4 Best AP Computer Science A Prep Book (2020)

Best AP Computer Science A Study Books

AP Computer Science A is one of the first computer science courses you’ll take, and if you’re ahead on your education, you may even take it in high school instead of college!

Computer Science encompasses a range of topics, and while you might think it only means tinkering with computers, this is false. You need to absorb a lot of information and theoretical knowledge, too, not just how to put a computer together or code a program.

Investing in an AP Computer Science A prep book is a great way to prepare yourself for the AP test, which will test you on the knowledge you’ve gained throughout the semester. We’ll introduce you to some of the best ones below.

Best AP Computer Science A Exam Prep Books

1. AP Computer Science A: With 6 Practice Tests (Barron’s Test Prep)

This is a comprehensive, fully-featured study guide, complete with resources, tips, and everything you could possibly need to know for the exam.

Publisher: Barrons Educational Series

Year: 2019 (9th Edition)

Number of pages: 496

Our Final Grade: A

Many of the books from Barron’s Test Prep aren’t merely exam prep books; these books cover everything you need to know for the exam, plus a little more. This book is so comprehensive that you could use it instead of a full AP Computer Science A course.

Of course, we can’t recommend doing that, but if you need an AP study book that goes into a bit more detail, it will walk you through the content and help you test yourself after. This book is fully updated for the 2020 changes to the exam, too.

This review book comes with a full five practice exams to help you get started, too. Since the AP Computer Science A exam is mostly about solving problems, this will be incredibly helpful as you prepare for your exam.

Pros

  • Updated for 2020
  • Comprehensive and fully-featured
  • Includes five practice exams, two of which are online

Cons

  • The website has some registration issues

2. Cracking the AP Computer Science A Exam, 2020 Edition: Practice Tests & Prep for the NEW 2020 Exam

This review book is designed to test your understanding of Computer Science concepts, build upon existing knowledge, and prepare you for any potential exam challenges.

Publisher: Princeton Review

Year: 2019

Number of pages: 368

Our Final Grade: A

The Princeton Review is an excellent resource for AP Exam books, and this one is no exception. However, you should not buy this book to use it to learn what didn’t pay attention to in class. This book is meant to test your existing knowledge, not teach you from the ground up.

However, if you’ve paid attention in class and you’re looking for some mental exercise to keep everything fresh, this is the book for you. Not only does this book rehash the material you’ve learned already, but it also builds upon that material and teaches you useful test-taking strategies, too.

While this textbook only comes with two practice exams, there are plenty of review drills and sample questions in each chapter. It also comes with extra online resources through the Student Tools portal.

All in all, if you already feel quite knowledgeable about the exam and you’re just looking to arm yourself further, this is an excellent resource. However, if you’re looking for a book that will teach you everything you didn’t learn before, this is not the solution.

Pros

  • Tests and builds upon AP Computer Science A knowledge
  • Lots of reviews, drills, and strategies
  • Online resources available

Cons

  • Not appropriate for those who didn’t learn the material or those who are teaching themselves

3. Be Prepared for the AP Computer Science Exam in Java

This simple, easy-to-follow book is designed to help you get the basics down and be ready for the AP exam.

Publisher: Skylight Publishing

Year: 2019 (7th Edition)

Number of pages: 424

Our Final Grade: A-

While this book is from a smaller publisher, you shouldn’t overlook it when looking for study resources for your AP test. It’s full of questions and solutions that you’re likely to see on the exam, but unlike many other books in this bracket, it also provides alternate solutions.

Additionally, this tip preemptively helps you through common pitfalls that Java programmers can face. There’s also an electronic resource that lets you try your answers to see if they would work with the questions.

This book comes with five full practice exams, too. The questions come with detailed answers that can help you understand why you got something wrong in addition to why you might have gotten it right.

The only thing to keep in mind is that it is not a quick-study book. If you’re going to use this book, you should expect to use the whole thing, cover to cover, over the course of several weeks (or months).

It’s not a book that will help you by just reading one chapter or doing one practice exam. Do note that while this is an older book, it was re-released in 2019 and should be sufficient for the 2020 exam.

Pros

  • Simple, easy-to-understand format
  • Great for learning unfamiliar Java concepts
  • Electronic resources and five practice tests included

Cons

  • Not a cram book – expect to study it for several weeks

4. 5 Steps to a 5: AP Computer Science A 2020

This guide is built around an easy-to-follow five-step design, making it easy to prepare and study for the AP exam.

Publisher: McGraw-Hill Education

Year: 2019 (1st Edition)

Number of pages: 512

Our Final Grade: A-

While most study guides walk you through the material as a standard textbook would, this series from McGraw-Hill sets things up via a five-step program to help you learn the content slowly and logically. However, you’ll learn all the same content in the end as you would with any other book.

This book comes with three practice tests, hundreds of exercises, and explanations that walk you through each answer. The book also arms you with strategies that can help you with each subsection of the test.

As such, if you’re a little lacking on base material, this is an excellent primary resource to consider. It might help make up for not paying attention well in class on a few occasions, though it won’t replace the course altogether.

The takeaway from this guide is how it frames the solution to each question. The guide makes to explain each answer entirely and from the ground up; this way, there’s nothing you miss or that trips you up along the way.

Additionally, this guide breaks down the questions into two sections: Basic Java and Advanced Java. They also have a section devoted specifically to writing algorithms, which many other books lack.

Pros

  • Covers multiple difficulty levels and subsections
  • Comprehensive, easy-to-understand solutions
  • Lots of resources and tools

Cons

  • Not many customer reviews
  • No online resources

Frequently Asked Questions

If there are any questions we failed to answer for you above, we may be able to address them with these frequently asked questions.

What Do You Learn in AP Computer Science A?

AP Computer Science A is primarily a programming course. You’ll need to know how to build simple programs, programming theory, and have a decent foundation in algebra to pass this course, and that’s primarily what you’ll be tested on during the AP exam.

What Language Is Used in AP Computer Science A?

AP Computer Science A mainly uses Java. As such, it may be helpful to purchase some Java programming resources and study books, too.

Is the AP Computer Science A Exam Easy?

As far as AP exams go, the Computer Science A exam is one of the easier ones to do well on – as long as you keep up with the curriculum, that is. This is mainly because of the smaller scope of the material. It’s also one of the easiest to self-study for.


Conclusion

All of the test prep books in this guide are great for studying before the AP Computer Science A exam, but there are a few that stood out above the rest. Each one is appropriate for a different type of student.

First is the Barron’s Test Prep book, AP Computer Science A: With 6 Practice Tests. This book is long, detailed, and great for learning any concepts you may have missed. However, it’s not great for the cram student with only a few days before the exam.

The other best option is the Cracking the AP Computer Science A Exam, 2020 Edition: Practice Tests & Prep for the NEW 2020 Exam from the Princeton Review.

While this book covers the same concepts as the other finalist, it works to test your knowledge rather than reviewing what you already know. As such, it’s great for those who learned the material well in class, but not so much for those who missed some of it.

Both books come full of extra resources to help you excel, and you can’t go wrong with either of them!

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Brett Gordon
 

Founder of ExamCave.com