The Ultimate Guide to 2016 AP® Psychology FRQs | (2024)

The multiple-choice section of the AP® Psychology exam can certainly be daunting; however, the straight recall aspect of the FRQs can also be very stressful. This Ultimate Guide to the 2016 AP® Psychology FRQs will walk you through how to get a full score on this particular FRQ, which will help you get the most points on your AP® Psychology FRQ!

An important point to remember for your FRQ performance is that you aren’t getting graded on the quality of your writing. The AP® Psych exam is not the same as an AP® English exam, and the scorer will not be judging your writing on either spelling or grammar. So don’t spend time worrying on how nice things sound! However, make sure that all your spelling is correct enough that the person reading can make sense of the word.

The Ultimate Guide to 2016 AP® Psychology FRQs | (1)

Another good point to remember is that if you put something incorrect in your answer, that won’t automatically penalize you. So don’t get yourself stressed about putting down something incorrect; the only way it will affect your score is if it contradicts correct information that would have scored a point. And one of the most important points to remember is that a definition alone will not give you a point. When you go into the AP® Psych FRQ, you must be able to apply each of the concepts to the scenario given, not just give the definition of each concept.

Question 1

For the majority of AP® Psychology FRQs, you are given a situation and then are asked to relate psychological concepts to the situation. So for your AP® Psych FRQ practice, it’s necessary that you concentrate on that point. For Question 1, the situation is about a student named Ashley who is driving from New York to California and got lost on the way. She calls her parents to help with directions, and while she’s on the phone, she hits a guardrail. According to the situation, she wasn’t badly injured, and so she kept going. However, even once she reached California, for several months, she felt a persistent and lingering fear of guardrails. On question 1, the mean score that students received was 2.63 out of 7.

Part A

In Part A of this question, you are asked to relate how each of the following points would have helped Ashley on her trip to California:motor neurons, retinal disparity, heuristic, and procedural memory. It is important to note that scorers are looking for more than just definitions; a definition for each of these points alone will not be enough. It’s essential that you relate it back to the situation given.

First, for motor neurons, it’s important to make the distinction of how they can help Ashley drive by enabling Ashley’s movements. Something that you would score a point for is that “Ashley’s motor neurons allow her to press the gas pedal in her car”, but something that would not score a point would be “motor neurons help her drive the car”.

Second, for retinal disparity, the important point to make is how retinal disparity (the process by which your brain compares images taken in by each of your eyes and computes the distance by the disparity between the two images), helps Ashley to perceive depth while she is driving. Retinal disparity is obviously important while on the road because depth perception problems can easily cause accidents if the driver doesn’t realize how close she is to the car ahead of her.

Next, you have to relate a heuristic to the situation. A heuristic is a simple thinking strategy that can enable us to make judgments and efficiently solve problems. Make sure to avoid a less efficient problem-solving strategy like trial-and-error or algorithms. So, for this part of the question, you have to give an answer that provides a straightforward and efficient solution to Ashley getting lost. For example, an answer that would get a score is offering the solution that Ashley pull over when she got lost and call her parents for help.

Finally, you have to apply the concept of procedural memory, which is the memory of learned skills that doesn’t need conscious recollection to use. To gain a point for this part of the question, you must mention some driving-related ability or skill that Ashley could perform without a lot of attention or awareness (such as a skill that involves the use of the word automatically, unconsciously, muscle memory, etc.). A specific example would be describing how Ashley has the muscle memory to steer and control the car because she has been driving for several years.

Part B

In this part of the question, you are asked to relate how the following points may have contributed to Ashley having a negative experience on her trip: circadian rhythms, conditioned response, and inattentional blindness. Again, just as with part A, it is not enough to give definitions alone.

First, you must relate circadian rhythms (which are part of our biological clock or regular physical, mental, and behavioral rhythms that follow a 24-hour cycle) to the situation in a way that explains how they could negatively affect Ashley. To score a point, you must address a specific biological cycle (such as sleep cycle or hormonal cycle) that could cause her to have difficulty on the trip. An example for this is Ashley’s crossing time zones, which will negatively affect her sleep cycle and cause her to drive at a time when her body thinks it would normally be asleep. Obviously falling asleep at the wheel can put the driver at serious risk for an accident, so a change in sleep cycle is a perfect application to this scenario. However, you wouldn’t score a point if you reference Ashley getting tired from the drive without specifically mentioning the change in sleep cycles.

Next, for conditioned response, you must reference an involuntary, reflexive, or automatic response that occurred because of the trip. An answer that would be given a point is a reference to Ashley being afraid of guardrails. This was due to the previous experience when she hit one, and so she developed a conditioned response to fear when she would see guardrails. This is not the only point you could make that would be granted a score; however, it has to be some conditioned response related to the trip.

Finally, you have to apply the concept of inattentional blindness, which is when we fail to see visible objects when our attention is elsewhere. To score a point, you have to address an example of not seeing or noticing something specific in the visual field that could have a negative effect. For example, an answer that would be given a point is saying that Ashley wasn’t paying attention, so she didn’t see the car in front of her, which caused her to rear-end it. However, it is important to remember that inattentional blindness is different from not actually looking; if Ashley was looking for something in her glove box or texting or had her eyes off the road and didn’t see the car, that is not inattentional blindness.

Where did Students have Difficulty?

AP® Central states that the place most students had difficulty in Part A was that they weren’t specific enough. For example, in point 1 they may have referenced motor neurons, but they didn’t specify that the motor neurons were what allowed Ashley to move for her to drive. Or for the second point, students discussed that retinal disparity gave Ashley the ability of depth perception but didn’t specify that it was the result of the disparity (or difference) between the images taken in by each retina.

For Part B, the most common error that occurred was that students didn’t correctly reference the negative outcome that occurred from each point. Also, on point 5 (circadian rhythms) students often forgot to mention a specific biological process. And on point 7, students confused the concept of inattentional blindness and didn’t demonstrate that Ashley would have technically seen the car ahead of her, but since she wasn’t paying attention, she didn’t notice it.

Question 2

The second question is in the same format as the first. You are given a situation to which you must relate specific psychological concepts. This situation is about Danny, a student in a geography course who has to learn the capitals of every country in the world. The format is that at the end of the semester, he needs to perform an oral quiz with twenty randomly selected countries by the professor in front of the class. The mean score of all students for Question 2 was 3.20 out of the possible 7 points.

Part A

In Part A of this question , you are asked to relate how each of the following points would help. Danny do well on the quiz: distributed practice, a mnemonic device, secondary reinforcer, and Big Five trait of conscientiousness

Distributed practice is a memory technique where you spread out the study of the material (so it’s distributed) and therefore can learn it better. To score a point, you must give an answer that demonstrates Danny should study in a way that is spaced out or spread over time over multiple periods to have better success with the quiz. If you refer to specific types of practice, such as grouping or chunking, but you don’t reference specific practice of spaced studying over time, you will not receive a point.

Mnemonic devices are memory techniques designed to help you better encode (and later recall) information you are studying. An answer that can be given a point would be to describe some memory technique, such as acronyms or chunking, that Danny could relate the country’s capitals to help his memory. You won’t gain a point if you give an answer that implies only rehearsing and not using an association.

Secondary reinforcers are learned reinforcers, usually by its association with a primary reinforcer. To score a point, you will need to reference that there was a previously administered secondary reinforcer. This could include money or grades, but the point is that it could help Danny do well. Make sure that you don’t confuse this with primary reinforcers, such as food or water.

Finally, the Big Five trait of conscientiousness is one of the five main traits in the Big Five traits (as well as openness, extroversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism). Tip: A great way to remember this is the acronym (like a mnemonic device from earlier in this Part A) OCEAN. The conscientiousness trait is an individual’s tendency to be dependable, self-disciplined, organized, and achievement oriented. An answer that would score a point has to include the concept that the various characteristics of the conscientiousness trait naturally aid in improved studying or improved performance.

Part B

In Part B of this question , you are asked to do the direct opposite of Part A; you have to relate how each of the following points would hinder Danny’s ability to perform successfully retroactive interference, self-fulfilling prophecy, and sympathetic nervous system.

Retroactive interference is when new learning disrupts the recall of old learning. So, in this example, when Danny is studying, he may have a certain capital memorized, but as he learns new country’s capital, he may get the first capital he memorized confused. To score a point, you have to demonstrate that point that learning new information may affect the ability to properly recall information that was previously learned. Make sure not to get confused with proactive interference!

Next, a self-fulfilling prophecy is when a person acts a certain way because others expect him to or because a person expects himself to act that way. Because Part B is supposed to demonstrate how these concepts could hinder Danny’s ability (as opposed to help), to gain a point you must address the idea that he expected he wouldn’t do well, so it negatively affected how well he could do on the quiz.

Lastly, the sympathetic nervous system is a part of the autonomic nervous system, which arouses the nervous system, particularly in stressful situations. To score a point, you have to reference a possible negative impact of an increase of arousal in the sympathetic nervous system due to the stress of the quiz. An example of how you could express this includes mentioning the excessive arousal that could cause anxiety or the fight-or-flight reflex. Do not just mention being nervous or feeling stressed because they are both too general.

Where did Students have Difficulty?

AP® Central concluded that for question 2, students had the most difficulty in Part A with both secondary reinforcer and the Big Five trait of conscientiousness. Regarding the secondary reinforcer, many students either didn’t understand the concept or got it confused with primary reinforcers. AP® Central also referenced that secondary reinforcers would be awarded if Danny did well on the quiz, but the point of the question is how secondary reinforcers would help Danny with studying. Regarding the Big Five trait of conscientiousness, some students got the idea of “conscientiousness” confused with “conscience”. Other students got the conscientiousness trait confused with an alternate Big Five trait. Students also found difficulty with retroactive interference, which many confused with proactive interference.


It is essential to remember for the AP® Psych FRQs that you can’t get away with just understanding the definition of the concepts that are assigned. When you go through this AP® Psychology FRQ practice, you have to be able to understand and apply the concept given to the scenario in the question. Students also sometimes struggle with giving not only a correct application but a specific application. With the motor neurons point from Question 1, students may have known what a motor neuron is, but they simply referenced that motor neurons helped Ashley drive. Unfortunately, that’s not a specific enough application; students need to reference that the motor neurons help Ashley physically move, which in turn aids her ability to drive. The best way to get used to doing that is to do AP® Psychology FRQ practice. And remember, don’t leave any part blank! If you can’t remember or you’re unsure, it is far better to try and put something down then leave a part blank; the only way to ensure you won’t score a point is if you don’t write anything. So that’s it for this Ultimate Guide to the 2016 AP® Psychology FRQ! And check out more of our ultimate guides, like our Ultimate Guide to the Brain for AP® Psychology. Do you have any concepts you feel we should cover? Let us know! And good luck this year on the AP® Psychology exam!

Looking for AP® Psychology practice?

Kickstartyour AP® Psychology prepwith Albert. Start your AP® exam prep today.

The Ultimate Guide to 2016 AP® Psychology FRQs | (2024)
Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Corie Satterfield

Last Updated:

Views: 6066

Rating: 4.1 / 5 (42 voted)

Reviews: 89% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Corie Satterfield

Birthday: 1992-08-19

Address: 850 Benjamin Bridge, Dickinsonchester, CO 68572-0542

Phone: +26813599986666

Job: Sales Manager

Hobby: Table tennis, Soapmaking, Flower arranging, amateur radio, Rock climbing, scrapbook, Horseback riding

Introduction: My name is Corie Satterfield, I am a fancy, perfect, spotless, quaint, fantastic, funny, lucky person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.