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The 4 Best AP European History Review Books [2023-2024]

Article by Jane Newsom. Last Updated: Saturday, Sep 2, 2023.

AP European History Overview

AP European History is equivalent to a 2 semester introductory college level course covering the history of Europe from approximately 1450 to present. Students will use the same skills, practices, and methods as actual historians to connect 6 broad themes which connect historical developments in different times and places. There are no formal requirements for AP European History, but students should be able to read and write at the college level.

We’ll cover the course, exams, and our picks for the best AP European History books, Flashcards, and Review Guides for test year 2023 below, but if you just can’t wait, here’s the short list:

AP European History is a great way to get a jump start on required history courses or general education credits for motivated students. Whatever your reasons for studying AP European History, we’re here to help you succeed!

Course Summary

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

AP European History students develop and use the same skills, practices, and methods employed by historians: analyzing primary and secondary sources; developing historical arguments; making historical comparisons; and utilizing reasoning about contextualization, causation, and continuity and change over time.

The course is organized into 4 chronological periods from 1450 to the present. While studying each period, the main concepts help students identify and understand historical trends and connections.

The AP History program specifies disciplinary practices and skills which are imparted to students:

Practice 1: Analyzing Historical Evidence

  • Students will evaluate primary and secondary sources credibility and limitations.
  • Explain the historical significance of a primary source’s point of view, audience, purpose, and historical situation.
  • Explain how a historian’s claim is supported with evidence.
  • Analyze patterns and trends in non-text-based sources.

Practice 2: Argument Development

  • Make a historically defensible claim in the form of an evaluative thesis.
  • Support an argument using specific relevant evidence.
  • Use historical reasoning to explain relationships among pieces of evidence.
  • Consider ways that evidence could be used to qualify or modify an argument.

Practice 3: Reasoning Skills

  • Use context to explain relative historical significance of a historical development or process.
  • Explain the relative differences between historical developments or processes.
  • Explain the difference between primary and secondary causes, and between short and long term effects.
  • Explain the relative significance of historical developments in relation to a larger pattern of change.

AP European History courses are jam packed with information, so students are strongly advised to supplement their other course books with an AP specific prep book where possible.

Exam Summary

Students taking the AP European History Exam must demonstrate knowledge of the above mentioned concepts and themes, and their ability to “think historically.” The student’s mastery is assessed through a 3 hour and 15 minute exam containing questions in multiple choice and free response format. The exam is broken up into 2 sections, each with 2 parts. Section on accounts for 60% of the overall score, and section 2 accounts for 40%

Section 1: Multiple Choice and Short Answer

Part A (Multiple Choice):

  • 55 minutes long, with 55 multiple choice questions.
  • Questions organized in sets of 2 to 5.
  • Students analyze primary and secondary texts, images, graphs, and maps.

Points are awarded for each correct answer, and no points are subtracted for incorrect or unanswered questions.

Part B (Short Answer):

  • 40 minutes long, with 3 short answer questions.
  • Students respond to 2 required questions and pick a third from 2 optional questions.
  • Students analyze a historians’ interpretations, historical sources, and propositions.

Section 2: Document Based and Long Essay

Part A (Document Based):

  • 60 minutes long and contains 1 question.
  • Students develop an argument supported by an analysis of historical evidence.
  • Question is from the period 1600-2001.

Part B (Long Essay):

  • 40 minutes long and contains 1 question.
  • Students select 1 question from 3 different periods of the course.
  • Students develop an argument supported by an analysis of historical evidence.

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

Best AP European History Books

AP European History 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!

Cracking the AP European History Exam

Cracking the AP European History Exam
2023 Edition
by Princeton Review

Pros: Best overall resources (print and online).
Cons: Fewer practice tests than some books on this list.
Best For: Year-long supplement for other course texts.
Our Rating: 5 / 5

Our top recommendation for AP European History students overall, is Cracking the AP European History Exam from Princeton Review. The list of 2020 review books for this subject is a close race with many fine entries. At the end of the day, this is our top pick because of it’s detailed and focused information, access to bonus online content, and realistic practice tests. The full list of features include:

  • 2 full-length practice tests with detailed answer explanations
  • Proven test taking strategies for both the multiple choice and free response sections.
  • Access to online portal with additional resources for AP students.
  • Timeline of major events in European History.

This is a great choice for students who are looking to compliment their other course textbooks and really get a leg up. If you have used and enjoyed any of the other Princeton Review guides, this one is sure to suit you well!

Barron’s AP European History

Barron's AP European History
Premium Edition
by Seth Roberts

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 European History 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).
  • Extensive charts that summarize Europe’s history.
  • Practice multiple-choice, short-answer, and essay questions with answers following each chapter.

This is a great choice for any student enrolled in the AP European History course and exam. The bonus material is top notch, and super helpful. Fans of other Barron’s subject guides should definitely check this one out.

AP European History Crash Course

AP European History Crash Course
3rd Edition
by Krieger & Harrold

Pros: Cuts out the fluff to focus on exam specific topics.
Cons: Limited practice test resources.
Best For: Last minute review leading up to the test.
Our Rating: 4.5 / 5

AP European History Crash Course is slightly different than the other books on this list. It has a very narrow focus on just the information you need to take the test. Features include:

  • Free full length practice test online.
  • Study only what’s needed for the exam.
  • Expert test-taking strategies for all sections of the exam.

If you’re short on time leading up to the exam or just need a quick review of the key course concepts, this book is your best bet. On the other hand, if you’re looking for a more broad and comprehensive review guide, this may not be the best pick.

5 Steps To A 5: AP European History

5 Steps to a 5: AP European History
Standard Edition
by Jeffrey Brautigam

Pros: Great overall review with logical organization
Cons: Fewer practice tests and limited online resources
Best For: Year long study aid to compliment course textbook.
Our Rating: 4.5 / 5

5 Steps to a 5 AP European History rounds out our list of best AP European History Books for 2020. It’s a pretty good resource, and has great practice tests. Features include:

  • 2 Full length practice tests
  • Comprehensive overview of the AP European History exam format.
  • Hundreds of practice questions with detailed answers.
  • Comprehensive review of the exam and format.
  • Free AP Planner app to help you schedule and prioritize your stufy time.

Overall, 5 Steps to a 5 AP European History 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 European History Flashcards

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

Barron’s AP European History Flash Cards

Barron's AP European History Flashcards
1st Edition
by David Phillips

Pros: Well organized and comprehensive.
Cons: Some of the cards are relatively simplistic.
Our Rating: 4.5 / 5

Barron’s AP European History 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 European History guide, or any of the other books outlined above. Key features include:

  • Over 450 flashcards.
  • Covers all 6 themes from AP European History 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 European History flashcards. Memorization of key terms can be quite a chore. With these flashcards, the task is made easier and far less mind-numbing.

Wrapping Up

AP European History is a popular choice for high school students looking to either get a jump start on college level science requirements or an interest in European Historys. Unlike some subjects, the top review guides for AP European history are all particularly good - and we think you’d do well with anything on our list.

Our comprehensive list of top AP European History 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 RecommendationCracking the AP European History Exam
Top Pick For Course SupplementCracking the AP European History Exam
Top Pick For Last Minute PrepAP European History Crash Course
Top Pick For FlashcardsBarron’s AP European History Flash Cards

Cracking the AP European History Exam is our top pick overall and our highest recommendation for general course supplemental guide. It has a strong layout, comes with good online resources, and covers all the important information needed for the test.

For students facing less of a time crunch, Barron’s AP European History 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 European History resources available. Good luck, and study hard!

Sources and Further Reading

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