Best AP Chinese Books – 2022 – 2023

At present, Chinese – particularly Mandarin – is the most spoken language in the world. Almost 1.4-billion people, or one in every six, can fluently converse in the Chinese language, which means that mastering this skill will allow you to connect with a significant number of people. This includes, but is not limited to, those in business, academia, and even interpersonal relationships.

These statistics are directly correlated to the AP Chinese course and why it’s gaining traction. In 2016, only about 12,500 students in America enrolled in this program. This number, however, has grown to 13,328 in 2021. Furthermore, the most recent AP Chinese student score distributions show us a passing rate of 88%.

This data proves that Chinese is not only popular among adults but a growing phenomenon among the younger generations and high school students as well. So if you share this interest and are looking to improve through the Advanced Place Program, here are some of the best resource materials and AP Chinese books on the market.

The Ultimate AP Chinese Prep List

Learning any language is difficult. Unless you already have some background or are ready to study like crazy, you likely won’t learn enough in one year to get a 5.

We’ve included a list of the best AP Chinese books below. Keep in mind that they’re best used in combination with speaking practice and other non-book tools.

Also, consider that everyone learns differently. Pick the AP Chinese book that plays to your strengths and highlights your weaknesses. For example, do you need more practice with the speaking task, or do you need a prep book that focuses on writing? The best AP Chinese prep books will include practice questions and practice tests, tips and strategies and more to help you prepare for test day.

Barron’s prep books have become almost synonymous with the Advanced Placement Program, and the AP Chinese exam book is no exception. That’s why Barron’s AP Chinese Language and Culture is one of the go-to textbooks for students to learn Chinese.

Besides its comprehensive review of topics and two full-length practice tests, Barron's book includes online audio that presents spoken material covering what will come up in the actual exam.

Just as past test-takers will tell you, the Mandarin dialect relies greatly on intonation, so it can be quite daunting for beginners. Listening to a fluent voice speaking can go a long way in absorbing the material.

Furthermore, the topics discussed in Barron’s AP Chinese Language and Culture review book are incredibly similar to the real AP Chinese test. Going through that can provide any student with an actual experience of what’s to come in the AP exam.

That’s why Barron’s AP Chinese Language and Culture is one of the best AP Chinese books on the market.

Pros

  • Very realistic to the actual exam – includes full-length practice exams
  • Includes review materials on listening, reading, writing, and learning the culture
  • Review materials on learning the culture
  • Acceptable for self-study
  • Updated with the latest testing format

Cons

  • Focuses too much on what will come out in the exam; doesn’t include any new knowledge
  • Works better for those already with a background in Chinese culture

This is the best AP Chinese review book for students who learn better through testing.

Unlike other AP Chinese textbooks that focus on refreshing users with different topics, this book bombards them with various practice exams. This way, they can experience what answering a standardized test with a time limit feels like.

This prep book comes with eight full-length practice tests and two longer ones that replicate the actual AP exam. The book also features additional resources like a collection of MP3 audio files and a summary of often-used Chinese characters, including simplified Chinese characters and traditional.

Going through these seemingly basic yet incredibly helpful topics can further strengthen your mastery of the Chinese language and give you the confidence you need for test day.

Finally, interested individuals can search for an online version of the book first before investing in a physical one. As such, they can better judge whether the AP Chinese Language and Culture Simulated Tests are a good fit for them or not.

So if you’re looking for a prep book to help you tackle test questions, this is the best AP Chinese Language Culture book for you.

Pros

  • Numerous practice tests can help users prepare for the actual exam
  • The included CD can fast-track one’s absorption of tones and proper pronunciation
  • Online version can be installed on any mobile device for easy accessibility
  • Affordable prep book
  • Summary of traditional and simplified Chinese characters

Cons

  • Primarily a text book and not a review
  • Is not meant to be a main study material for the AP exam

This AP Chinese Language and Culture book offers a systematic way to get a high mark on the exam. Very few resource materials today provide the same blend of concise information and effective techniques. It’s one of the best prep books for anyone studying on their own.

As with their other editions, the writers behind this review book have strongly advocated a tried-and-tested process to success. It begins with the essential steps of setting up a productive study plan, pinpointing attainable objectives, and crafting a schedule that works for you. Then, it conducts a simple diagnostic test to gauge a student’s initial knowledge of the subject.

Once those implements are set up, this AP Chinese book reflects on critical topics that will come out in the exam. It presents the information in a clear manner so students don’t get overwhelmed when trying to learn Chinese. It also shares the occasional tip along the way. This process is concluded with a full-length practice test to evaluate whether or not the content was effectively received.

Studying for the AP exam using this method makes this colossal task more manageable. It also serves as a helpful guide for younger students taking the AP Chinese Language and Culture test for the first time.

Pros

  • Highly methodical way of studying for the Chinese AP
  • The topics are presented in a  easy-to-understand manner
  • Users get to learn strategies that actually help during the exam
  • Ideal for self-study

Cons

  • Using this for a crash course is not advisable; meant for long-term studying

Test Structure

The AP Chinese Language and Culture exam consists of four test areas; Multiple Choice Listening, Multiple Choice Reading, Free Response Written, and Free Response Spoken. Each part is worth 25%, with the Spoken Free Response section taking the least amount of time, at 10 minutes.

The AP Chinese exam will take an average of 135 minutes to complete. This whole test is divided into two main sections – multiple-choice and free-response. Instead of the usual pen and paper, the test is administered through a computer. Test takers will select the answers flashed on the monitor, listen through a headset, and speak using a microphone.

According to the Advanced Placement Program’s official website, the first part of the AP Chinese test will require individuals to listen to and read various conversations before selecting the most applicable response. This will take roughly 80 minutes.

The second portion will be focused on creating stories, either verbally or through writing. This aims to evaluate participants on their overall comprehension of the course and how it can be applied to everyday conversations.

To do well, students will need not only to memorize words or phrases but also to get to the essence of how Mandarin Chinese is spoken. Engaging in conversations is a key component of this examination.

Last Time The AP Chinese Exam Was Changed

The AP Exam for Chinese hasn’t had many significant changes in the past years. Both the format and content have widely remained the same since it was first introduced in school. Therefore, students and teachers alike can make use of all the AP exam preparation and resources available.

Additional Tips & Resources For Studying

Compared to studying for a math or science-related test, the AP Chinese exam is a bit trickier. As mentioned earlier, students shouldn’t just rely on memorizing words or reading through textbooks to pass. They’ll need to understand the essence behind the language, master the diction, and be very particular with the accent. So, maximizing a wide array of different resources will go a long way in this endeavor.

Here’s a quick run-through of some examples.

Learning Chinese Characters textbook – Learning Mandarin can sometimes be tricky, but a good book always helps. This particular one focuses on introducing users to the 800 most used and traditional Chinese characters and how to use them in actual sentences.

The Pimsleur Method – Listening to how a language is spoken is a great way to learn it. Pimsleur imparts this skill through their audiobook series that teaches the basics of Mandarin. It’s the best AP Chinese book for beginners still learning the ropes.

A good textbook can only take you so far. Engaging in Chinese culture is also a good way to prepare for the AP Chinese test. Try to watch Chinese movies and listen to Chinese music or even the Chinese radio – heating a native speaker will help you familiarise yourself with tone and language.

Self Study Tips

Since AP Chinese is not nearly as popular as Calculus or Biology, not every school offers this course. This leads interested applicants to rely on their own merits and study alone. Those in this boat will want to read along to learn some helpful tips.

Build a Strong Foundation – Before taking on the AP Chinese exam, every participant needs to know the fundamentals first. Begin by learning the Mandarin version of the alphabet and Chinese characters. You could even work on some super simple phrases like “hello” and “how are you.” Practicing these over and over is a good way to train yourself how to speak the language.

Listen to Audio Files – Hearing recordings on a day-to-day basis can increase familiarity and ease. It is also a great strategy to learn how things are properly said and expand your knowledge of word pronunciation.

Practice, practice, and practice! – Studying in solitude should not be an excuse to avoid practice. Make sure to choose resources that cover AP Chinese practice tests. If you can’t get your hands on full-length tests, then practice questions will do too. Conversing with someone is ultimately the best way to get better while expanding your vocabulary.

Never Settle for Memorizing, Always Understand – Remembering keywords and phrases won’t do anybody any good if they don’t understand them. It’s always best to dig deep, keep an open mind, and fully embrace learning this subject. Seek out the best AP Chinese Language Culture books you can get your hands on, and make sure the information you reading sinks in.

Conclusion

It’s crazy to think that about 17% of the world’s population is fluent in Mandarin. This only makes the AP Chinese course all the more valuable. It will transform this subject from just a class into a practical skill for everyday use.