6 Best AP Calculus AB Prep Book (2020)

Best AP Calculus AB Study Books

AP Calculus AB can be a challenging subject for many students. Sometimes classroom instruction isn’t enough to get the information you need. After all, an instructor can only provide so much information in such a limited amount of time.

Below, we give our top picks for AP Calculus AB review books that will help fill in what you’re missing in your course.

The Best Books to Prepare for the AP AB Calculus Test

Our #1 Choice
AP Calculus Premium: With 12 Practice Tests (Barron's Test Prep)
Runner Up
Cracking the AP Calculus AB Exam 2020, Premium Edition: 6 Practice Tests +...
Also Consider
5 Steps to a 5: AP Calculus AB 2020 (5 Steps to a 5 AP Calculus AB/BC)
AP Calculus Premium: With 12 Practice Tests (Barron's Test Prep)
Cracking the AP Calculus AB Exam 2020, Premium Edition: 6 Practice Tests +...
5 Steps to a 5: AP Calculus AB 2020 (5 Steps to a 5 AP Calculus AB/BC)
Our #1 Choice
AP Calculus Premium: With 12 Practice Tests (Barron's Test Prep)
AP Calculus Premium: With 12 Practice Tests (Barron's Test Prep)
Runner Up
Cracking the AP Calculus AB Exam 2020, Premium Edition: 6 Practice Tests +...
Cracking the AP Calculus AB Exam 2020, Premium Edition: 6 Practice Tests +...
Also Consider
5 Steps to a 5: AP Calculus AB 2020 (5 Steps to a 5 AP Calculus AB/BC)
5 Steps to a 5: AP Calculus AB 2020 (5 Steps to a 5 AP Calculus AB/BC)

Best AP AB Calculus Exam Prep Books

1. AP Calculus Premium: With 12 Practice Tests (Barron’s Test Prep)

Barron’s AP Calculus Premium has all the information and review material you need to earn a passing score on the AP Calculus AB exam.

Publisher: Barron’s Test Prep

Year: 2019

Number of pages: 672 pages

Our Final Grade: A+

If you’re looking for a complete review for AP Calculus AB, then Barron’s test prep book may be the right choice for you. It contains a total of 12 practice tests, 6 in Calculus AB and 6 in Calculus BC. You’ll also get advice on ways to use your graphing calculators efficiently.

Pros

  • 6 practice tests in AB Calculus
  • Thorough and detailed review of all topics
  • Teaches how to use a graphical calculator

Cons

  • Practice tests may be a bit harder than the actual exam

2. Cracking the AP Calculus AB Exam 2020, Premium Edition: 6 Practice Tests + Complete Content Review (College Test Preparation)

Princeton Review offers a comprehensive study guide and additional prep resources to help you ace the AP Calculus AB Exam.

Publisher: Princeton Review

Year: 2019

Number of pages: 752 pages

Our Final Grade: A

By purchasing Princeton Review’s Premium Practice for AP Calculus AB, you’ll gain access to practice tests, detailed answer explanations, targeted test strategies, and access to online extras. Subjects are organized into units that are more manageable, which gives a more targeted focus on one topic at a time.

Pros

  • 5 in-book practice tests and 1 online
  • Contains a guide to essential calculus formulas
  • Access to comprehensive online drills

Cons

  • Contains some printing mistakes

3. 5 Steps to a 5: AP Calculus AB 2020 (5 Steps to a 5 AP Calculus AB/BC)

McGraw-Hill Education’s 5 Steps to a 5 AP Calculus AB prep book is a step-by-step multi-platform study guide.

Publisher: McGraw-Hill Education

Year: 2019

Number of pages: 432 pages

Our Final Grade: A

McGraw-Hill Education’s 5 Steps to a 5 AP Calculus AB prep book is different from competitors in that it’s available in multiple platforms, including print, online, and mobile. In addition, it contains step-by-step explanations for almost 800 AP Calculus AB problems and online flashcards, games, and more.

Pros

  • 4 practice exams, 2 in the book and 2 online
  • Straightforward guide
  • Access to online resources

Cons

  • Online resources may be unintuitive in some cases

4. 320 AP Calculus AB Problems

CreateSpace’s 320 AP Calculus AB Problems review is a great resource for students who want to solely focus on practice questions and problems instead of the fundamentals of calculus.

Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform

Year: 2016

Number of pages: 214 pages

Our Final Grade: B

CreativeSpace’s review book provides a comprehensive collection of 320 AP Calculus AB problems with 160 additional questions with answers. What’s useful about this prep book is that they arrange the problems by topic and difficulty, which helps you more easily find the problems you struggled with, which will in turn help you improve your skills and knowledge in calculus.

Pros

  • Great for practice
  • Problems arranged by topic and difficulty level
  • Covers all AP Calculus AB topics for the exam

Cons

  • Doesn’t provide an in-depth topic review

5. AP Calculus AB Prep Plus 2020 & 2021

Kaplan’s AP Calculus AB Prep Plus is a versatile go-to resource for a variety of study styles, whether you need targeted prep or a more comprehensive review.

Publisher: Kaplan Publishing

Year: 2020

Number of pages: 888 pages

Our Final Grade: B-

Featuring 1,000 practice problems and questions, 8 practice tests, answer explanations, and pre-chapter quizzes to aid you in gauging your knowledge. The book also contains an extensive, specific review of content that appears most frequently on the AP exam. What’s more, this resource allows you to study according to your very own style, which makes for more flexible learning.

Pros

  • 8 full-length practice exams
  • Online quizzes and workshops
  • Flexible study plans

Cons

  • Review could be a bit longer

6. AP® Calculus AB & BC Crash Course, 2nd Ed.

REA’s AP Calculus AB and BC Crash Course is the ideal resource for students who want to get in some last-minute cramming.

Publisher: Research and Education Association

Year: 2016

Number of pages: 224 pages

Our Final Grade: C+

If you’re looking for a quick refresher or you’ve waited until the last minute to study, then REA’s AP Calculus AB & BC Crash Course might be the right choice for you. The review book contains AP-style practice questions and detailed answer explanations to help you pinpoint your strengths and weaknesses.

Pros

  • Quick review format for last-minute cramming
  • Online practice exam with feedback
  • Helpful test strategies

Cons

  • Comes with only 1 practice test
  • The updated (3rd edition) version is upcoming but not out yet

Frequently Asked Questions

What Differentiates AP Calculus AB From AP Calculus BC?

AP Calculus BC is an extension of AP Calculus AB. The two courses don’t differ by difficulty, but by the scope of the course material. For example, AP Calculus AB covers techniques and applications of the derivative, the definite integral, and the Fundamental Theorem of Calculus.

On the other hand, AP Calculus BC includes all the topics of AP Calculus AB. The difference is that it includes other topics, such as parametric, polar, vector functions, and series.

Should I Take AP Calculus AB or AP Calculus BC?

Because AP Calculus BC covers more topics, it can be more challenging than AP Calculus AB. But if you’re up to the challenge and you’re quite proficient in math and analysis, you might consider enrolling in AP Calculus BC. Plus, BC Calculus typically gives you more math credit in college.

However, with AB Calculus, you’re less likely to experience burnout and, you may be able to free up your schedule for an additional AP class. Yet, AP Calculus AB is still a great option and will provide you with core calculus concepts that can help prepare you for college math.

What College Course Is the Equivalent of AP Calculus AB?

AP Calculus AB is the equivalent to a college calculus course that focuses on topics in differential and integral calculus.

What Is the AP Calculus AB Exam Format?

The AP Calculus AB exam contains two sections: multiple choice and free response. The multiple-choice section is divided into parts A and B. Part A has a total of 30 questions, while Part B has 15 questions. You can’t use a calculator on Part A, but you can on Part B.

The free-response section of the AP Calculus AB exam also has a Part A and Part B. Part A has two problems, while Part B has four problems. On Part A, you can use a graphing calculator, but you can’t on Part B.

What Kinds of Questions Will Be on the AP Calculus AB Exam?

The AP Calculus AB exam will contain questions and problems on a wide range of topics. The fundamental topics include:

  • Functions, Graphs, and Limits (i.e., analysis of graphs, limits, etc.)
  • Differential Calculus (i.e., derivatives)
  • Integral Calculus (i.e. Fundamental Theorem of Calculus)

How Much of the AP Calculus AB Exam Requires a Calculator?

About half of the AP Calculus AB exam requires a calculator. Part B of the multiple-choice section and Part A of the free-response section require a calculator.

How Vital Are Test Prep Books for AP Calculus AB?

Because learning the concepts of AP Calculus AB requires lots of practice and repetition, a prep book on the subject can be extremely beneficial to you when studying for the exam.

A test prep book will not only help you get used to potential questions and problems that will be on the AP exam, but it will also give you an idea about what areas you still need to work on. The key to learning any subject is knowing what areas need improvement so that you can make adjustments to your study plan.

How Many Prep Books Do I Need to Prepare for the AP Calculus AB Exam?

The number of prep books you use to prepare for the AP Calculus AB exam will depend on how much information you’re already getting through your AP course. So if your instructor is providing you with lots of supplement material in addition to classroom lectures and textbook reading, you may only need just one prep book to serve as a refresher.

But if your instructor is only providing you with the bare bones, leaving you to fend for yourself, you might benefit from multiple prep books. So one that provides a comprehensive overview and another that gives you a quick review of the course material should be sufficient in helping you prepare for the exam.

How Many Practice Tests Should an AP Calculus AB Prep Book Include?

The AP Calculus AB prep book of your choosing should have at least 3 practice tests. One test should be used as a pre-test to determine what you know about the subject so far.

You should take the second one midway through the prep book’s content to see how well you’re retaining the information. Finally, take the last practice test to see if you’ve mastered the course material in its entirety. The score you receive on the third practice test should guide you in your final review of the content.

When Should I Start Using a Test Prep Book to Study for the AP Calculus AB Exam?

It’s important to grab a test prep book for the AP Calculus AB exam and start studying it as soon as possible. The sooner you gain access to the study material, the sooner you can work on your weakest areas so that you’re ready when exam time rolls around.


Conclusion

AP Calculus AB can be a difficult, yet rewarding course if you put enough time and effort into it. As long as you have the drive to study and prepare for the exam, you’ll likely do well. No matter your study style or aptitude in calculus, supplemental study and review material can be essential for your success on the exam. Hopefully, with our guidance, you can find the best AP Calculus AB prep book for you.

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Hannah Young
 

Contributor at ExamCave. Hannah is pursuing a degree in middle school English education at The Ohio State University. Hannah has worked as a writing and math tutor for elementary, middle school, and high school students.