Friday, January 17, 2014

What's your favorite "FRQ Practice" method?

A post on the AP Psychology Teacher Community site got me thinking about the different ways AP Psych teachers help students prepare for the Free Response Question part of the exam. The free response question is a unique item format: it's different than traditional "essay questions" that students and teachers are familiar with, and if students aren't ready for these unique characteristics, it can be a surprising and frustrating experience.

Here's a list of "FRQ studying techniques" I've heard of or seen demonstrated. I'm sure there are plenty of others, and there may be good reasons to choose one method over another. Please share your techniques/recommendations in the comments!

  • Walking students through a "mock reading experience." This is easier to do if you've been an AP reader (which you should all do! It's an amazing experience! Please apply!) You can tell students that they are now "readers," and train them in one of the released scoring guides. After training, assign partners and students read sample essays, grading them using the scoring guides. Through this experience, students learn the ins and outs of the scoring guides, and get a much better idea about the kinds of thinking the FRQs demand. 
  • Some teachers get students involved in writing scoring guides. This can be more time consuming, but it's a deeper examination of what it takes to measure knowledge and application of psych concepts in the FRQ format. Students could write scoring guides in groups, then another group could use the scoring guide on a sample essay and give the group feedback about how it worked. 
  • I've been playing with a "progressive FRQ" (and I'm sure this idea doesn't originate with me). I wonder if it would be possible to "build" a longer FRQ over the course of a semester/year, starting with a short FRQ after the 1st unit, then adding another section/more bullets after the 2nd unit, etc. Students would need to "repeat" their answers to the earlier parts of the question on each exam, which can help students practice recalling information from previous units. I took a swing at an example here  (

I know there are MANY more ways to do this well, so please chime in using the comments!

image source:

posted by Rob McEntarffer


scott reed said...

I really encourage everyone to do peer grading. When I graded the essays, the students never really paid attention to the nuances of hte rubric. When they have to grade others, they learn the rubric. Most of them anticipate what they scored, and when they get their own paper back they can argue over points that they think were not scored correctly.

Anonymous said...

I like peer grading as well, but I struggle to get the same level of attention to detail in all students. I mix groups for a blend, but it seems I always get one or two groups that do a poor job.