AP Environmental Science Overview
AP Environmental Science is equivalent to an introductory college level course where students learn about the scientific principles and methods required to understand the natural world. The course covers identification and analysis of human and natural environmental problems, risks associated with those problems, and potential solutions. AP Environmental Science requires 2 years of high school lab sciences (one physical and one life sciences), and 1 year of algebra.
We’ll cover the course, exams, and our picks for the best AP Environmental Science books, Flashcards, and Review Guides for test year 2023 below, but if you just can’t wait, here’s the short list:
Environmental sciences can be a great choice for students who are looking to either jump right into more advanced environmental science courses, or just fill a general science requirement. Whatever your motivation for studying AP Environmental Science, we’re here to help you succeed!
A full Course Description for AP Environmental Science is available from collegeboard.org.
There are 6 broad themes covered in AP Environmental Science, and they form the foundation of the course:
Science is a process:
Science is the method of learning about the world. It constantly changes our understanding of the way the world works, and is not static.
Energy Conservation Underlies All Ecological Processes:
Energy cannot be created, it must come from somewhere. As it flows through a system, the useful amount of energy is reduced at each step.
The Earth Is A Single Interconnected System:
Natural systems can change over space and time. Different biological systems have different abilities to recover from disturbances.
Humans Alter Natural Systems:
Humans have been altering and impacting the environment for millions of years. Technology and population growth have increased both the rate and scale of human impact on the environment.
Environmental Problems Have Social and Cultural Contexts:
Development of solutions to environmental problems requires an understanding of cultural, social, and economic factors.
Human Survival Depends on Developing Practices That Will Achieve Sustainable Systems:
Management of shared resources is essential, and a combination of development and conservation is needed.
Each of these topics are covered in the AP Environmental Science exam, in varying proportions.
Students taking the AP Environmental Science Exam must demonstrate knowledge of the above mentioned concepts and themes. The student’s mastery is assessed through a 3 hour exam containing questions in both multiple choice or free response format. The exam is broken up into 2 parts, with the multiple choice section accounting for 60% and free response accounting for 40% of a final score between 1 and 5.
Section 1: Multiple Choice
- 90 minutes long and covers multiple themes and topics.
- Questions organized in sets with a common theme and individually.
- Accounts for 60% of the final score.
Points are awarded for each correct answer, and no points are subtracted for incorrect or unanswered questions.
Section 2: Free Response
- 90 minutes long and contains 4 open ended questions.
- Accounts for 40% of the final score.
- 1 data set based, 1 document-based, 2 synthesis and evaluation questions.
Students are asked to analyze a general issue in psychology, using themes and concepts from the topics listed above.
For exam dates, refer to The College Board AP Calendar.
Best AP Environmental Science Books
AP Environmental Science 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!
AP Environmental Science Crash Course
Pros: Targeted focus on exam specific content.
Cons: Fewer practice tests than some books on this list.
Best For: Last minute review leading up to the test.
Our Rating: 5 / 5
Our top recommendation for AP Environmental Science students overall, is AP Environmental Science Crash Course. It’s hyper focused on just the important concepts you need for the test, and cuts out all the filler. The full list of features include:
- Full length practice test with detailed explanations.
- Proven test taking strategies for both the multiple choice and free response sections.
- Focused review of the important content for the exams.
Because of its narrow focus, this choice may not be appropriate for students looking for a more comprehensive review. On the other hand, we strongly recommend it for students in the days leading up to it.
Barron’s AP Environmental Science
Pros: Strong and well organized contents.
Cons: Wording can be confusing in some sections.
Best For: Complimenting required course textbooks for study throughout the course.
Our Rating: 4.5 / 5
Barron’s AP Environmental Science is another top choice for 2020, and an overall fantasic guide. It’s crammed full of useful information and works well as a study aide throughout the course. The full list of features for this book includes:
- 5 full length practice tests (2 printed and 3 online).
- Hundreds of diagrams, charts, figures, and illustrations.
- Detailed review of all test themes with practice questions after each section.
This is a solid choice for any student considering the AP Environmental Science course and exam. It’s got tons of useful online bonus material. Fans of other Barron’s subject guides should definitely check this one out.
Cracking the AP Environmental Science Exam
Pros: Well organized and comprehensive review of the course themes.
Cons: Limited practice test resources.
Best For: Adding context to other required course textbooks, etc.
Our Rating: 4.5 / 5
Princeton Review puts out high quality review guides in most AP subjects, and AP Environmental Science is no exception. This book does a solid job of covering the important material covered in the exam, in a logical and easy to consume fashion. Features include:
- 2 Full length practice tests.
- Glossary of key terms.
- Practice drills at the end of each section.
- Online study plans and more.
This book serves as a good supplement to other required course textbooks. Princeton Review does a good job of presenting the course themes, and the book comes with lots of online content.
5 Steps To A 5: AP Environmental Science
Pros: Practice tests are top notch.
Cons: Less detail and depth than some guides on this list.
Best For: Year long study aid to compliment course textbook.
Our Rating: 4.0 / 5
5 Steps to a 5 AP Environmental Science rounds out our list of best AP Environmental Science Books for 2020. It’s a pretty good resource, and has great practice tests. Features include:
- 3 Full length practice tests
- Proven strategies for both multiple choice and free response sections.
- Hundreds of practice questions with detailed answers.
- Comprehensive review of the exam and format.
Overall, 5 Steps to a 5 AP Environmental Science didn’t quite make it to the top of our list, but it’s still a valid choice for any student. It serves best as a supplement to other course textbook, and has a fair amount of valuable content. Whether you’re getting an early start or crunched on time, there’s something in 5 Steps to a 5 for everyone.
Best AP Environmental Science Flashcards
In addition to the excellent books mentioned above, AP Environmental Science students will see significant benefits in prepping for the exam using flashcards. Our top picks for Best AP Environmental Science Flashcards are outlined below.
Barron’s AP Environmental Science Flash Cards
Pros: Well organized and comprehensive.
Cons: Some of the cards are relatively simplistic.
Our Rating: 4.5 / 5
Barron’s AP Environmental Science Flash Cards serves as a fantastic way to memorize key facts and information tested in the exam in a way that’s fun and entertaining. It’s a great compliment to Barron’s AP Environmental Science guide, or any of the other books outlined above. Key features include:
- Over 450 flashcards.
- Covers all 6 themes from AP Environmental Science course.
- Access to full length bonus practice test.
We fully recommend flashcards as a supplement to any full length textbook or guidebook. Barron’s are our #1 recommendation for AP Environmental Science flashcards. Memorization of key terms can be quite a chore. With these flashcards, the task is made easier and far less mind-numbing.
AP Environmental Science is a popular choice for high school students looking to either get a jump start on college level science requirements or an interest in Environmental Sciences. With so much information to absorb in the course, supplemental guides and flashcards can be critical to the success for many students.
Our comprehensive list of top AP Environmental Science books are outlined above. Which one is right for you will depend heavily on your specific circumstances. To recap our list of recommendations:
|Top Overall Recommendation||AP Environmental Science Crash Course|
|Top Pick For Course Supplement||Barron’s AP Environmental Science|
|Top Pick For Last Minute Prep||AP Environmental Science Crash Course|
|Top Pick For Flashcards||Barron’s AP Environmental Science Flash Cards|
The top pick for AP Environmental Science book of 2020 is AP Environmental Science Crash Course. It’s got a very narrow focus on the specific exam content, and works great for students in the final preparation phase before the exam.
For students facing less of a time crunch, Barron’s AP Environmental Science book and Flash Cards are great as a comprehensive review.
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 Environmental Science resources available. Good luck, and study hard!