According to an article on Time.com about the best and worst learning techniques, active learning methods (e.g. writing) are far more useful for long-term retention than passive learning methods (e.g. highlighting or underline words).
One of the best ways? Surprisingly enough: flashcards, according to research from the Association of Psychological Science.
In this article, we review the top 3 flashcard apps based on user ratings, website and teacher reviews, as well as direct interaction. While there were many available apps dedicated to specific topics like math or vocabulary, we focused on apps that featured customizable flash cards that are usable across multiple subjects. In this category, there were nine total. We narrowed it down to the three best.
Cram, available for both iPhone and Android, is the graphically the most beautiful app on this list. This app allows you to connect to the website, which is a huge resource in itself. One of the best features of this app is that it allows you to search the huge library of flashcards submitted by other users. If your specific cards are not available, don’t worry – you can make your own stack of cards.
Signing up is quick. To use the app, sign up for a new account (or connect via your Facebook, Twitter, or Google+ account). Once inside, the user interface is easily navigated. You have the option to search the flashcard library, create new flashcards, view recently studied cards, and sort through your favorite cards.
Creating new flashcards is simple. Push the add button, then set the title, subject, and description of the set. You can decide to make the set of cards private or public. After creating the set, you work on the individual cards (Cram requires a minimum of three cards per set). Each card has a front, back, and hint section with the option to add photos and descriptions. This is great, because many flashcard apps do not have a photo option.
Using the cards is just as easy. There are two modes: memorize and cram. In memorize mode, the user goes through each flashcard one time until they run out. At the end, the app provides a performance report. In cram mode, the user goes through each flash card until they get every single one correct. Once all cards are correctly answered, the user is permitted to move to the next level.
Conclusion: All in all, Cram offers an easy-to-use app with a library of resources. It offers the features that students need to create useful flashcards. Best of all, these features are wrapped up in a beautiful user interface.
Quizlet is another fantastic learning app made for both Android and iPhone. It is intuitive and has a very clean user interface. As with Cram, the Quizlet app connects to the website, which essentially provides the same options as the phone app version.
Design. One of the first things that are noticeable is the marriage between functionality and design. Simple graphic aesthetics combined with natural usability. Other flashcard apps can be complicated with graphics that are too crowded and difficult to understand. Quizlet is designed in a way that turns studying into a game.
Easily Add Flashcard Sets. When the student opens the app, they see a list of previous flash card sets they created. Each set can be categorized by subject, such as math, English, or science. To add a new flashcard set, push the button at the bottom left hand corner. From there, the user enters the “Term”, or the hint. Next, the user enters the “Definition”, or the answer.
The only negative side to this app is that it is difficult to delete a set after the user is finished using it. It appears that the only way to delete a flashcard set is to log into the website app and delete using the tools located within the flashcard set.
Three Modes of Studying. Quizlet offers three modes of studying. These three options are designed to keep the students interested.
The first is “Flashcards”. In this mode, the user goes through the flashcards one by one at their own pace. Quizlet provides an awesome option that allows users to hear the flashcard being read to them via an audio button on the top left hand corner of each flashcard. In this mode, students can also flip the cards so that the answers show. This is a great way to solidify information after it is learned.
The second mode is “”Learn”. In this mode, the answer is shown and the user types in the answer. If the user gets the answer correct, the app moves on. If not, the app requires that the user type in the correct answer before moving on. This extra step shows the thought put into the app.
The third mode is “Match”. This mode is modeled after the classic match game. In this mode, all the flashcards are laid out and the user taps the pairs of hint and answer cards that belong together. This mode makes studying fun and takes it to another level by using a timer. The user is motivated to improve their time, thus further helping the student learn.
Conclusion: All in all, Quizlet is a great app. It has a simple and easy-to-use interface combined with simple graphics. The only downside we see is the inability to add photographs to flashcards. Other than that, this is a fantastic app and will help students learn while having fun.
Out of the three apps, StudyBlue has the most options when it comes to study modes. This is the biggest feature. In addition to that, the user interface is easy to use and functional, although not as intuitive as the other two. Additionally, this app requires phone internet, which will eat at your data plan a little. You sacrifice a little usability for a bunch of functions. That trade off isn’t too bad.
Website for Community Sharing. Like the other two apps, StudyBlue also has a web version that is great. It contains a whole host of community flashcards that are shared, which is fantastic for students. Borrow other users’ flashcards and learn from them. Of course, you are able to create your own custom flashcards as well.
Custom Flashcards with Options. StudyBlue allows students to input hints and answers using text, photographs, or recorded audio. This opens up the possibilities and helps students ingrain concepts and ideas into their memories via multiple senses. It has been shown that engaging multiple senses allows for more cognitive connections. In addition, StudyBlue also allows for rich-text editing, letting users add bold, italics, underline, change text color, and add subscripts and superscripts.
Multi-option Study Modes. One of our favorite features of StudyBlue is the customizable experience. There are three main study modes: Flip Cards, Take Quiz, and Review Sheet. Within each of these, users are able to choose the number of cards, the order (hard to easy, random, in order), submission type (multiple choice, type the answer, true/false), among many others. This allows students to study from different angles in order to make sure they understand.
Conclusion: In summary, StudyBlue is a feature-filled highly customizable app that will help students approach their learning from many angles. The only downside is that it requires internet to function, so there isn’t a local flashcard option. Other than that, if you don’t mind that fact, this is an app that will help students study effectively and efficiently.
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Preparing for the AP Psychology exam shouldn't cause you to lose your sanity (pun intended). Some of the material is challenging, but overall it's not that scary compared to other AP tests. If you stay focused during your studying and are familiar with the format of the test, you'll have a good chance of acing it! In this article, I'll provide specific details on the structure and content of the exam and tell you how you can make the best use your AP Psychology review time to end up with a great score.
What’s the AP Psychology Exam Like?
The AP Psychology exam is one of the shorter AP tests, clocking in at just two hours total. You’ll have an hour and ten minutes to complete 100 multiple-choice questions and the remaining 50 minutes to complete two open response questions. Overall, I’d say it’s one of the easiest AP tests based on its length and the complexity of its content.
Since you only have 70 minutes for 100 multiple choice questions, you’ll need to make sure you’re keeping track of time. It’s important to move relatively quickly because you have less than a minute for each question! Try not to spend more than 30 seconds on a question; you can always come back to the question later. There is no guessing penalty on multiple choice (as for all AP exams now) so incorrect answers won’t hurt you any more than leaving questions blank.
The open response questions shouldn’t give you much trouble in terms of time. There are only two of them (much fewer than most other AP tests), and they’re usually very straightforward. In many cases, they will just ask you to explain how terms you’ve learned in AP Psychology relate to a specific situation. You’ll also need some knowledge of the scientific method for certain open response questions that ask about the methodology of a psychological study. I'll give you examples of AP Psychology multiple-choice and free response questions in the next section.
No penalties for incorrect answers! Finally, the College Board can lay off all those referees and free up some room in the budget.
What’s on the AP Psychology Exam?
Here’s an example of a multiple choice question you might see on the test:
This question is kind of wordy, and it may seem like you need to know a lot to figure it out, but you could actually get the answer without much psychology knowledge at all (though it’s less confusing with some background information). The baby monkeys preferred the soft cloth surrogate mother over the wire surrogate with food, indicating that the comfort of the cloth was more important to them than the food when they were scared. The answer is B! Most multiple choice questions will involve either simple logic, like this one, or basic memorization of the content in the course.
Here’s an example of an open response question that was on the 2015 exam:
Here, it’s easy to see how the points for the question are earned. The seven bullet points correspond to the seven possible points you can get from answering the question. This question is dependent on a comprehensive knowledge of specific terms and concepts from the AP Psychology curriculum.
The College Board provides a breakdown of the different topics on the AP Psychology exam by percentage of questions. Here are the topics you’ll see on the exam (from most to least common):
|Topic||Percentage of Questions|
|Biological Bases of Behavior||8-10|
|Sensation and Perception||6-8|
|Motivation and Emotion||6-8|
|Testing and Individual Differences||5-7|
|Treatment of Psychological Disorders||5-7|
|States of Consciousness||2-4|
|History and Approaches||2-4|
This might inform how much of your AP Psychology review time you spend studying each topic, but it’s probably more important to pay attention to where you struggle the most on an individual level. For example, if you know all there is to know about Research Methods but don’t remember much about Treatment of Psychological Disorders, you should spend more time reviewing the second topic even though it relates to fewer questions. In the next section, I’ll give more specific guidance on how to review for the exam.
Preliminary AP Psychology Study Tips
Here are some tips to keep in mind before you start your AP Psychology exam review! They'll help you stay on the right track and make the most of your time.
Tip 1: Plan Out Your Time
How much time do you have before the test? You'll need to take this into account when formulating your study plan. Think about how much time you can afford to spend studying for AP Psychology while considering the amount of other schoolwork you have. For example, if you think you have about 10 hours to study, your plan might look something like this:
- Take and score a practice test (2.5 hours)
- Go over your mistakes (1 hour)
- Review weak content areas and update test-taking strategies (2 hours)
- Take and score another practice test (2.5 hours)
- Final review (2 hours)
If you have longer, you might be able to go more in-depth with your mistakes on the second practice test and even take a third or fourth test. Overall, your time should be split relatively evenly between taking practice tests and reviewing the material. Your plan could change depending on your initial scores and how much you’re looking to improve. I would say that you don't need to spend more than 20 hours total studying for AP Psychology. The amount of material isn't overwhelming, and it's not an especially difficult test. I’ll get more specific on how to use practice tests effectively in the next section.
Tip 2: Choose Review Materials Wisely
You’ll need reliable review materials to ensure that you’re getting the most out of your study sessions. I’d recommend buying a review book (5 Steps to a 5 and Cracking the AP Psychology Exam are the ones I like best). Review books cover just the information that you’ll need for the exam, so they’re going to be less overwhelming to study than your textbook or notes from class.
That being said, don’t totally ignore the resources you’ve accumulated in your AP Psychology class. Your notes might include unique methods for remembering concepts and terms which can be useful as an alternative to the information in a review book. Your textbook could be useful as well because it might have diagrams that are better than the ones in review books. I think it’s just nice to have a review book as a backup so that you stay focused on your studying and don’t spend time on topics that are less relevant for the exam.
This wise owl says "hoo hooo hoooooo," which translates to "Choose your review materials wisely like I would!" Either that or "They're coming. Tonight."
Tip 3: Focus on Memorizing Terms
The AP Psychology exam is centered around psychological terms and theories. Some of these can be confusing and hard to tell apart (or not what they sound like intuitively). It's really important to have a solid grasp on all the terms that you learned in the course for both multiple choice and free response questions. Free response questions will often ask you to relate an obscure psychology term to a certain hypothetical scenario, and it's impossible to get points if you aren't completely confident about the meaning of the term.
Flashcards are helpful for this type of memorization. If you have time, you can make flashcards for all the important terms in the class or even just a few terms that always trip you up. These can be physical flashcards, or if that's too old-fashioned, you can use Quizlet to study virtual flashcards (in this case you won't even need to make your own; there are already a ton of user-created study sets). I find that writing down the definitions of terms yourself will drill their meanings into your brain more effectively, so I prefer making my own cards, but you can do whatever works best for your schedule and learning style.
To put a fun spin on studying and ensure that you never forget terms, you can send flashcards that describe psychological disorders to people who seem to have them based on your expert diagnosis. They'll be sure to thank you later (disclaimer: if you do this you are probably a sociopath).
Tip 4: Go Over Testing Strategies
Before you take a practice test, you should be aware of the testing pitfalls that may impact your score. Don't sacrifice points on practice tests (or the real test!) due to factors unrelated to your knowledge of the material. Here are some strategies for different types of test questions:
Multiple Choice Questions
As I mentioned earlier in this article, the exam doesn’t give you a ton of time for each multiple choice question. If you have a tendency to get stuck on difficult questions, you’ll need to keep this in mind during the AP Psychology test. Try to avoid spending more than 30 seconds on each question, and don't worry too much about skipping a few. It's possible to get a 5 on the test even if you miss 20-30 multiple choice questions. I'm not advocating skipping questions at random, but you should know that it's not the end of the world if you can't answer every single one.
It’s also important not to overthink multiple choice questions. The questions can sound and look complex, but most of the time they’re not overly difficult if you know the material. Underline the parts of the question that are most important so that you don’t get distracted or start to second-guess yourself. If one of the answers seems like it doesn’t make sense, eliminate it.
Free Response Questions
On free response questions, remember that this isn’t an English test! There’s no need to write an introduction and conclusion; go straight for the answer to the question. That being said, you should still write in complete sentences with correct grammar. Make it as easy as possible for the graders to find your answers and give you points. Underline verbs like “describe” or “define” in the question to keep yourself focused on the task at hand.
If the free response question is something like the example I provided in the previous section, it can be easier to work backward by putting yourself in the position of one of the people in the hypothetical scenario. You might say, "if I was looking to purchase a new house, what thoughts would cross my mind and why?" After thinking this through a little bit, you could look at the first term and make a connection. The prefrontal cortex is involved in planning and decision-making, so it would be used extensively in the process of committing to the purchase of a new house.
This is the only house that would be in my price range right now. Jim doesn't know how good he has it.
Your AP Psychology Review Plan in Action
Here’s a basic outline of the steps you should take once you’ve prepared your materials and made a rough study plan for AP Psychology.
Step 1: Take and Score a Practice Test
The first thing you should do is take an initial practice test to see how high you’re currently scoring. You can find practice tests for AP Psychology in review books and online. If you don’t have a review book, Googling “AP Psychology practice exam pdf” will yield many results. Use tests that were created as recently as possible (ideally within the last 5 years) to ensure that they are relatively similar to the test you’ll be taking.
Here’s a conversion table that shows you how raw composite scores from practice tests translate to the AP scale:
To calculate your composite score, add up the number of multiple choice questions you answered correctly. Then, consult the scoring rubric for the free response questions to calculate the number of points you would earn on each question. Convert the number of points you earned on the free response questions to a value out of 50 (for example, if you got 8 out of 15 points on the two free response questions, you would convert that to about 27 out of 50). Then, add the raw score numbers from the multiple choice and free response sections together.
If you earned 75 points (75 questions correct) on the multiple choice section and 27 points on the free response section, your composite score would be a 102, making your official AP Score a 4. See this article for more information on calculating your score.
Once you’ve scored your practice test, you can set a future score goal. This is pretty simple for AP tests because the score range is just 1-5. There’s no reason not to aim for a 5 on the test, especially in the case of the AP Psychology exam. Since it’s one of the less difficult AP tests, a 5 should be achievable for you if you put some effort into studying. If you’re scoring very low right now, you could think about aiming for a 3 or 4 and increasing your goal if you reach it before the test. Even if you’re already in the 5 range, you should still consider doing a bit of studying if you have time. It's important to feel as comfortable as possible on the real test!
You want the AP Psychology test to be like an old friend that you still pretend to like out of pity.
Step 2: Analyze Your Mistakes
Look at the questions you got wrong or had to guess on, and try to figure out why you struggled. Did you forget a term or concept? Were you not sure what the question was asking? Did you make a careless error? Did you run out of time? Which of these issues was most prevalent? Did you notice a certain type of question that you tended to get wrong? Record your findings on the nature of your mistakes so that you can correct them in your studying. This guide will help you with reviewing your mistakes (I know it’s for SAT/ACT practice tests, but the same principles apply here).
Step 3: Review Weak Content Areas
If you made a lot of mistakes related to content or question misunderstandings, you should try to figure out which areas caused you the most trouble. Then, you can consult your notes or a review book to brush up on terms and concepts that you’ve forgotten. AP Psychology involves quite a bit of memorization, so there’s bound to be at least a few areas where you weren’t sure of the meaning of a term or couldn’t remember what a specific psychologist did.
Stay focused on your weak areas, and pay special attention to weak areas that are also big parts of the exam. For example, if questions about cognition give you trouble, but you also struggle with the history and approaches category, put more effort into studying cognition. A knowledge deficit in this area will cost you more points in the end.
Make sure you fix any weak links in your psychology knowledge chain before the exam.
Step 4: Revise Your Test-Taking Strategies
If your mistakes fell heavily on the side of time issues and careless errors, you should think more about how you can change your approach to the test. Remember to avoid getting stuck on difficult questions if you’re running out of time. Consider slowing down a bit and reading questions more carefully if you suffer from careless errors.
Step 5: Rinse and Repeat!
After you’ve revised your strategies and brushed up on your content knowledge, you should take another practice test to assess your progress. Then, you can go through the review process again and take steps to improve further. You can do this as many times as it takes for you to feel comfortable with the test and reach your score goal.
When reviewing for the AP Psychology exam, it's important to pay attention to the format of the test so that you know what to expect. You should also devote special attention to topic areas that are the most difficult for you. Both strong content knowledge and smart testing strategies are important if you want to earn a high score.
Practice tests are the most valuable tools in your arsenal for checking on your progress as you review the material. Keep revising your strategies and closing any gaps in your content knowledge until you get to a score that makes you happy!
What does a good score on the AP Psychology mean for you in college? Learn more about how AP credit works at colleges.
AP tests and SAT subject tests can both be important components of your college application. Find out the difference between the two and which type of test is more important.
Are you taking AP US History along with AP Psychology? Read this article for some helpful AP US History study resources.
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