6 Best AP Chemistry Prep Books (2020)

Best AP Chemistry Study Books

AP classes are great resources to take in High School that can get you college credit later on. However, if you want to have those credits, you often need to pass an AP exam afterward to make sure you learned the content well enough.

As such, it’s great to invest in some AP prep books before your exams to ensure that you get the best grade possible on your tests! We’ll introduce you to some of the best AP Chemistry prep books below.

Anyone taking the AP Chemistry exam in 2020 should note that, as of March 2020, all exams will be proctored online because of COVID-19. This means your study areas should change to go along with the new format as well.

Best AP Chemistry Exam Prep Books

1. AP® Chemistry Crash Course, For the 2020 Exam, Book + Online: Get a Higher Score in Less Time

This “Crash Course” book works to supplement your knowledge of AP Chemistry in as little time as possible.

Publisher: Research & Education Association (REA)

Year: 2020 (Third Edition, Revised Edition)

Number of pages: 288

Our Final Grade: A

Long, comprehensive study guides are excellent, but when you don’t have weeks to study for the AP exam, sometimes you need something a bit more to-the-point. This crash course guide from REA gives you that: it targets only the topics covered by the 2020 AP exam.

Unlike a few of the other books in this guide, this crash course book has been fully updated for the 2020 academic year. You don’t need to worry about the concepts or modules being out-of-date.

This test comes with practice questions in the book, and it also comes with access to a full practice exam online. This exam is scored in a way that tells you which areas you need to focus on most.

This book is not a book to teach you everything if you weren’t paying attention during your AP Chemistry class. While this makes an excellent review and refresher book, it’s not a replacement for a full course like some full-length study guides might be.

Pros

  • Covers only what’s on the AP Chemistry test
  • Fully updated for 2020
  • Great for time-crunched students

Cons

  • Not a replacement for in-class learning

2. AP Chemistry 2020 & 2021: AP Chemistry Review Book and Practice Questions for the Advanced Placement Chem Exam

This study guide focuses on explaining concepts in an accessible way and guiding you through incorrect answers.

Publisher: Test Prep Books

Year: 2019

Number of pages: 198

Our Final Grade: B+

While a college-level AP prep book is useful for some, others need AP prep books that are a bit easier to understand. Whether you just enjoy a more accessible book or need one to understand the challenging concepts, this book does the job.

This book is fully updated for 2020 and 2021, making it an excellent primary resource for your studies. You can also receive a “test-taking strategies” DVD with this book by request, and there’s always an email helpline standing by to help you through any difficult questions.

After all, the biggest, most comprehensive AP Chemistry book can’t help you if you can’t figure out what you’re doing wrong. As such, rather than pounding information into your head, this book is designed around helping you link what you’re learning with how it works in the real world.

While this book looks like an excellent study resource, keep in mind that it was only just released (in November of 2019), and it still needs to be put through its paces. If you don’t mind taking a chance on a new book that looks like an excellent resource, this book may pay off for you.

Pros

  • Easy to understand
  • Emphasizes working through anything you don’t understand
  • Email helpline and test-taking DVD available

Cons

  • Still very new; some online buyers were given a free book in exchange for good reviews, which may skew results

3. Sterling Test Prep AP Chemistry Practice Questions: High Yield AP Chemistry Questions & Review

This book comes with a high-score money-back guarantee, meaning your wallet will feel a bit better if your AP Chemistry exam doesn’t work out the way you want.

Publisher: Sterling Test Prep

Year: 2017 (9th Edition)

Number of pages: 494

Our Final Grade: B

This AP Chemistry Prep Book by Sterling Test Prep comes with a whopping 900 test prep questions to test your knowledge, and the book is continually updated to stay current with AP requirements.

However, do note that, unlike many similar AP Chemistry prep books, this one only comes with multiple-choice questions. While there are a lot of them, the real AP Chemistry exam has some items that are not multiple choice.

As such, this book is another excellent supplementary resource, but it’s not sufficient to prepare you for the entire exam.

Also, note that this edition of the book was released in 2017. As such, it may not be entirely accurate for the 2020 AP Chemistry exam (and future exams). While the manufacturer says it’s been updated for 2020 content, it’s essential to be aware of the risk.

Pros

  • Hundreds of practice questions to test your knowledge
  • Money-back guarantee
  • A portion of profits supports environmental causes

Cons

  • No current 2020 reviews
  • Only multiple-choice questions

4. 5 Steps to a 5: AP Chemistry 2020

This study guide is designed around an easy-to-follow five-step plan built to help you prepare for test day.

Publisher: McGraw-Hill Education

Year: 2019 (1st Edition)

Number of pages: 432

Our Final Grade: B

This 5 Step study guide is available in print, online, and on any mobile device, so it’s incredibly flexible and appropriate for studying anywhere.

This guide contains four practice exams (two in print and two online), and it also comes with other helpful supplementary resources, such as:

  • Flashcards
  • Practice exercises
  • Test analytics to point out your weakest areas
  • A full online prep course designed for 2020
  • Flashcards and games

Do note, however, that certain aspects of this guide can be somewhat outdated. The test-taking tips, in particular, are more appropriate for older versions of the AP exam and may not be relevant for the 2020 version. This prep book also covers some topics that are not tested on the 2020 exam.

Overall, this book will prepare you well for the 2020 AP exam, especially with the abundance of extra resources that come with it. However, you should be aware that it might cover a bit more than you need.

Pros

  • Lots of included resources, such as games and analytics
  • Simple, easy-to-understand five-step layout
  • Lots of tests and practice exercises

Cons

  • Some concepts and tips are a bit outdated

5. Cracking the AP Chemistry Exam 2020, Premium Edition: 5 Practice Tests + Complete Content Review, Premium Edition

This premium version of the book comes with extra practice tests and online content to help your studying go even smoother.

This study guide from the Princeton Review has always been the gold standard in AP review books. If you’re looking for an in-depth study book that will fully prepare you for whatever the AP Chemistry exam might throw at you, this is the best place to look.

However, do note that this book is no longer relevant. While it still covers essential topics and content that may appear on your AP exam, a new test structure for AP Chemistry was enacted in 2020 that this book does not follow.

The main drawback here is that this book covers six units, while the new test covers a full nine units. As such, while this is an excellent supplementary study resource, using it exclusively to study for the AP exam is insufficient.

Pros

  • Covers a wide range of chemistry subjects
  • Online portal helps you keep up with changing test formats
  • Several practice tests to choose from

Cons

  • No longer accurate as of 2020

Publisher: Princeton Review

Year: 2019

Number of pages: 480

Our Final Grade: C+


6. AP Chemistry with Online Tests (Barron’s Test Prep)

This study guide from Barron’s Test Prep comes chock-full of practice tests, helping students find the areas that they need the most help in.

Publisher: Barrons Educational Series

Year: 2018 (9th Edition)

Number of pages: 752

Our Final Grade: C

One of the hardest problems to diagnose as you get started with your studies is what, exactly, you need to study most. Fortunately, this book from Barron’s Test Prep eliminates that issue by offering “diagnostic tests” for you to take.

These tests help you narrow down your weaker areas of knowledge so that you can target them more as you study. Like with any useful study guide, all of the test answers end up explained so that you can learn why you got each question wrong.

Unfortunately, while the diagnostic tests are useful in theory, they tend to backfire by flagging things that you don’t know that won’t be on the exam. As such, you can end up studying something that you don’t necessarily need to know.

While there’s never a problem with studying too much, if you have limited time to review, this can interfere with learning about the things you will be tested on. Additionally, some of the concepts in this textbook are irrelevant or out-of-date.

While this can be an excellent supplementary resource, we don’t recommend using it as your primary source for studying for the AP Chemistry exam.

Pros

  • Covers a wide variety of subjects
  • Diagnostic tests to find your weak areas
  • Lots of practice exams to choose from

Cons

  • Some outdated concepts
  • Covers unnecessary concepts

FAQs

If we haven’t been able to answer all of your questions about AP Chemistry exam prep so far, we may be able to in this section. Check out some frequently asked questions below.

How Do I Prepare for the AP Chemistry Exam?

The best way to prepare for an AP exam is to pay attention in class and absorb as much information as possible. However, it’s also a good idea to review that information before your test day, too. AP prep books are a great way to rehash and refresh all that information.

How Hard Is the AP Chemistry Exam?

The AP Chemistry exam is designed to test you at a college level, so of course, it’s going to be difficult. However, as long as you pay attention, understand the material, and review anything you have questions about, you’ll do fine.

What Percent Is a Five on the AP Chemistry Exam?

As long as you know the material well, getting a five on the AP Chemistry exam is a very attainable goal. As long as you get more than 72% of the questions correct, you’ll pass the AP Chemistry exam with a five.


Conclusion

Overall, all of these books are adequate resources for studying the AP Chemistry exam, but few of them stand out above the rest. This is primarily because there was a recent change in the AP Chemistry exam scope from six modules to nine, rendering many previous books inadequate.

That being said, as long as you don’t study exclusively from these study guides for the exam, you’ll do just fine. Additionally, one book stands out above the rest: the AP Chemistry Crash Course by REA.

While this book isn’t a replacement for a full course – it’s only designed to hit the subjects covered on the exam – it’s updated to be relevant and accurate for the new 2020 test, and it comes with plenty of helpful resources, too.

If you need a bit more than a crash course to study from, there are a few other good options to choose from, but keep in mind that test prep books redesigned for 2020 are still quite new, such as the AP Chemistry Review Book and Practice Questions by Test Prep Books.

This may make it difficult to tell the excellent study resources from the bad ones, so do your research carefully!

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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.