Sunday, April 27, 2014

Reviewing for the AP Psychology Exam

There are SO many things you can do to help you review for your AP Psych Exam, and it can be hard to know where to start. Never fear! Here are some links and general tips, including some important "Do's" and "Don'ts" to help you out.

What NOT to Do:
The following strategies have been shown by researchers to be ineffective (people using them don't do much better than people who hadn't studied at all), so DON'T WASTE YOUR TIME ON THEM.

  • Re-reading your textbook. Skimming over previously read passages of your text is a terrible way to study, in part because 1.) it is time-consuming, 2.) you don't actually retain any more info after doing this, and 3.) (even worse) it fosters the "illusion of mastery,"  which leads to WORSE performance. For example, you may think you "know" something just because you think to yourself, "oh, sure, that seems familiar," when actually you aren't able to answer questions about it correctly. Of course, this tip assumes you read the textbook the first time. Also, note that there is nothing wrong with looking up a specific topic that you don't understand in order to get a question clarified or answered. Just avoid passive re-reading of whole chapters (or the whole book).
  • Highlighting stuff in your notes. While it sure makes stuff look pretty, there is little processing going on when you highlight terms or ideas in your notes. Since memory is the product of thinking about something, you're better off doing something that forces you to think about the material.
What works?
  • Distributed Practice. You may remember this being called "the spacing effect" in your textbook. Spacing out study of your material, rather than planning one giant cram session, leads to better memory. In fact spacing is most powerful once a little "forgetting" has set in. So, study a topic until you feel you've "got it," then come back to it in a day or two and quiz yourself. This strategy can also be a time-saver, since less overall time is needed to achieve the same result as cramming. However, it takes more planning, which is the hard part.
  • Retrieval Practice or Self-Testing. There is NO BETTER way to prepare yourself for a test than to practice pulling information from memory. There are LOTS of online tools to help you do this, and I've included some of them below.
So...where do I start?
  1. Take a practice test. This will help you identify areas of strength and weakness and provide you with feedback about how "far" you have to go yet to achieve mastery. Some options:
  2. Narrow your focus and make a plan. If you found out that you rock at Abnormal Psychology, but are not exactly comfortable with Developmental Psych, use that to plan your study sessions! 
  3. In the last couple of days before the test, plan time for "polishing." 
    • Review Famous Psychologists to help practice many different areas of the course.
    • Use the "combine sets" feature on Quizlet to study multiple topic areas at once.
    • Study with a friend: take turns quizzing each other on major course topics (using flashcards or term lists).

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