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The 4 Best AP Chemistry Review Books [2019-2020]

Article by Jane Newsom. Last Updated: Tuesday, Aug 13, 2019.

AP Chemistry Overview

AP Chemistry is roughly equivalent to an introductory level College Chemistry course, and covers a breadth of topics including kinetics, chemical reactions, intermolecular forces and bonding, atomic structure, thermodynamics and more. 25% of the course time is spent in the lab environment where students conduct hands-on investigations and apply scientific practices, and are strongly encouraged to keep a lab notebook. Prerequisites for AP Chemistry include general high-school level chemistry and algebra 2.

We’ll cover the course, exams, and our picks for the best AP Chemistry books, Flashcards, and Review Guides for test year 2020 below, but if you just can’t wait, here’s our short list:

Best AP Chemistry Books

AP Chemistry has several strong contenders for the best textbooks and review guides which we’ve ranked for you above. Continue on for detailed information on each one!

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Cracking the AP Chemistry Exam

Cracking the AP Chemistry Exam
2020 Edition
by Princeton Review
Price:$13.08
(as of 17 Aug 19 10:20 GMT)

Pros: Comprehensive review guide with exam tips, practice tests, and access to online content.
Cons: Answer key explanations are sparse in some cases.
Best For: Practice problems and review after a solid grasp of the material has been attained.
Our Rating: 5 / 5

Princeton Review typically places high on our lists of Best AP review guides. This book is a valuable resource for any student preparing for the AP Chemistry Exam. Key features include:

  • 2 full length practice tests.
  • Review of lab procedures and equipment.
  • Up to date information on current year tests.
  • Practice drills at the end of each chapter.
  • Lists of key terms to help you focus studies.

With its low price tag and useful content, Cracking the AP Chemistry Exam is ranked as our best overall value on this list. It has a high level overview of the material covered at the beginning and walks the reader through creation of a study plan tailored to their individual needs. It includes plenty of charts and images, which helps keeps the content easy to consume.

5 Steps To A 5

5 Steps To A 5
2020 Edition
by John T. Moore
Price:$26.60
(as of 17 Aug 19 10:20 GMT)

Pros: End of chapter quizzes, practice tests, and access to online content.
Cons: Contains some information not covered in the exam.
Best For: Practice problems and review after a solid grasp of the material leading up to the exam.
Our Rating: 4.5 / 5

5 Steps To a 5 is a well rounded review guide, with lots of excellent content including practice tests, chapter quizzes, and more. The guide includes a study planning section which can help you formulate the best approach for your unique needs. Full list of key features:

  • 2 full length practice tests included and 2 more available online.
  • End of chapter reviews with practice quizzes.
  • Access to an online App with additional content like extra practice questions.

The material and extra features included in 5 Steps To A 5 make it a strong contender for Best AP Chemistry review guide. It has an intuitive structure that will help even the most disorganized students find success.

Barron’s AP Chemistry

Barron's AP Chemistry
9th Edition
by Jespersen & Kerrigan
Price:$13.61
(as of 17 Aug 19 10:20 GMT)

Pros: 6 included practice tests, both skills assessment and real exam style.
Cons: Some practice test answer inaccuracies, and covers material outside the exam
Best For: Practice problems and review for students with a strong grasp of the material and deep interest in chemistry.
Our Rating: 4 / 5

The Barron’s AP Chemistry review guide is a fantastic resource for exam prep, as with most of the Barron’s guides. The review guide comes bundled with access to 6 practice exams (3 diagnostic tests and 3 full length tests), with answers and explanations. A comprehensive review of the primary learning objectives is also included. Key features:

  • Three full length practice exams (with answers and explanations).
  • Three diagnostic tests.
  • Study tips and test taking strategies.
  • Access to 3 bonus online tests.

The diagnostic tests included in Barron’s AP Chemistry help the student determine where to focus their limited study time. As you progress, the full length practice tests will help you assess your readiness for the real exam. Overall the review guide is highly recommended by teachers and students alike.

AP Chemistry Crash Course

AP Chemistry Crash Course
3rd Edition
by Adrian Dingle
Price:$14.20
(as of 17 Aug 19 10:20 GMT)

Pros: Narrow focus on exam content, and thorough explanation of subject matter.
Cons: Limited selection of test materials.
Best For: Final review leading up to the exam.
Our Rating: 4 / 5

AP Chemistry Crash Course aims to cut out the fluff, and cover only materials required for the actual exam. Perfect for the student who is short on study time, or otherwise looking for a quick and relevant review prior to taking the AP Chemistry test. Features included in the book:

  • Detailed test-taking strategies for both multiple choice and essay sections of the AP Chemistry exam.
  • Glossary of key terms you will be expected to know.
  • A full length practice test with automatic scoring and relevant questions

The AP Chemistry Crash Course book is regularly recommended by teachers, and is a fantastic last-minute review prior to the exam. Overall, it’s best used as a supplement to another more comprehensive resource, but it definitely has a strong place in the list of Best AP Chemistry books.

Best AP Chemistry Flashcards

In addition to the excellent books mentioned above, AP Chemistry students will see significant benefits in prepping for the exam using flashcards. Our top picks for Best AP Chemistry Flashcards are outlined below.

Barron’s AP Chemistry Flash Cards

Barron's AP Chemistry Flash Cards
3rd Edition
by Neil D. Jespersen
Price:$14.50
(as of 17 Aug 19 10:20 GMT)

Pros: In depth questions and explanations covering all major exam topics.
Cons: No digital format available.
Our Rating: 4 / 5

Barron’s AP Chemistry Flash Cards are a set of 500 physical flashcards covering chemistry definitions, forms, and structures organized according to the AP Chemistry main concepts (listed above). These flashcards pair well with the Barron’s AP Chemistry book mentioned above, but will work with any of the other resources (or on their own as a supplement to your course textbook). Key features include:

  • Over 500 cards covering all AP Chemistry key topics.
  • Online exam included with purchase.

The Barron’s AP Chemistry Flash Cards help ease the task of repetitive memorization, and make your final preparation for the exam much easier. The cars are relatively in-depth rather than simple multiple choice, so they can take a while to work through, but this helps in the long run.

Course Summary

A full Course Description for AP Chemistry is available from collegeboard.org.

The AP Chemistry course covers the core scientific principles, theories, and processes which provide a unique approach to the nature of matter and the physical world. The course is comprised of material covering 4 main concepts:

  • Chemical elements are the building blocks of matter.
  • Properties of matter can be explained by the arrangement of atoms and the forces between them.
  • Changes in matter result in the rearrangement of atoms and / or electrons.
  • Rates of chemical reaction are are determined by the details of molecular collisions.
  • Laws of thermodynamics describe the role of energy and explain changes in matter.
  • Bonds between molecules can be formed or broken, and are sensitive to external forces and change.

When investigating the main concepts outlined above, the scientific method is used to define and test hypothesis which explain the natural phenomena around us. This requires students to:

  • Use models and representations to communicate and solve problems.
  • Evaluate evidence and analyze data, using mathematics where appropriate.
  • Plan and execute data collection strategies.
  • Pose theories and work with scientific explanations of observable phenomena.

Through the use of inquiry-based investigations, students are provided with the opportunity to learn through asking questions, making observations and predictions, designing experiments and collecting data, and finally constructing arguments with answers to the questions posed. These techniques are directly applicable to the practice of scientific inquiry outside the classroom setting.

Exam Summary

Students taking the AP Chemistry Exam are responsible for demonstrating knowledge of each of the above mentioned learning objectives and scientific investigation techniques. It assess a student’s ability to:

  • Answer questions using mathematics (including symbolically).
  • Design experiments, describe the designs, analyze data and potential sources of error.
  • Explain answers in a way that clearly illustrates deeper understanding of the overarching concepts.
  • Build and describe conceptual models.

Since the exam includes a non-trivial amount of mathematics based assessment, students are allowed to use a scientific or graphing calculator (see the collegeboard calculator policy), and are given a list of common formulas and constants, and a periodic table of the elements.

The AP Chemistry test is comprised of 2 sections (multiple choice and free form response), each of which make up 50% of the overall score.

The Multiple Choice section:

  • 1 hour and 30 minutes long and consists of 60 multiple choice Chemistry questions.
  • It accounts for 50% of the overall exam score.
  • 60 multiple choice questions either discrete or in sets.
  • Use of a calculator is not allowed.

The Free Response section:

  • 1 hour and 45 minutes long and contains 7 questions.
  • It accounts for 50% of the overall exam score.
  • 3 Long free response questions based on lab data.
  • 4 Short free response questions (1 paragraph in length).

For exam dates, refer to The College Board AP Calendar.

Wrapping Up

AP Chemistry is a fantastic choice for students looking to get a leg up on collegiate level science classes. It’s a useful introduction to the concepts, techniques, and real life methods used in science labs throughout the country.

We’ve compiled this list of the top AP Chemistry books available to students, but choosing the correct one for you is a matter of personal circumstance. Whether you’re looking to add on to your assigned course materials, or for a quick refresher leading up to the exam, we’ve got you covered. Recapping our top pics:

Top Overall RecommendationCracking the AP Chemistry Exam
Top Pick For Course SupplementCracking the AP Chemistry Exam
Top Pick For Last Minute PrepAP Chemistry Crash Course
Top Pick For FlashcardsBarron’s AP Chemistry Flash Cards

Our #1 choice overall and our top recommendation for students who want to add on to their other course material is Cracking the AP Chemistry Exam from Princeton Review. It’s a great overall guide to the world of AP Chemistry, and has a ton of useful bonus content.

For those with limited study time leading up to the exam, resources like AP Chemistry Crash Course and Barron’s AP Chemistry Flash Cards are more suitable. The do a good job trimming out the excess and really focusing in on what you need to be successful on the test.

Whatever your circumstance, supplemental study and review materials are a key part of ensuring success on the exam. We’ve listed some of the best AP Chemistry resources available. Good luck, and study hard!

Sources and Further Reading

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