8 Best AP English Language Prep Books (2020)
The best AP English language prep book should include an overview of the test itself and recommended strategies to help you prepare. Learning the material is another critical point the book should cover in the form of practice questions, essays, and comprehensive explanations.
Most of these books also provide practice tests to help you learn your strengths and weaknesses while providing you much-needed experience.
Table of Contents
- The Top AP English Language Prep Books
- 1. Cracking the AP English Language & Composition Exam, 2019 Edition
- 2. Barron’s AP English Language and Composition: With 6 Practice Tests
- 3. Cracking the AP English Language & Composition Exam 2020 Premium Edition
- 4. Test Prep Books AP English Language and Composition 2020 and 2021
- 5. The Critical Reader: AP English Language and Composition Edition
- 6. CliffsNotes AP English Language and Composition
- 7. Accepted, Inc. AP English Language and Composition Study Guide
- 8. AP English Language & Composition Crash Course
- Frequently Asked Questions
The Top AP English Language Prep Books
Our list of the top recommended AP English Language prep books includes textbooks of different lengths and various approaches to successful test-taking.
1. Cracking the AP English Language & Composition Exam, 2019 Edition
Summary: The Princeton Review AP English Language and Composition book offers some of the best study guides and two full practice tests.
Publisher: Princeton Review; 2019 Edition edition
Total Number of pages: 256
Our Grade: A+
The Princeton Review’s Cracking the AP English Language and Composition Exam study book offers proven techniques and practice tests that provide comprehensive explanations for each answer. This book also includes strategies test-takers can adopt for each portion of the exam and additional free online content.
You’ll also find a thorough explanation of the literary devices discussed in the exam, and other rhetorical modes and vocabulary test takers are likely to encounter. The Princeton Review regularly updates their books each year, but some buyers have noted that this particular edition is rather close to the version released in 2018.
- Two full practice tests
- Well thought out study guides
- Thorough explanations and content guides
- Little to no new material from the previous release
2. Barron’s AP English Language and Composition: With 6 Practice Tests
Summary: Barron’s AP English Language and Composition textbook provides more practice tests than other books and several comprehensive examples.
Publisher: Barrons Educational Series; Ninth edition
Total Number of pages: 376
Our Grade: A+
The Barron’s AP English Language and Composition book features content created by authors with decades of experience in the AP English Language course. This 2020 release also provides six practice exams, which are more than most other study guides, and there are also sample essays. The essay writing tips are primarily what the book focuses on, and practice is a key recommendation.
This book also offers students essay writing tips with full explanations, but it’s not as useful for the multiple-choice part of the test. Some of the questions don’t mimic what test-takers will see on the official test, but the general content is comparable even though it gets presented in a different style.
- A generous number of practice exams (six total)
- Essay portion features well thought out examples
- Several essays writing tips with examples
- Not very useful for the multiple-choice part of the test
3. Cracking the AP English Language & Composition Exam 2020 Premium Edition
Summary: The Princeton Review Cracking the AP English Language & Composition Exam book offers a balanced approach to studying and ample material.
Publisher: Princeton Review; Premium edition
Total Number of pages: 304
Our Grade: A
The Princeton Review Cracking the AP English Language & Composition Exam book comes as a kindle book and in paperback so you can choose the format that works best for your studying. This book features a structure that reflects the material you’ll need to know for the 2020 exams, all of which will take place online.
In this book, you’ll find all of the terms and modes that you’ll need to know, along with suggestions on approaching the essay portions of the exam. This book has many similarities to its 2019 release, but with a few content updates regarding the test and questions that you can expect. Additional content is available at The Princeton Review website that lends itself well to one on one tutoring and study groups.
- Five practice tests that closely mimic the real test
- In-depth strategy review for each segment of the test
- Parts are updated from the 2019 release to reflect the most up to date information
- Could be more engaging and personable for studying
4. Test Prep Books AP English Language and Composition 2020 and 2021
Summary: The Test Prep Books AP English Language and Composition textbook uses a three-part strategy that is easy to learn and apply effectively.
Publisher: Test Prep Books
Total Number of pages: 105
Our Grade: A-
The Test Prep Books AP English Language and Composition book for 2020 and 2021 is shorter than that of many other test prep books. Still, it provides well-structured content in the form of practice questions and explanations that make studying more efficient. This book is ideal for students but is also useful for teachers or tutors working on teaching the material.
This prep book contains a three-part strategy that focuses on practicing with sample test questions, comprehensive overviews of the material on the test, and test strategies proven to increase your score and confidence. The table of contents is concise and makes it easy to find the information quickly, so this book serves as an adequate reference guide without overwhelming the reader.
- Offers tips for what to do the night before and the day you take the test
- Teaches you test-taking strategy
- Focuses on showing content so you can gain familiarity and practice
- On the shorter side for a study guide style textbook
5. The Critical Reader: AP English Language and Composition Edition
Summary: The Critical Reader: AP English Language and Composition Edition test prep book is a comprehensive guide that provides balanced explanations with the chance to apply what you’ve learned.
Publisher: The Critical Reader
Total Number of pages: 251
Our Grade: A-
The Critical Reader: AP English Language and Composition Edition test prep book written by Erica L. Meltzer is a favorite in the field of prep books. This book is known for its comprehensive content in the form of strategies, essays, and exercises that help you learn how to effectively take the test.
You’ll find an entire chapter dedicated to answering multiple-choice questions, and another that focuses on all of the reading and writing skills that you’ll need to have. There are also excellent sample essays designed to test your skills, and enlightening information on the scoring analysis and rubric used to grade your test.
- Easy to understand and thorough explanations for each question type
- Exercises help you apply what you’ve learned at the right time
- The essay portion helps you discover your strengths and weaknesses
- Dense text without much visual appeal or personality
6. CliffsNotes AP English Language and Composition
Summary: The CliffsNotes AP English Language and Composition prep book includes practice exams and explanations that are highly organized based on the topic.
Publisher: Cliffs Notes; 5 edition
Total Number of pages: 320
Our Grade: A-
The CliffsNotes AP English Language and Composition test prep book features a very well laid out table of contents so you can zero in on the exact topics you want to cover. This prep book provides four full practice exams and a mini test to gauge where you need to improve.
This book also includes a glossary of terms for easy reference and a list of past essay topics so you can get a feel for what might be on the test. There is also a suggested reading list broken down by categories such as autobiography, nature, science, journalism, and politics.
- Features a comprehensive table of contents for easy reference
- A full glossary of terms and past essay topics
- Detailed scoring sections for each of the practice tests
- Maybe overwhelming for many students
- Does not include any 2020 updates
7. Accepted, Inc. AP English Language and Composition Study Guide
Summary: Accepted Inc.’s AP English Language and Composition Study Guide is a comprehensive option that comes with online resources and a stress-free strategy.
Publisher: Accepted, Inc.
Total Number of pages: 236
Our Grade: B+
Accepted Inc.’s AP English Language and Composition Study Guide includes four practice tests that include detailed explanations to help you understand both your right and wrong answers. This guide lets you build on the material as you go to help save time without sacrificing your ability to do well on the test.
This book is also unique as it uses graphics to enhance the examples and make the text more engaging to use. The tips and strategies found in these pages come directly from educators with years of experience preparing students for the AP test.
- Includes a comprehensive review of the exam including times for each section
- Discusses how students typically do on different portions of the test
- Offers advice on creating a study plan and strategy that suits you specifically
- Not ideal for those that need to learn most of the material on the test
8. AP English Language & Composition Crash Course
Summary: The AP English Language & Composition Crash Course prep book is a valid option for last-minute studiers or those who are short on time.
Publisher: Research & Education Association; Third edition
Total Number of pages: 336
Our Grade: B+
The AP English Language & Composition Crash Course prep book features one mini-exam and an online practice exam in addition to the full prep book. This prep book is ideal for those that want to learn the content for the test correctly, but are pressed for time and need a structured study plan provided for them.
This book is written by an educator with years of experience and provides test-taking strategies designed to help you avoid test-taking jitters. Included in this textbook are various tips, several essays prompts, and several chapters on analytical reading. There is also a helpful chapter at the end that condenses the essential material you need to know and explains in more detail why it’s so vital.
- Available in Kindle format and paperback
- Presented with the intent to save time but not skimp on learning
- Offers online practice exams
- Not as many practice exams as in other prep books
Frequently Asked Questions
As you look for the best AP English language prep book, our list of frequently asked questions can help you decide what will work best for your studying style and needs.
Do all the test prep books offer practice essays?
Most test prep books will offer writing prompts for the essay portion of the exam to help you practice. Each book will provide a different number of essay prompts, and you can typically find more prompts online either through the publisher’s website or via an online search.
Taking practice tests is highly recommended as it helps you gain experience and confidence before the official test.
Do I need to get a book specifically for 2020, or will a 2019 version work?
The older versions of the test prep books may work well enough for you, provided you are aware of any changes to the test for the current year. Many of the practice questions and essays will be comparable, or the same, and most of the updated books feature only small changes to the content.
Finding the best AP English language prep book may seem complicated with all of the available options, but picking one that has enough material for you to practice is vital. Many books will offer additional content online, but more pages in the book don’t mean it’s better than a shorter text.
Depending on your studying style, and how much test preparation you require, you may benefit just as much from a shorter prep book with content organized in a way that makes more sense to you. Take advantage of some of the previews of a book you are considering to decide what format is most appealing while still providing the content you need to be ready for the test.