To improve your chances of success, you’ll need to get one of the best AP psychology textbooks with review materials.
To earn college credits for an introductory level psychology course, you need to pass the AP psychology exam with a score of at least 3 out of 5. But on average, only 66% of students get 3 points or more.
Why use a textbook to study for AP Psychology?
There are probably AP classes in high school. But there’s nothing like spending time on your own with a good book that will maximize your results. You can also use the book as a supplement to your regular course.
Advanced Placement Psychology exam covers many topics. These include developmental psychology, sensation and perception, personality, social psychology, abnormal behavior and much more.
There are two main sections of the test. The first has 100 multiple choice questions which will amount to 66.6% of the score, and the two free-response questions which account for 33,3%. You’ll have 70 minutes for the first section and 50 minutes for the second one. So you should be well-prepared.
You can get free materials from the College Board website, but studying with a book in your free time is still the best method to prepare for the exam. Remember, only 21,2% of exam takers score 5!
What to look for in a great AP psych textbook?
As long as you’re familiar with the key terminology, you should be fine dealing with the multiple-choice questions. But the free-response section can cause more trouble and that’s where many students fail.
When picking a book, make sure it has at least a few chapters with top strategies for conquering the free-response section. This section demands creativity and writing skills on your part. You will need to identify psychological concepts, describe a theory or a phenomenon, or discuss a connection between the prompt and psychological theory.
Also, see if the book deals with the whole AP curriculum. There are 14 sections in total so make sure your book covers them thoroughly. Focus only on the materials that can potentially lead to a higher score.
Another thing to look for are test-taking strategies and tips for scoring higher on AP. It’s not enough to have the knowledge. You also need to know how to apply it in a test-taking environment.
The last thing to focus on is high-quality practice tests and questions as well as diagnostic tests. They should resemble the real-world examples as closely as possible.
All the books listed below have these qualities, but read the reviews before you buy them to make sure they’re aligned with your needs.
Also, make sure you’re always buying the newest edition of the book so you’ll have up-to-date materials. You can download some materials in the form of a PDF or an ePub file, but there is nothing like smelling the fresh pages new book.
Here are the top five AP psychology textbooks online available right now:
1. Barron’s AP Psychology With Online Tests
Textbook length: 384 pages
This is the number one top AP psychology textbook available online right now. It came out in the many auditions because of its popularity. Right now you can grab the 8th edition and you won’t regret it.
If there’s only one book you should get to prepare for the test, it’s this one. It’s been perfected over the years because of students’ and teacher’s feedback. And now it contains some of the best materials you can get your hands on for less than $20.
What I like most about this title is that it gives you access to 6 full-length practice tests. This includes one diagnostic test for you to complete at the very beginning of your studies to get your baseline score.
You’ll also get access to 3 online tests that you can conveniently complete on your desktop computer. Going through full-length tests is one of the most effective ways to improve your score on the AP psychology test. And this book gives you access to lots of them.
After completing the diagnostic tests you’ll find 14 chapters covering all 14 core concepts tested on the exam. Each chapter contains a quick summary of the concept (such as the biological basis of behavior) and finishes with a ton of practice questions with extensive explanations.
The subsections of each chapter are really short which means you won’t be bored to death by tedious details and concentrate on top ideas.
Also, the book contains two separate chapters about tackling the exam itself. There is one chapter about answering the multiple-choice test questions and how to approach them in the most effective way.
There is also one whole chapter devoted to answering the free-response questions. This is fantastic because again, it’s not only about knowledge, it’s also about exam-taking skills.
If you read a couple of reviews you’ll see that most students who read this book once or twice got 5 on their AP.
This book is best for:
Students who want an inexpensive, all-inclusive prep book which covers all the sections of the exam and gives access to extensive online materials.
2. Myers’ Psychology for AP
Textbook length: 1104 pages
This is a legendary title when it comes to AP prep. It’s more on the expensive side as the new volume costs more than $100. But it’s so much more than just a textbook that will help you to achieve a higher score on the exam.
It’s more like a psychology Bible. If you feel you could enjoy extensive explanations, poignant personal stories and a dive into the area of psychology, this is the choice for you.
The material you’ll find inside is covered in-depth, with multiple charts, tables, explanations, and personal stories.
It’s written by David Myers, Ph.D., a well-respected professor who’s been teaching introductory psychology classes for many years. Except for this book, he wrote dozens of articles for prestigious scientific magazines including Science and Today’s Education.
Myer’s Psychology is consistently one of the most popular AP books used by students and teachers alike. And it’s not just fluff and theory.
The volume is actually very content-dense, and each chapter comes with multiple-choice AP practice questions that will help you to solidify your knowledge.
As you can expect from a book written by a Ph.D., the text can get a bit complicated sometimes. But it’s a must-read if you study for AP on your own, or if you plan to further your psychology studies in college.
This book is best for:
Students who want to dive deep into the area of psychology and probably study it at more length in college. If reading 1000 pages about psychology is your cup of tea than Myer’ Psychology is the best book to select. It’s a more pricey, but very rewarding read that leaves no stone unturned.
3. Cracking the AP Psychology Exam, 2019 Edition
Textbook length: 384 pages
This is another popular title among students. It’s almost 400 pages long and it’s filled with useful exam strategies and AP content review.
The book is updated every year, so make sure you get the latest version. The good news here is that you can get the new paperback version for just a bit over $10. It’s probably the most economical type of material you can get to prepare for the exam.
Princeton Review is known for exceeding students’ expectations. So along with the book, you’ll also get access to online study plans, a list of key psychological terms, and useful pre-college information.
The study plan is especially useful if you’re currently not attending an AP class. It will enable you to structure your studies and keep on track.
Moreover, the book contains two full-length practice tests that come with detailed explanations. That’s less material than what you would get from Barron’s book which offers six tests. But it’s still enough for you to familiarize yourself with the test-taking tactics.
At the end of each review chapter, you’ll find practice drills that will test your knowledge and help you memorize core AP concepts.
There’s also a special section devoted to strategies that will help you to avoid common mistakes and traps that students fall into.
This chapter is extremely valuable as it will give you more confidence when you finally step into the test hall. The book consistently receives high reviews from students so you should give it a try.
This book is best for:
Students who don’t want to spend days studying psychology, but want a quick guide that will enable them to pass the exam with a top score. The book is a bit shorter than the other, more lengthy volumes. But it still has enough content to almost guarantee great results.
4. 5 Steps to a 5: AP Psychology 2019
Textbook length: 368 pages
This textbook is great because it doesn’t jump straight to the core curriculum. Rather, it sets the stage for successful study sessions by helping you to create your very own study plan.
In the beginning, you will get all the background information about the test and learn what’s on it. You’ll also be able to read through the AP psychology FAQ and ideas on how to plan your time in the most effective way.
Once you have all this basic information covered, you will go through a diagnostic test that will help you to determine your current readiness level and see how far you still need to go in your prep.
Next, you will learn about the top strategies for conquering the two separate sections of the exam. This is followed by a quick, yet content-dense review of the knowledge you need to score high. And at the end, you’ll find an extensive glossary of all the key terms for a final review.
When you feel you’re ready, you can get down and dirty with 6 full-length practice tests. You can find 3 of them in the book and the other three on an online platform (which also gives you access to detailed analytics and progress charts).
The book is written by two introductory psychology experts who know exactly what students need to score high.
This book is best for:
Students who are already familiar with the core concepts tested on the AP, and want to get access to lots of practice exams, exercises, and strategies for maximizing the score. It’s more like a workbook that demands a lot of input from your side. So roll up your sleeves and get ready to score 5!
5. Sterling Test Prep AP Psychology: Complete Content Review for AP Psychology Exam
Textbook length: 474 pages
The last book on this list can be compared to the one from Barron’s or Princeton Review. The only difference here is that it’s a bit lengthier and more pricey than the titles available from competitors.
The main focus here is the review of the most tested concepts, and not on completing full-length practice tests and practice questions.
This title is a good choice if you want to refresh your memory before the exam or if you’re planning to take further psychology courses in college. It’s also nice to use it as supplemental material for your one-semester regular high-school AP course.
The regular high school courses often don’t cover AP material in enough depth and that’s where this book shines. If you read it once and then review it before the exam, you are nearly guaranteed to get at least 3 points.
At the end of the textbook, you will also find a useful appendix containing the most important figures and statistics in psychology and sociology. There’s also a glossary of terms you can use to gain quick access to the knowledge you need.
This book is best for:
For students who want to go through an in-depth review of the core curriculum of the course topics as outlined by the College Board. It comes with a score improvement guarantee, like what you would expect from courses from companies like Kaplan or Princeton Review. It’s a great choice for students who can get access to practice exams elsewhere.
Extra AP psychology review materials
Except for textbooks you may also find other materials useful for the final review of your knowledge and skills. It’s great to use them a few days or even a few hours before the exam to refresh your memory and look at all the psychology concepts in a holistic manner. These materials include pamphlets as well as flashcards.
Quick Study Psychology Laminated Pamphlet
If you need a quick refresher before attempting the exam this is a perfect solution for you. It’s an inexpensive pamphlet which contains all the core psychological concepts written out in a clear and understandable manner.
With 6 big pages in total, it also contains tables and illustrations that will help you to remember the most important theories from the test.
Barron’s AP Psychology Flash Cards, 2nd Edition
This is a collection of 500 flashcards with all the most important psychological vocabulary terms you’ll find in the multiple-choice question section of the AP.
Each card offers a psychological concept on one side and a definition, synonym, explanation, and examples on the other side. It’s a great way to study for your exam if you only have a few minutes to spare. But it will also help you store the most important concepts in your long-term memory.
Extra online AP learning resources
Some test prep companies even offer help with the AP psychology homework. For example, Princeton Review is willing to give you a free homework session so that’s something you should take advantage of.
There’s also a nice online study guide from Prepscholar which includes lots of extra material for every section of AP Psych. In it, you’ll find wiki notes, PowerPoint presentations and even videos that will help you to familiarize yourself with the test.
Other than that, you should definitely check resources from the College Board, Barron’s, as well as Albert.io and Mrs. Short’s AP Psychology Class.
Ah yes, and there are also great mobile apps for AP prep available both For iOS and Android.
Even though only two-thirds of students pass the AP psychology exam with a score of 3 or higher, the exam itself is actually quite easy. It tests your knowledge of 14 key topic areas in the field of introductory psychology.
As long as you have great textbooks at hand, and you’re willing to put in the work, you should pass it with no issues.
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