8 Best AP Physics 1 Prep Books (2020)

Best AP Physics 1 Study Books

Many students consider Physics to be one of the most difficult AP classes of their high school career. Getting a five on the exam may seem like an impossible challenge. However, with the right help, any student can work their way towards acing their AP test. Let’s go over the best AP Physics 1 prep books to improve your study habits and test-taking strategies.

The Best Books to Prepare for the AP Physics 1 Test

Our #1 Choice
Cracking the AP Physics 1 Exam 2020, Premium Edition: 5 Practice Tests +...
Runner Up
Barron's AP Physics 1: with Bonus Online Tests (Barron's AP Physics 1 and...
Also Consider
5 Steps to a 5: AP Physics 1: Algebra-Based 2020 Elite Student Edition
Cracking the AP Physics 1 Exam 2020, Premium Edition: 5 Practice Tests +...
Barron's AP Physics 1: with Bonus Online Tests (Barron's AP Physics 1 and...
5 Steps to a 5: AP Physics 1: Algebra-Based 2020 Elite Student Edition
Our #1 Choice
Cracking the AP Physics 1 Exam 2020, Premium Edition: 5 Practice Tests +...
Cracking the AP Physics 1 Exam 2020, Premium Edition: 5 Practice Tests +...
Runner Up
Barron's AP Physics 1: with Bonus Online Tests (Barron's AP Physics 1 and...
Barron's AP Physics 1: with Bonus Online Tests (Barron's AP Physics 1 and...
Also Consider
5 Steps to a 5: AP Physics 1: Algebra-Based 2020 Elite Student Edition
5 Steps to a 5: AP Physics 1: Algebra-Based 2020 Elite Student Edition

Our Favorite AP Physics 1 Books

Ace your AP Physics 1 class with these eight prep books!

1. The Princeton Review: Cracking the AP Physics 1 Exam Premium Edition

Learn the best study techniques for passing the AP Physics 1 Exam.

The Princeton Review offers an entire line of AP prep guides for just about every course offering, including Physics 1. Their textbooks place a special emphasis on test-taking strategies, showing students how to study for and take their AP exam.

Princeton Review keeps up-to-date on the latest AP topics by monitoring and updating materials regularly. The 2020 Premium Edition matches the latest tests to give students an accurate idea of what to expect on the final exam.

Cracking the AP Physics 1 Exam covers all of the subjects that could potentially show up on any end-of-the-year final. This book presents information in an interesting and engaging way, and each chapter contains practice tools to help students master any concept. However, it condenses information in some spot, and only briefly touches on some topics.

Step-by-step examples and carefully designed drills show test-takers the types of problems commonly seen on the AP Physics 1 test. Five practice tests can also help students to review important material and boost their confidence when taking tests.


  • Covers all important topics in an engaging way
  • Includes example problems, drills, and five practice tests
  • Focuses on test-taking techniques


  • Glosses over some topics

Publisher: The Princeton Review

Year: 2019

Pages: 496

Our Final Grade: A+

2. Barron’s AP Physics 1

Review important AP Physics 1 concepts, both online and offline.

Barron’s AP Physics 1 offers a comprehensive review of all topics covered on the AP Physics 1 exam. Each chapter goes in-depth on the most important concepts and explains everything in a way that’s easy to understand. However, information isn’t updated as regularly as other prep books.

Students can also find helpful tips and strategies on how to approach both multiple-choice and free-response questions. This book goes in-depth on how to think through and answer new questions that may show up on the AP Physics final by looking at old tests.

In addition to a full subject review, Barron’s AP Physics 1 also provides practice questions complete with answers and full explanations. Students can also take a diagnostic test to gauge how well they know important topics or practice using two complete practice exams.

The Barron’s AP Physics 1 Guide offers an online component for those who need more help studying. The textbook is compatible with most mobile devices, and students can use it to access two additional online practice tests.


  • A comprehensive review of all important topics
  • Includes example questions, a diagnostic test, and two practice tests
  • Online tools and content


  • No updates since 2018

Publisher: Barrons Educational Series

Year: 2018

Pages: 320

Our Final Grade: A-

3. 5 Steps to a 5 Elite Edition: AP Physics 1

Save time with short yet comprehensive review sections and daily practice tools.

The 5 Steps to a 5 series helps the average student review a year’s worth of concepts quickly and easily. Its chapters are short and easy to read while still managing to cover all of the essentials. However, the book doesn’t go as in-depth as some other AP Physics 1 review materials.

The publisher updates this test prop book yearly to ensure that it reflects the latest information, problems, and techniques used in AP tests. It’s written by experts on the subject to ensure that everything is accurate and recent.

You can use this textbook across multiple platforms, making it easy to study from anywhere. Students can use the book itself or turn to an online or mobile-friendly version. There are two practice tests inside the book and one that you can access online.

5 Steps to a 5 places an emphasis on studying and learning for busy students. They know that not everyone can dedicate hours of time to reviewing test materials. The book includes several 5 Minutes to a 5 sections. These include quick daily activities that help students to acquire the skills and knowledge they need to ace the AP Physics 1 exam.


  • Quick and easy-to-read chapters
  • 5 Minutes to a 5 Daily Activities
  • Practice tools are available bot in the book and online


  • Doesn’t go in-depth on most topics

Publisher: McGraw-Hill Education

Year: 2019

Pages: 544

Our Final Grade: B+

4. AP Physics 1 Crash Course

Learn how to get a five on the AP Physics 1 exam on a time crunch.

AP Crash Course guides help give students a refresher on the topics they’ll need to know for their exams. It focuses on larger concepts instead of delving into insignificant details. Students can save time by cutting out unnecessary information during review time.

Chapters are easy to read, simplifying complex ideas into something that any student can grasp. The chapters use an outline format so that students can easily skim content and retain important information. This prep book also highlights and defines key terms students will encounter on their AP exam.

The Crash Course Physics 1 guide also offers tips on improving study habits for faster and more effective sessions. Each chapter gives students tips and strategies to help them study smart and increase their chances of getting a five.

This textbook includes a free online practice exam that reflects questions and concepts covered by previous AP tests. It aims to offer a realistic exam experience so that students know what to expect and can step into their AP Physics 1 final with confidence.


  • Quick and easy-to-understand concept reviews
  • Includes tips and tricks for faster studying
  • Free online practice exam


  • Less content than other prep books
  • Example explanations don’t go into detail

Publisher: Advanced Placement (AP) Crash Course

Year: 2015

Pages: 240

Our Final Grade: B

5. AP Physics 1 Essentials: An APlusPhysics Guide

Ace the AP exam by getting plenty of practice with this engaging study guide.

This guide places a heavy emphasis on practice for the AP Physics 1 exam. It has more than 600 example problems worked out with complete explanations. While these problems help cement important concepts, however, they aren’t necessarily modeled after past tests.

In addition to a whole host of practice problems, this APlusPhysics guide includes a 90-question example AP exam. Students can test their knowledge and hone their test-taking skills.

Brief review sections cover all AP Physics 1 topics in a quick and concise manner. The book makes an excellent review tool before the exam but doesn’t go as in-depth as other learning supplements and study guides.

This textbook comes with a free online component to give students access to even more study tools. There are videos explaining key concepts, simple animations, and additional practice problems.


  • Hundreds of example problems and a practice test
  • Quick and easy-to-read review sections
  • Free online practice tools


  • Publisher doesn’t use AP tests to model all problems
  • More practice problems than review content

Publisher: Silly Beagle Productions

Year: 2014

Pages: 406

Our Final Grade: C+

6. Physics 1 Workbook for Dummies

Learn key concepts in a fun, engaging, and hands-on way.

The For Dummies series of self-help and instructional books aim to teach new concepts in a fun, accessible, and easy-to-understand way. This textbook breaks down concepts seen in AP Physics 1 to help even new students gain a deeper understanding.

Students can review basic concepts seen in Physics 1 before moving on to a series of helpful practice problems. Each question offers up a solution that’s easy to follow, along with additional information and study tips for Physics 1 students.

In addition to covering crucial concepts, this workbook also shows students strategies for solving new problems. It goes over each step of an answer to explain the logic behind it and help students build their critical thinking skills.

Unlike other study guides, the Physics 1 Workbook for dummies doesn’t just focus on what students know, but also, what they need to work on. It covers ten of the most common mistakes for students to avoid when studying for AP Physics 1.


  • Presents information in a fun and engaging way
  • A large number of practice problems with solutions
  • Tips, tricks, and advice on common mistakes


  • Not specifically written for AP students

Publisher: For Dummies

Year: 2014

Pages: 336

Our Final Grade: C

7. Sterling Test Prep AP Physics 1 Practice Questions

Review all key concepts using example problems and practice tests.

This AP Physics 1 prep book covers all of the core concepts that students need to know through practice questions and exams. It focuses on practice as a means to improve study habits while boosting knowledge.

The Sterling AP Physics 1 prep guide includes 736 different practice problems. Each offers a detailed explanation of the solution. However, you should approach these problems as a review and learning tool rather than as example AP questions.

This textbook also provides three practice exams where students can put newly learned skills and concepts to the test. Three more exams are also available to students online at no extra cost.

Though the book doesn’t contain an in-depth review, it briefly covers essential formulas that may show up on the AP exam. There is also a section of helpful tips and strategies that can help AP Physics 1 students earn a five on their final.


  • 736 in-depth practice problems covering all key concepts
  • Includes six online and offline practice tests
  • Offers studying and test-taking tips


  • Practice problems don’t reflect AP test
  • Minimal review

Publisher: Sterling Test Prep

Year: 2018

Pages: 372

Our Final Grade: C-

8. Basic Physics: A Self-Teaching Guide

Learn key concepts seen on the AP Physics 1 exam at your own pace.

This interactive study guide helps students teach themselves the core concepts involved in fundamental physics. It’s not based on the AP curriculum, but instead, aims to cover Physics as a subject.

Chapters are easy to understand, with brief, simple explanations of different topics. The guide presents information iin a question and answer format for clarity and to encourage critical thinking.

For students who are in a hurry, each chapter starts off listing key ideas and objectives it will cover. It’s easy to skip ahead or read chapters as carefully as needed, allowing each student to study at his or her own pace without wasting time.

At the end of each chapter, students can take a short practice test to see what they’ve learned. There are also plenty of examples to help further explain complex topics. Unlike some other study guides, students have the option of studying using either a mathematical or non-mathematical approach.


  • Offers brief and simple explanations of complex topics
  • Presented in an easy-to-read question and answer format
  • Practice tests at the end of each section


  • Not based on AP Course
  • Oversimplifies some concepts

Publisher: J. Wiley

Year: 1996

Pages: 301

Our Final Grade: D+


Here are a few things to consider when choosing an AP Physics 1 prep book.

How Long Should an AP Physics 1 Prep Book Be?

There’s no single answer for how long an AP prep book should be. In general, it all comes down to personal preferences. Those who are simply looking for brief review materials before their test may want to opt for a shorter, more concise guide. However, those who are using the textbook as a learning aid may want to look for a longer book with more in-depth coverage.

Which Topics Should an AP Physics 1 Prep Book Cover?

For the most part, all AP Physics 1 guides will cover the same basic information. Some, however, may go more in-depth than others on more complex topics. The most important things a review book should cover include:

  • Kinematics
  • Impulse
  • Circular motion
  • Momentum
  • Work, energy, and power
  • Gravity
  • Mechanical waves
  • Sound waves
  • Rotation
  • Electrostatics and circuits
  • Dynamics

How Many Practice Tests Should I Take?

Most of the best AP Physics 1 Prep Book options offer at least one practice test. Often, publishers model practice tests after previous AP exams to give students an idea of what to expect. It’s a good idea to take these tests under exam conditions to prepare for the big day and build your confidence.

Students who are nervous or struggling may want to try taking multiple tests to improve their test-taking abilities and cement crucial concepts. However, the number of practice tests you take is ultimately up to your own discretion.

In Conclusion

The right review book can help any AP Physics student on their way to earning a five. It’s best to look for a guide that covers all of the topics that might show up on the AP Physics final. The best AP Physics 1 Prep Books also often offer tools to help students improve and hone their skills in the subject and prepare for taking more college-level classes. Our favorite AP Physics 1 review guide is the Princeton Review Premium Edition, thanks to its many example questions, practice tests, and in-depth chapter reviews.

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Brett Gordon

Founder of ExamCave.com