Is AP Psychology easy or hard? We reveal the AP Psychology difficulty rating, based on a unique combination of 2021 pass rate data, and 2,627 class reviews from real AP alumnae collected by r/APStudents.

Is AP Psychology Easy Or Hard?

AP Psychology is considered very easy, with class alumnae rating it 3.2/10 for overall difficulty (the 26th-most-difficult out of the 28 large AP classes surveyed).

The pass rate is slightly lower than other AP classes, with 55% graduating with a 3 or higher.

AP Psychology is very widely-taken (262,700 entries last year), and 98% would recommend the class.

Is AP Psychology Easy or Hard – Difficulty Rating

AP Psych alumnae found the course heavily based in vocab and definitions: if you’re great at memorisation, develop good study skills, and have the right test prep resources you may find this course easy and enjoyable.

You can see how AP Psychology compares to other classes for difficulty in the below chart:

AP Psychology difficulty

We’ve highlighted AP Psychology and related scientific classes (Environmental Science, Biology and Chemistry) only – to see the full version of this chart, check out our article ranking ALL the AP classes from easy to hard.

You can read more about AP Environmental Science, AP Biology and AP Chemistry here.

How Difficult Is AP Psychology – As Rated By Class Alumnae

AP Psych is considered very easy, with class alumnae rating it 3.2/10 for overall difficulty, making it the 26th-most-difficult out of the 28 large AP classes surveyed.

is AP psych hard

What Is the AP Psychology Pass Rate 2021?

The AP Psych 2021 pass rate was slightly lower than other AP classes, at 55%. 

A high percentage of students received a 1 (31%), almost double the all-AP-class average. Only 22% of students achieved a 4, and 15% of students attained a 5.

AP Psych Pass Rate / Score Distribution Over Time: 2021, 2020, 2019…

The AP Psychology pass rate remained fairly flat between 2017 and 2019. 2020 which saw an increased pass rate of 71%, which then fell significantly in 2021 to just 55%. 2021 also saw a significant increase in students receiving a 1.

Is AP Psychology Time Consuming To Study: As Rated By AP Psych Alumnae

AP Psychology is rated as quite low study time required relative to other AP classes.

A survey of AP alumnae asked for a rating out of 10 for time needed to study each class. 1 = least time needed, 10 = most time. The average rating for AP Psychology was 4.3/10 (vs the average across all AP classes of 5.3/10).

Is AP Psych Easy or Hard To Self-Study

AP Psychology is rated as very easy to self-study relative to other AP classes.

A survey of AP alumnae asked for a rating out of 10 for how easy each class is to self study. 1 = easiest to self study, 10 = hardest to self study. The average rating for AP Psychology was 3.1/10 (vs the average across all AP classes of 5.7/10).

How Hard Is AP Psychology: 86 Real AP Psych Alumnae Share Their Experiences

If you’re looking forward to taking AP Psychology, it’s important to take both the positive and negative feedback in context. There are multiple factors that could contribute to a great or poor experience of the class, such as a particularly weak teacher and your personal preferences as a learner.

An impressive 98% of AP Psych alumnae would recommend the class.

The majority of the reviews focus on course enjoyment and ease, the importance of vocabulary and memorisation, and helpful resources and study techniques.

1.      Many students really enjoy AP Psychology and found it easy to study

“THIS WAS MY FAVORITE CLASS EVER. The teacher was amazing, it’s a fascinating course and it’s fairly easy. Pay attention in class, do the minimal required reading, and you’ll be good.” – AP Psychology Score: 4

“Literally the easiest AP test to get a 5 on, go for it!!” – AP Psychology Score: 5

“Very easy ap course as long as you make sure you avoid as much confusion between terms as possible. you might feel kinda bad about it when you leave the testing room (i sure did), but things turned out fine (4’s and 5’s) for everyone i knew from my class so don’t sweat it too much after you’re done” – AP Psychology Score: 5

“My first ap course, which i self-studied. overall fun and applicable to you and your experiences, although there is a bit of memorizing. taking notes helps.” – AP Psychology Score: 5

“Pretty easy overall. Do the practice tests and you’ll be fine.” – AP Psychology Score: 4

“’Literally just pay attention in class and review your vocab the day before the exam. The threshold to get a 5 is super low for this exam. Also, watch one of those cram videos the day before.” – AP Psychology Score: 5

“’If you love to memorize a lot of facts and/or love concepts [involving] the mind and such, this is the class for you! If you don’t then this will be a snooze but easy AP class. Take notes (I know from personal experience). Study and you’ll be fine.” – AP Psychology Score: 1

“This exam is not hard at all as long as you are exposed to the material previously (before you start studying for the exam) the FRQ was actually fun to write during the exam and I walked out with an easy 5. flash cards are your best friend” – AP Psychology Score: 5

“’As long as you break it down into bits and pieces and don’t cram the entire thing the night before, it should be a pretty easy 5. quizlet was helpful too” – AP Psychology Score: 5

2.      There’s a lot of memorisation required!

“Being able to memorize is key” – AP Psychology Score: 5

“’This class is mostly just memorizing facts, but I found it easy because the concepts were interesting to me. It also incorporates a mini – portion of statistics, and taking AP stats with this class works great (if you were planning to take that class too).” – AP Psychology Score: 5

“I self studied this over the course of one weekend before the AP test. It wasn’t hard- just time consuming due to the sheer volume of memorization the test requires. However, make absolutely sure you know the structure and location of the parts of the brain as well as the sensation and perception unit before you take the exam.” – AP Psychology Score: 5

3.      Whilst some students found AP Psych time consuming …

“If you’re self studying, it can be very time consuming if you start late, but as long as you read the Barron’s book thoroughly and take notes, a 5 is pretty much guaranteed.” – AP Psychology Score: 5

“Only reason this course was time consuming for me was that we had a huge textbook and I read and took notes (both digital and handwritten) on every page, and I’m a very slow reader. 100% could’ve just paid attention in class and taken no notes outside of school and would’ve likely received a similar mark.” – AP Psychology Score: 5

“DO YOUR WORK! While the class can feel really slow and time consuming practice is extremely helpful” – AP Psychology Score: 4

4.      … others found they could self-study the course quickly: but it requires discipline!

“I learned half of the information the weekend before the test and got a 5. The Barron’s book and the crash course psych videos (I didn’t even finish those actually) should be all you need to self study this course. Good luck!” – AP Psychology Score: 5

“I self-studied this course in literally 2 days before the course, using Barron, and got a 4 on the exam. Honestly, I don’t recommend cramming until the very last day unless you have the determination and memorization skills for this exam. Although Psyc is an easy course, It has a lot of material and you need good memorization skills to go well on the exam. During the exam, I felt that the multiple choice was easy and the written response was moderate(probably because I never took the practice tests for the exam).” – AP Psychology Score: 4

“Self-Discipline is the key to a good score.” – AP Psychology Score: 4

“’Super easy to self-study” – AP Psychology Score: 5

5.      For a few, the quantity of required units and vocab was challenging

“I came into Psychology wanting to learn [specifically] about the more scientific aspects of brain function (the biological perspective, if you will.) However, Psychology can be challenging in that you have to learn 14 units and a variety of perspectives; you don’t pick and choose your focus. However, I’m glad I got a glimpse into the whole scope of psychology because it gives me insight into what focus I want to pursue in college.” – AP Psychology Score: 5

“’The class was very heavy on vocabulary, so as long as you know and understand the vocab, you should be fine.” – AP Psychology Score: 5

What Does It Take To Succeed: How To Study For The AP Psychology Exam

What is AP Psychology? Course Outline & Requirements

According to College Board:

“The AP Psychology course introduces students to the systematic and scientific study of human behaviour and mental processes.”

AP Psychology is an introductory college-level course. There are no prerequisites for AP Psych, although students are required to read college-level textbooks.

You will develop skills in inquiry-based investigations, data analysis and scientific study. And you will develop an understanding of concepts such as:

  • The biological bases of behaviour
  • Sensation and perception
  • Learning and cognition
  • Motivation, emotion and personality
  • Developmental psychology
  • Testing and individual differences
  • Treatment of abnormal behaviour
  • Clinical and social psychology

The exam consists of one 2-hour exam, in two sections. 66.7% (70 minutes) of multiple-choice questions (MCQs) and 33.3% (50 minutes) of free-response questions (FRQs).

For more details, see: College Board’s AP Psychology course page.

Examiners’ Reviews: Takeaways From AP Psychology Test Assessors

College Board released the following official comments about the 2021 exam results:

“As usual in this subject, students scored significantly higher on the multiple-choice section than on the free-response questions. But given the value this academic discipline, which has expertise in measurement science, places on the objective reliability of multiple-choice assessments, the free-response questions contribute less to an AP Psychology score than they do in other AP subjects.”

Multiple-choice section:

  • “AP Psychology students demonstrated strongest mastery of Units 1 (Scientific Foundations of Psychology), 8 (Clinical Psychology), and 9 (Social Psychology). About 20% of students answered virtually every question on these topics correctly, a big achievement.”
  • “Students’ strongest skill was analyzing psychological research studies (Skill Category 3); 34% of students answered most or all of these questions correctly.
  • Students scored lowest on questions related to defining/applying concepts (Skill Category 1); performance of this skill is not especially weak, it’s just not at the same level as students demonstrated on the other course skills.”
  • “The most challenging questions for students required Skill Category 3, Using Probability and Simulation. Scores would have been significantly higher if students performed this skill as well as they performed Skill Categories 1 and 2.”

Free-response section:

  • Across both sets of questions, “students performed somewhat better on the Research Design question (Question 2) than on the Concept Application question (Question 1).”

For best results, you may want to consider investing a little extra study time on Skill Category 1 (“Concept Understanding”), and Skill Category 3 (“Using Probability and Simulation”).

For more details, see: College Board’s AP Psychology 2021 exam results page.

How To (Self) Study AP Psych: Advice From Class Alumnae

Being able to memorize vocab and definitions is vital for success

“For studying I basically just went through old exams and notes that our teacher provided/textbook material. You should really practice writing about specific terms because that’s what you’ll be doing on the FRQs, which is why practice exams are great.” – AP Psychology Score: 5

“Try to write a real-life example or some kind of acronym or picture to connect the word to the definition. There’s so many vocab words so this would help a bunch. Also, Kahoot the night before with friends is fun! :)” – AP Psychology Score: 5

“You need to know the vocab and how to apply it! Practicing the FRQ and MC exams were really important in me getting a 5.” – AP Psychology Score: 5

“Sensation/Perception along with Motivation and Emotion are important concepts! Do not skip over these” – AP Psychology Score: 5

“GOTTA study the big names cause they’re a big part of the course.” – AP Psychology Score: 4

“Study vocab!!! I practically just GLANCED at the words in the Barron’s AP Psychology before the test and got a 4. My best friend studied the Barron’s vocab cards for about 1 or 2 weeks before the test and got a 5. I paid attention during class but hardly studied at home unless we had a quiz or test coming up. Even the FRQs just try to make sure you know the meaning of a couple terms.” – AP Psychology Score: 4

“>75% of the material will be based in vocab. Quizlet shall be your God. Know the vocab, and you know the stuff. A lot of it is pretty self-explanatory and the connections between each term are easy to see. The textbook is super entertaining to read the author is a hoot.” – AP Psychology Score: 5

Flashcards are your best friend

“Flash cards were very useful for me and it’s helpful to look at how the concepts apply to real life” – AP Psychology Score: 5

“Just pay attention in class and do your homework; also flash cards and quizlet are your best friend ((:” – AP Psychology Score: 4

“Get the flashcards! this test is all about knowing the vocab” – AP Psychology Score: 5

“’This test is not difficult at all, so long as you know the vocabulary and some examples you should be fine. i recommend quizlet or making flashcards!” – AP Psychology Score: 5

“It’s the largest vocab test you will ever see. Go through the material with the prep books, taking good notes as you go. Start using the flashcards about 4 months before the test.” – AP Psychology Score: 5

Having the right test prep resources is essential

“For the prep, I recommend using barrons because it pretty much has the entire course layed out for you in there. Final tips for using barrons(or any of your study material), Study the material, highlight the main points, memorize the content: processes, important people, parts of the body& brain etc; and you should be all set for the exam.” – AP Psychology Score: 4

“You could watch all the crash course videos, study the vocab extensively through quizlet, then practice the frqs with the ones released by college-board, all the week before the exam and have a decent chance of getting a 5. And this video pretty much covers everything you need to know.” – AP Psychology Score: 5

“For my class personally, simply reading each chapter thoroughly was enough to get an A because the content on the tests were taken directly from our textbook (Myers 8e). As for the AP exam, I found that Barron’s was great and 5 Steps was useful if you needed more questions on sections you struggled on.” – AP Psychology Score: 5

“If you can read and recall most of Myers’ Psychology for AP, you will get a 5. This textbook being well- written combined with psychology being pretty darn relevant and interesting makes it a fun read.” – AP Psychology Score: 5

“Easiest way to score a 5 is to read the Barron’s book review section and do the practice problems at the end of each chapter. Google the Barron’s AP Psych Quizlet and do Quizlets for each chapter to remember the vocab. Then do practice tests for thicc 5” – AP Psychology Score: 5

Think about real-world psychology

“Reviewing other psychology findings is a must. Psychology is a field of observing and theorizing interactions and reactions that social activities have on an individuals conscious and subconscious mind. Paying attention to your friends and seeing how they respond to scenarios and situations is helpful, personally I like to read psychology books (not school ones but ones from social engineer’s). Social engineering is basically using the knowledge of psychology and using it in the real world, paying attention to SE can be useful in further understanding psychology” – AP Psychology Score: 4

Best books and test prep resources for AP Psychology

The most popular textbook for test prep and review for AP Psychology is Barron’s, used by 68% of students. It has an average rating of 4.7/5.0 from reviewers on Amazon.com.

Best AP Psychology Textbooks for Prep & Review

Other popular AP Psych test prep / review books and resources for include:

Where next?

Find out how AP Psychology compares to other classes: click here for an overview of all AP Classes ranked by difficulty, from easiest to hardest.

Wishing you every success in the class!


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