-possible preparation for the AP Psychology exam. Becoming familiar with the structure of the test is an essential part of your preparation. Therefore, following this introduction we have included an overview of the exam.

The book begins with a diagnostic test to help you gauge how best to prepare for the exam. You may wish to take this test after you have been exposed to all the information through your class but before you begin to study. The Multiple-Choice Error Analysis Sheet is intended to help you identify your areas of relative strength and weakness. For each of the 14 topic areas, compute the percentage of questions you answered correctly. In this test, the number of questions on a topic is indicative of the amount of attention it typically receives on the exam. Therefore, you should spend the most time studying the areas on which many questions were asked and you got a relatively low percentage of them correct.

In addition, we have included two full-length practice exams at the end of the book. If you purchased the book/CD-ROM package, you will have the opportunity to take two more full-length exams in computerized format. Keep in mind that taking a practice exam under actual testing conditions (all at once and within the time limit) is always best. Every exam includes an explanation of the correct answers as well as an Error Analysis Sheet.

We devoted most of the book to a topical review of the main areas of psychology. The content is organized in such a way that it mirrors the format of the exam. These areas and their relative coverage on the AP exam are listed below:

History and Approaches

2–4 percent


8–10 percent

Biological Bases of Behavior

8–10 percent

Sensation and Perception

6–8 percent

States of Consciousness

2–4 percent


7–9 percent


8–10 percent

Motivation and Emotion

6–8 percent

Developmental Psychology

7–9 percent


5–7 percent

Testing and Individual Differences

5–7 percent

Abnormal Psychology

7–9 percent

Treatment of Psychological Disorders

5–7 percent

Social Psychology

8–10 percent

The College Board recently revised the AP Psychology course to include specific course objectives (your AP Psychology instructor can provide more information about these objectives). We are not reproducing these course objectives in this review book for legal reasons, but the content of this book corresponds closely to these new course objectives.

Because this is a review book, our aim is to include only that information you need to know for the exam. Nonetheless, some of this information is particularly important, and we convey that fact by highlighting such material as Tips. Important terms and people appear at the beginning of each chapter and are set in italics in the text. They can also be found in the index.

The College Board dramatically increased the number of psychologists named in their most recent revision of their course outline and all those people are described in this review book. However, we recommend that you do NOT spend a large part of your studying time memorizing all these names. The AP Psychology exam primarily focuses on psychological concepts and ideas, not people. We included a list of the most significant psychologists in the “Fabulous 15” section and suggest that you focus your studying on those individuals.

Multiple-choice practice questions and an explanation of the correct answer are provided at the end of each review chapter. We recommend that you first review the material in the chapter and then answer all the review questions in order to test your comprehension.

To help prepare you for the exam, Chapter 15 presents a group of testing tips and Chapter 16 focuses on how to answer the free-response questions. We have included a discussion of how best to approach the essays and also provide a number of examples of the kinds of essay questions likely to appear on the exam. We also include model essay answers to give you an idea of what the readers of the exam are looking for.


Research by cognitive and educational psychologists indicates that the following three principles might be the most powerful ideas students can use to make their studying more efficient and effective. This book is designed to help you use these principles.

Distributed Practice

Studies consistently show that spreading your studying out over a period of time is much more effective than “massing” your studying just before you have to use the information (that is, cramming for a test). This book begins with a diagnostic test. You can use this practice exam to “diagnose” what chapters you already know well and which chapters you need to study thoroughly. You can use this assessment of your strengths and weaknesses to plan your study schedule, spreading your studying across a period of time.

Semantic Encoding

Encoding the meaning of terms, that is, thinking deeply about what psychological terms and concepts MEAN to you, and thinking about them in your own words and attaching your own personal examples to them are effective ways to study and retain information. In this book, we provide multiple examples of the terms and concepts discussed. The more you “personalize” the terms and examples, thinking about how they apply to you and your own life, the more likely you’ll be to remember those ideas on the exam. Remember, learning is an ACTIVE, not a PASSIVE activity. The more you involve yourself in the process by thinking about how the terms and theories apply to you and your life, the better you’ll remember the content in this book (and you’ll reduce your overall studying time!).

The Testing Effect

Recent research indicates that interrupting your studying with frequent small quizzes over the content is very effective. Students who frequently answer questions about the content they are studying are more likely to remember the content, even if they don’t answer the questions correctly. This book is designed to help you take advantage of the testing effect. The chapters in this book are 10 to 20 pages long and each end with 15 practice questions. Treat these practice questions like a “mini-test” after you are done studying the chapter. Try to answer the questions without looking back at the chapter or looking ahead at the correct answers. Even if you don’t feel ready for the quiz at the end of the chapter, or if you get many of the items wrong, the experience of taking the test and thinking about your answers will help you learn and remember the terms and concepts.

Finally, the book includes an index that will be helpful to you anytime you come across a term or person you know is important, but do not remember. It will refer you to a page or pages that discuss that term or person.

As you review the content in this book to work toward earning that 5 on your AP PSYCHOLOGY exam, here are five things that you MUST know above everything else:



Know the psychological perspectives. Psychological researchers study the mind and behavior from different “perspectives.” Each perspective uses some unique research methods, concepts, and vocabulary to describe and explain thinking and behavior. Knowing the vocabulary and concepts associated with each perspective can help you better understand psychological theories and quickly narrow down possible answers to exam questions. For instance, if a question uses the term classical conditioning, you should be able to immediately identify the question as belonging in the “behavioral” area of psychology and look for answers that include other behavioral terms or key individuals.


Know your terms. Psychological terms refer to specific concepts, and it is important that you don’t confuse these terms with “pop” psychological ideas or the casual ways nonpsychologists use the same words. For example:

• To a psychologist, people diagnosed with antisocial personality disorder are not shy or unfriendly but rather callous and unfeeling toward others.

• “Learning” in psychological terms refers to much more than learning in school and is divided into many specific kinds of learning such as classical and operant conditioning.

You should make sure that you understand the specific, scientific meaning of psychological terms. Most of the multiple-choice items on the exam (which determine the majority of your final score) measure your knowledge and ability to apply psychological terminology.


Psychology is a science. Psychological researchers use the scientific method to gather data and test hypotheses about the mind and behavior instead of relying on intuition, what the majority of people believe, or “common sense.” Often what people refer to as “common sense” offers contradictory ideas. Regarding attraction, common sense tells us both that “opposites attract” and that “birds of a feather flock together.” Psychological researchers carefully gather data about topics like attraction to reach conclusions rather than relying on “common sense.” The “Methods” chapter of this book describes in detail how psychologists gather data and test hypotheses, and understanding research methodology is vital to your performance on the exam and your understanding of the science of psychology.


Application is key. The AP Psychology test is designed to measure your knowledge of psychological concepts and ability to apply these concepts. Exam items (especially the free-response ones) usually require you to go beyond defining terms by applying them to a scenario or making connections between different concepts. However, the AP Psychology exam is not designed to measure your writing ability or ability to express your knowledge in creative or unique ways. The measurement goal of this exam is to assess your knowledge of psychological concepts and your ability to apply this knowledge.


Use what psychology teaches you about cognition to improve your study habits. You have been a student for many years, and no doubt you’ve received advice about how to study and developed your own study habits. Use what psychology teaches you about cognition to improve your study habits. Studying for the AP Psychology exam is an opportunity for you to modify your study methods based on the research findings about the effectiveness of different encoding and recall techniques. For example:

• Memory research clearly indicates that “distributed practice” (spacing your studying over a span of days or weeks) is much more effective than “massed practice” (“cramming” all your studying just before the test).

• Memory techniques like chunking, mnemonic devices, and context cues can dramatically improve your ability to recall sets of terms and save you hours of studying time.

• The information-processing model predicts that focusing on the meaning, context, and application of psychological ideas will increase your ability to recall and use psychological ideas.

• Research indicates that students can (and should) take advantage of the “testing effect;” you should interrupt your reading and studying with frequent small “tests” of your knowledge. Use practice questions at the end of each chapter to test your knowledge.

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