Best AP Chemistry Books- May 2021 Exam

The sheer amount of content you have to know is intimidating.

For many students that's made worse by the fact that you can't just memorize the answers or the processes. 

You have to actually know it. 

Unless your teacher is amazing and you listened perfectly in class, you probably don't know the material well enough to get a 5.

But don't be afraid. The books below will give you more than a fighting chance. 

The Ultimate AP Chemistry Prep List

If you're planning on self studying for the exam keep in mind that you should also get a textbook in addition to 1 or 2 of the review books below.

If you’re looking for a book that follows a well-rounded approach, this book by the Princeton Review is your best bet! 

This book follows a detailed yet balanced approach in covering every relevant study topic. The biggest highlight, however, is its interactive activities and questionnaires that motivates you to keep learning. 

We were also impressed by the content review of this book. Thanks to this review, you get to know what you’ll need in the laboratory. What’s more, you also learn to operate the laboratory equipment correctly. As you flip through the chapters, you will find some useful strategies that have been followed by successful students in previous exams. This is especially useful in helping you create a solid blueprint for your study sessions.

Best known for its complex practice sessions, this book comes with four sample exams. You can try them at home to test and hone your skills. Since these practice sessions are more complex than your actual exam, you will be thoroughly prepared for the process regardless of the type or nature of questions. As you keep practicing, the process will inadvertently boost your confidence.

Overall, the guidelines provided in this book are extremely useful and going by the rave reviews of students, parents, and teachers, we will certainly recommend this to you.


  • Follows a holistic approach to teaching
  • Offers useful strategies to crack the exam.
  • Loaded with high-quality guidelines by expert authors.
  • Teaches you multiple laboratory processes.
  • Comes with a set of challenging practice tests. 


  • It doesn't come with a scoring model.

If you’re looking to understand important topics from scratch, the this book will certainly live up to your expectations. It book doesn’t just introduce you to important concepts; instead it goes the extra mile by allowing you to assess your skills with its challenging questionnaire. 

The book comes with a comprehensive topic review. Note that the review covers all important areas like the state and structure of matter, chemical bonding, reactions, the various forms of physical chemistry and a variety of other topics.

As previously mentioned, this book also comes with three practice exams that are complex and extremely challenging. Since the authors have answered the questions, you can always tally your answers to check where you stand. Unlike general AP Chem books, the authors of this one explain the concepts involving to the most minute details. This further ensures that you have no room for doubt by the time you complete the book.

In addition to the full-length exams, you will also find online tests and diagnostic tests. While the online tests offer you the convenience of trying them according to your schedule, the diagnostic tests allow you to focus on the target areas where you require more attention. 

Like other AP books, this Barron one also comes with a set of useful study guidelines, test strategies, and practical skills that help students fare remarkably better on the exam.


  • It follows a simple yet straightforward approach.
  • It comes with online and offline tests.
  • Includes a set of useful strategies for the exam.
  • Covers important topics from scratch.
  • It comes with a set of useful and detailed answers.


  • The practice tests can be overwhelmingly challenging for beginners.

Sterling's book is ideal for anyone who is looking for a detailed review of the exam concepts. It doesn't ignore important details. Instead, it covers every important topic without loading you with irrelevant details. 

We were impressed by the fact that this book educates you about every fundamental aspect of the subject. That means, it isn't just limited to what you'll see on the exam, but goes much further to help you learn better.

The content is straightforward and is delivered in an organized way. This way, students are thoroughly engaged as they study the course. Unlike other courses, this course ensures that you understand the key concepts. That way, you get the ability to get information from the available data so that you can easily differentiate between similar question choices.

The book has received multiple rave reviews from students. Many teachers have also lauded it for quality content. Going by the reviews and the student testimonials, this book is surely value-for-money.


  • It provides simple, structured information about the six key concepts.
  • The approach is straight-forward.
  • It helps you understand the key concepts better.
  • Ignores fluff and irrelevant details. 


  • Slightly expensive.

CliffsNotes is yet another top contender.

As with Barron and Princeton Review guides, this book follows a well-rounded approach while introducing you to the complex concepts you might face on the exam.

This review book also follows the outline of the College Board. That means it comes with the six major topics that the current exam will focus on. These topics include Chemical Equilibrium, Thermodynamics, Rates of Reaction, Chemical Reactions and their Types, Molecules and Molecular Interactions and the Fundamental building blocks. 

The underlining quality of this book is that it addresses the topics from scratch. So, if you are not very familiar with the concepts of AP chem, this book will certainly help you with its simple approach. The guidelines suggested here are easy to grasp and the author explains every relevant detail in a basic and straightforward way. As you start reading this book, you don’t just have to skip from one concept to a more difficult concept. Instead, you get to learn every important concept in detail before proceeding to the next.

Every chapter of this book comes with a set of review questions. These questions have separate answers and explanations that allow you to switch from one area to the next. The book also includes two practice tests that will assist you in boosting your confidence and improve your abilities in answering tests.

The final addition to this book is a set of sixteen different laboratory exercises. These exercises help you prepare for the lab tests you'll see on the exam. Since it explains why you need the respective laboratory equipment, you get to practice better even if you're unfamiliar with lab tests.

Since the book explains concepts beyond the purpose of your examination, you get to have a thorough understanding without much complexity. Available at an affordable price, this book is surely a useful aid to both students and teachers. 


  • Covers the six important topics of the exam.
  • It comes with a set of useful questions.
  • The approach is both well-rounded and straightforward. 
  • Includes a set of useful laboratory exercises. 


  • The most recent version is pretty old.

If you are already familiar with the AP chem concepts and are looking for a book to test your abilities, Sterling's Practice Questions is an excellent resource. You can use this book along with your review books for a complete approach.

While this book is certainly not ideal for the ones who are starting, you will benefit from the resource once you're slightly confident about the six major exam concepts. Either way, it is an excellent book for some added practice. 

The biggest feature of this book is that it comes with a set of 900 different questions. These challenging questions cover the important topics, preparing you for the test better. Even before you start with the questions, you will find a detailed guideline about taking the AP test. So, if you are taking the test for the first time, you’ll get an insight into the right strategies to follow.

The book also lets you access online resources. Unlike other AP testing books, these online resources are promptly updated. Usually, you will find an advanced and more refined version of these resources every four to six weeks. The best part: the resources are updated according to the feedback from users.


  • It comes with a set of 900 questions that covers every important exam topic.
  • Includes some useful test-taking strategies.
  • The online materials are frequently updated. 


  • Since the book only includes questions, you will not find a study guide.

AP Chemistry Exam Structure

As with other AP exams, this one involves two major sections. The first section includes a set of multiple-choice tests, while the next one is a free-response section. For both these sections, you can use a periodic table listing the elements. Additionally, you will also get a chart that lists the formulas required for calculations.

How Does the Multiple Choice Section Work?

If you're wondering how the multiple-choice section of the exam works, here's a brief overview.

Questions: The section includes sixty questions. You will have four answer options for every question.

Time: You will get around 90 minutes to complete the test.

Score: 50% of your score will be determined from your performance in this section.

Note that you won’t be able to use a calculator for this test. We would also like to mention that a couple of questions in this section will specifically focus on a single set of data. Alternatively, you will also get other questions focusing on different, independent data.

How Does the Free-Response Section Work?

Next in line is the Free Response Section. Here’s what you should know about it.

Question: In this section, you will have to answer seven questions. While four of them will be short-response answers, the other three will demand longer responses.

Time: As with the multiple-choice section, you will get ninety minutes to complete the test.

Score: This section carries a 50% score of the Test.

Note that you can use a calculator for this test.

What Areas Does the Exam Focus On?

The exam will test in you in five remarkable areas. First, you will be tested on experimental design. Next, the examiners will check if you can analyze data and identify the right patterns. You will also be tested on your knowledge of the chemical phenomenon. In the third area, you will be tested on your ability to create and assess both atomic and molecular views. Note that here you might be asked to explain the observations you made.

In the fourth area, the test will check if you can articulate and translate between the various data-centric representations. Finally, in the fifth area, your analytical abilities will be tested. The questions here will assess if you can follow a logical framework while trying to deduce a problem.

What is a Good Score?

According to the College Board, you will need to score at least 3 to pass the AP chemistry exam. While 3 denotes ‘qualified’, 4 denotes ‘well qualified’, the score 5 denotes ‘extremely qualified’. You will need to score at least 3 for college credit qualification. That said, several Universities will only give you credit if the score is 4 or higher. You can always check the AP credit policy of your preferred university to check if you qualify there.

Bottom Line

Whether you're self studying or trying to get some more practice in addition to your classwork, the above books should be more than enough to get you that 5 that you deserve!