10 Best AP Biology Prep Books (2020)

Best AP Biology Study Books

Standardized testing is a critical element of college prep and college admission. AP classes and exams prepare high school students for the rigors of college academia and provide an opportunity to earn credit. Many schools require students to demonstrate mastery to receive college credit, which means performing well on the AP exams.

Knowing what to expect and understanding how to apply the material learned throughout the year are crucial, so finding the right study guide is important. There are dozens of choices available, so we compiled a list of the top review guides available to help you find the best book to fit your needs.

The Best Books to Prepare for the AP Bio Test

Our #1 Choice
5 Steps to a 5: AP Biology 2019
Runner Up
AP Biology 2020 and 2021: AP Biology Secrets Test Prep Book, Practice...
Also Consider
Barron's AP Biology, 6th Edition
5 Steps to a 5: AP Biology 2019
AP Biology 2020 and 2021: AP Biology Secrets Test Prep Book, Practice...
Barron's AP Biology, 6th Edition
Our #1 Choice
5 Steps to a 5: AP Biology 2019
5 Steps to a 5: AP Biology 2019
Runner Up
AP Biology 2020 and 2021: AP Biology Secrets Test Prep Book, Practice...
AP Biology 2020 and 2021: AP Biology Secrets Test Prep Book, Practice...
Also Consider
Barron's AP Biology, 6th Edition
Barron's AP Biology, 6th Edition

Top 10 Best AP Biology Exam Prep Books

1. 5 Steps to a 5 AP Biology

Publisher: McGraw-Hill Education

Year: 2018

Number of pages: 368

Our Final Grade: A++

For students seeking more than a basic content review, this guide includes specific strategies to prepare you for the AP Bio exam.

Pros

  • Includes hundreds of practice questions plus six full-length exams with explanations.
  • Provides strategies to help you plan for the exam.
  • Contains a code for online access to additional practice exams, study plans, interactive tests, and more.

Cons

  • It’s hard to find fault with this book, but if you prefer studying with flashcards, it may not work well because they only provide them online.

2. Mometrix Test Preparation AP Biology

Publisher: Mometrix Media LLC

Year: 2020

Number of pages: 143

Our Final Grade: A+

Mometrix created a newer reviewer guide for the 2020 and 2021 AP Bio tests with additional videos and strategies.

Pros

  • Contains practice questions and a complete review of all test sections.
  • Created with the updated AP Biology standards in mind.
  • Includes access to online content, like tutorial videos, at no extra cost.

Cons

  • It’s short, which could be a no-go for students who prefer a physical book for practice.

3. Barron’s AP Biology, 6th Edition

Publisher: Barron’s Educational Series

Year: 2017

Number of pages: 560

Our Final Grade: A

Barron’s covers a wide range of topics in detail with thorough explanations and comprehensive vocabulary lists.

Pros

  • Comprehensive coverage with hundreds of practice questions plus two full-length samples tests with answers and explanations.
  • You can purchase an additional CD-ROM or flashcards for more study options.
  • Contains relevant references like measurements and additional resources.

Cons

  • The CD-ROM and flashcards cost extra, unlike other guides on the list.
  • Some of the question formattings are outdated because they changed the AP Biology standards.

4. The Princeton Review Cracking the AP Biology Exam Premium

Publisher: Princeton Review, Premium Edition

Year: 2019

Number of pages: 448

Our Final Grade: A-

The Princeton Review Guide is one of the only books on the list to address the changes to the AP Bio exam format.

Pros

  • This book addresses the changes to the AP Bio exam format.
  • It includes strategies for taking the exam, including tips for pacing and tackling free-response questions.
  • Contains four full-length practice tests in the book and an additional online test with answers and explanations.

Cons

  • One of the more expensive options on the list, though you do have access to additional online materials.

5. Cliffs Notes 5th Edition

Publisher: CliffsNotes

Year: 2016

Number of pages: 432

Our Final Grade: B+

Cliffs Notes provides a highly organized approach to AP exam review with explanations of formatting, grading, and how to use the book.

Pros

  • Includes review questions and answers after each topic plus two full-length practice exams.
  • Provides strategies and thorough explanations of what to expect on the exam.
  • Written by a University Biology professor with past experience as a high school AP Biology teacher.

Cons

  • The organizational format may be confusing for some students.

6. Kaplan AP Biology Prep Plus

Publisher: Kaplan Test Prep

Year: 2017

Number of pages: 528

Our Final Grade: B

Kaplan provides a physical guide accompanied by online resources for a comprehensive review.

Pros

  • The guidebook includes two full-length practice exams with answers and explanations.
  • You can create a customizable study guide to reach your goals.
  • Online tests include a scoring tool that converts your raw score into the AP scaled scores to give you an idea of where you stand.

Cons

  • A lot of the questions are too easy or oversimplified.

7. AP Biology Test Prep Book 2019 & 2020

Publisher: Test Prep Books

Year: 2019

Number of pages: 156

Our Final Grade: B-

Test Prep’s AP Biology book guarantees a higher score on the exam and provides a combination of review information, testing strategies, and practice questions.

Pros

  • The book covers every topic a student could see on the test.
  • Practice questions at the end of the book include detailed answers to help students understand any mistakes they make.
  • This guide includes a section on testing strategies and tips for the AP Biology exam.

Cons

  • There is no practice test included in the book for students to determine how prepared they are for the actual exam.

8. Sterling Test Prep AP Biology Review

Publisher: Sterling Test Prep

Year: 2018

Number of pages: 590

Our Final Grade: C+

Sterling Test Prep gives students a review of all topics they can expect to see on the AP Biology Exam.

Pros

  • This review book covers every topic that students may encounter on the exam.
  • Experienced biology teachers prepared all material in the book.
  • Sterling Prep guarantees a higher score and offers your money back if they don’t deliver.

Cons


9. Pearson Education Test Prep Series for AP Biology

Publisher: Benjamin Cummings

Year: 2014

Number of pages: 464

Our Final Grade: C

A basic guide to AP Biology with clear, concise explanations, but it lacks the detail provided by other books.

Pros

  • This book covers the topics clearly and concisely.
  • It is well organized and easy to use.
  • This guide works well as a companion to another textbook or prep guide.

Cons

  • Pearson’s guide is of the more expensive choices, especially if you need to purchase other books to accompany it.
  • It doesn’t include application questions or testing strategies.

10. Crash Course AP Biology

Publisher: Research & Education Association

Year: 2020

Number of pages: 256

Our Final Grade: D+

This review book is marketed as a quick review guide and delivers an efficient refresher course for last-minute prep.

Pros

  • Includes a mini-test in the book and access to one full-length exam online.
  • Written by AP Biology teachers and a neuroscience researcher.
  • Contains some test-taking strategies.

Cons

  • The brevity will not prepare students seeking more intensive practice or detailed explanations.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why Do I Need a Review Book?

You may not need a review book for all AP exams, but the AP Biology exam covers many complex concepts. There are hundreds of terms to know and apply correctly. You also have some free-response questions that require you to organize your thoughts and construct detailed, informative answers.

The AP Biology exam relies heavily on a student’s ability to apply concepts. Review guides help you see the bigger picture by breaking concepts down and providing detailed explanations. Many guides include additional online materials, and some provide tutorial videos to demonstrate lab concepts.

Living in a digital age, many classes rely on various materials instead of one textbook. If you don’t have a biology textbook for your class, a review guide is a great resource. It’s more convenient to have one book instead of several documents and links.

What Should I Look for in an AP Biology Review Book?

This question is complicated because it depends on the type of student. Assess your styles and needs before selecting a book because what works well for somebody else may not work for you. Try answering some of these questions about your approach to studying to narrow down your choices.

  • How do you learn best? Do you prefer videos or flashcards?
  • Did you struggle with any topics during the class? If so, you may want more detailed explanations or supplementary materials.
  • How much time do you have between now and the test?
  • Do you need help with planning and strategizing?
  • Is a variety of resources important to you? If so, you may want a physical textbook that includes online resources.
  • Do you need more practice tests or more practice questions?

How Should I Use a Review Book?

Start by asking yourself how comfortable you are with the material you learned over the year. Next, consider what type of learner you are and any weaknesses you might have in terms of the AP Biology exam.

If you did well in class and feel confident about your knowledge of each topic, you may want a book that focuses more on strategies and pacing. On the other hand, if you feel more confident in your test-taking abilities, you might prefer a book that explains the concepts clearly.

How Important are Practice Tests?

For most students, practice tests allow them to apply strategies, address pacing concerns, and discover gapsin content knowledge. They are also useful for establishing a baseline to determine areas you need to focus on before your test date.

Remember, AP exams are different from other standardized tests. Practice tests that include answers with detailed explanations help you understand the exam’s layout and what scorers want to see, especially regarding free-response questions.

Do I Really Need Online Resources and Flashcards?

Again, the use of online resources and flash cards is a personal decision. If you don’t like using virtual tools or flashcards for studying, they probably won’t help you much. However, those resources can enhance your experience and provide variety in your study tools.

How Much Time Do I Need to Spend Studying?

The amount of study time you require depends heavily on your mastery of the content and comfort with the testing style. Some students score high with limited review, while others need to devote more time.

It’s a good idea to start with a practice test to determine how much time you should devote to studying. Pretend the practice test is the real exam and follow the timing guidelines to find your baseline.

Check over your answers to see how you did. If you struggled to finish, you might need to devote time to strategies and pacing tips. Look for topics you struggled with and what types of questions challenged you the most. Create a list of gaps and build out your study time from there.

Is it Better to Study Alone or in a Group?

Only you can decide whether you should study alone or with a group of peers. Some students cannot handle the distractions or variations in study techniques. Others benefit from different perspectives and interactions with peers.

Studying alone prevents you from falling victim to distractions and needy peers. However, you have to hold yourself accountable for study time and reviewing the correct material.

If you decide to study with a group, make sure you trust your team’s competence. You don’t want to spend most of your study time bringing others up to speed on topics already mastered. Ideally, successful study groups work together to cover material quickly and efficiently.

You may find that a blend of solo and group study time gives you the best outcome. Feedback from peers creates discussion and the ability to practice the application of concepts. However, you won’t be testing with a group, so you need to be able to arrive at correct answers yourself.


Final Thoughts on AP Biology Review Guides

For most AP Biology students, the best review guide includes test-taking strategies, content review, and practice tests with answers and explanations. The structure and content covered on the AP Biology exam differ from other exams in complexity, so test preparation is slightly different.

Hopefully, this guide helped you to determine the best review book to prepare you for the AP Biology exam. Good luck on your exam!

Was this article helpful? Share it!
Brett Gordon
 

Founder of ExamCave.com