Is AP Psychology Hard In High School?
One of the most curious things about humans is the way our brains operate. Thankfully, there is a course available for high school students that enables them to explore the depths of brain mechanics and chemistry. This course is AP Psychology. However, many students may be hesitant to take AP Psychology due to an uncertainty over the level of difficulty of the course.
In this blog I will be using data to analyze the difficulty of AP Psychology to help you see if this course is a good fit for you! I will also provide my own personal experience taking the course in high school. As someone who decided to major in psychology after taking AP Psychology, I can strongly recommend taking the course!
AP Psychology Overview: Topics, Skills Required, And Scoring
In this section I will first cover the primary topics which will be focused on in AP Psychology. Then, I will go on to list other topics that may be covered. Finally, I will say a bit about skills that may be useful for the course and provide the scoring mechanism used on the exam.
If you plan to take the AP Psychology course, you will expect to see a majority of its focus on:
- Research methods (8-10%): For the Research methods section, students will learn about various methods concerning the accumulation of data and interpretation of the data. Students will also learn about the necessary requirements for a proper sample of the population and procedures taken to ensure the safety of participants of the study.
- Biological Basis of Behavior (8-10%): For the Biological Basis of Behavior, students will learn about different parts of the brain and what these parts are responsible for, how they affect our behaviors, and how damage to these parts can cause dysfunction in our brains.
- Cognition (8-10%): For the Cognition section, students will learn about how the brain processes, translates, and interprets data from our surroundings. Also included in this section will be how we process and interpret language/sound and images.
- Social Psychology (8-10%): For the Social Psychology section, students will learn about brain disorders that are particular to social situations and our interaction with society as a whole.
These major themes will take up roughly 40% of the class. The remaining 60% of the class will be spent on topics such as:
- Abnormal Psychology (7-9%)
- Developmental Psychology (7-9%)
- Learning (7-9%)
- Motivation and Emotion (6-8%)
- Sensation and Perception (6-8%)
- Personality (5-7%)
- Testing and Individual Differences (5-7%)
- Treatment of Abnormal Behavior (5-7)%
- States of Consciousness (2-4%)
- History and Approaches (2-4%)
Skills required for success in AP psychology are varied, however, here are a few useful skills to have or work on in order to succeed in the course:
- The ability to break down and understand concepts: That is, being able to define terms, explain procedures, and apply what is learned to example situations.
- Interpreting data: A useful skill in AP Psychology will be your ability to understand data (in the form of charts or otherwise) and apply the data to your understanding of the material.
- Understanding over the Scientific Method: It will be useful for you to understand how the scientific method can be applied to particular instances given in examples, or otherwise.
- Taking the time: One skill that I cannot emphasize enough would be your ability to put in the time and work necessary to truly understand concepts, not just memorizing key terms. When you actually understand a concept it will make it far easier to work out complex example problems where a simple definition may not be helpful.
The breakdown of scores for the AP Psychology exam is represented in the chart below.
Factors That Determine The Difficulty Of AP Psychology
- The Number of Students Who Score a 3 or Above: According to the results of the AP Psychology exam for the year 2022 (results derived from the collegeboard), 58.3% of students scored either a 3 on the exam or above.
- Percentage of Students who get the Highest Possible Scores: According to the 2022 results of the AP Psychology exam, the percentage of students with the highest possible score (5) was 17%.
- The Content Difficulty Overview: With the pass rate (pass rate meaning students who scored a 3 or higher on the exam) being 58.3% for the year of 2022, the AP Psychology exam can be considered a moderately difficult course.
- How Students View the Class: Since I, sadly, do not have any suitable sample of the student population to ask if they view this class with overwhelming contentment or otherwise, I can only pull from my personal experience of the class. I, for one, was very fond of the class. So much so that I decided that when I went to college I would certainly major in psychology. If you put in the time necessary to ensure your understanding, you will find that the class is enjoyable and interesting. I will go into more depth about my personal experience in the later section titled: My Personal Experience With AP Psychology.
- The Year Students Take the Class: Most high school students can begin taking AP classes as early as their freshman year, however, students should consider taking AP Psychology during their junior or senior year of high school. The hope would be that at this point in their academic careers they will have a wider understanding of fundamental material that will help them in this course, and that they will have learned the particular study method/work habit that works best for them.
What Makes AP Psychology Hard For Students?
AP Psychology is moderate in difficulty, however, the aspect of the course that may contribute to the difficulty is the overall load of content. AP Psychology covers a vast amount of information in two semesters’ time. The difficulty, then, arises from students having to understand a variety of topics then having to apply their knowledge to example scenarios.
What Do Statistics Say?
As we have mentioned previously in the Factors That Determine The Difficulty Of AP Psychology section, the statistics of passing rates (for 2022) displays the course to be of moderate difficulty with 58.3% of students scoring either a 3 or above.
Who Should Take AP Psychology?
Students who are interested in psychology as a career path should certainly take AP Psychology. However, I do not think the course should be limited to only those students. AP Psychology can help students dip their toes into the very interesting world of human cognition and behavior. What students learn in AP Psychology can be applied to everyday life and broaden their understanding of how our brain functions. Any student who finds psychology to be an interesting topic should take the course.
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Our tutors will work with you to identify and improve your weaknesses on particular sections of the course, to help you understand the topics at hand and apply them to example scenarios. We know your time is valuable, that is why our tutors work around your schedule whether it be after school or before, we will find an availability that works for you! Check out our tutoring services here to book a session!
My Personal Experience With AP Psychology
During my senior year of high school, I decided to take AP Psychology. Of all of the courses I took in my high school career, none stood out to me to the degree that this one had. In fact, I found the course so interesting that I decided to go on and pursue psychology in college as the course opened the door for a new perception on how I view the world.
The actual content of the course was moderately difficult. I think the hardest thing, for me, was dedicating the necessary time that the course demanded of me in order to actually understand the material so that I could apply the concepts to the example scenarios given on tests and the AP Psychology exam. I found the course very rewarding, however, and would recommend it to any student who wants to broaden their understanding of the mind and its mechanisms.
So, Is AP Psychology Worth It?
Yes! As a moderately difficult course that yields a plethora of interesting information that can be applied to daily life and to one’s foundational understanding of the world, it is worth it! Just make sure you’re putting in the necessary time to understand concepts. Our tutors here at SoFlo can help you to digest the course and help you score a 5 on the AP Psychology exam!
About The Author
Dahlia is a senior at Florida State University majoring in both philosophy and psychology. In her free time she enjoys filmmaking and photography, backpacking, and cycling.