Best AP Chinese Books- May 2021 Exam

At present, Chinese – particularly Mandarin – is the most spoken language in the world, and it’s not even close. Almost 1.4-billion people, or one in every six, can fluently converse in this dialect, which means that mastering this skill will allow you to connect with a very larger audience. This includes, but is not limited to the worlds of business, academics, and even interpersonal relationships.

These statistics are directly correlated to the AP Chinese course and why it is slowly gaining traction. In 2016, only about 12,500 students in America enrolled in this program. This number, however, grew to 13,100 that year after, and again to 13,800 in 2018. Furthermore, zeroing in on the AP Chinese student score distributions, just last May, will show us a passing rate of 91% and an astonishing average score of 4.31.

This data proves that Chinese is not only popular among grown-ups but a growing phenomenon among the younger generations as well. So for those sharing this interest and are looking improve through the Advanced Place Program, here are some of the best resource materials on the market.

The Ultimate AP Chinese Prep List

Learning any language is difficult, and 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.

The resources below are best used in combination with speaking practice and other non-book tools.

Barron’s has become almost synonymous to the Advanced Placement Program, which is why it is one of the go-to textbooks for students. The AP Chinese exam is no exception.

Besides its comprehensive review of topics and two full-length practice tests, this option also includes online audio that presents spoken material to what will come out in the actual exam. (The previous version had a similar CD version if you'd rather purchase that)

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

Furthermore, the topics discussed in Barron’s AP Chinese Language and Culture review book is incredibly similar to the real test.

Going through that can provide any student an actual experience of what’s to come.


  • Very realistic to the actual exam
  • Includes review materials on listening, reading, writing, and learning the culture
  • Acceptable for self study
  • Updated with the latest testing format


  • Focuses too much on what will come out in the exam; does not add any new knowledge
  • Works better for those already with a background on Chinese culture

Students who learn better through testing are going to love this particular review book.

Unlike others that focus on refreshing users with different topics, this book bombards them with various practice exams. This way, they can experience for themselves how answering a standardized test with a time limit feels like.

It comes with eight full-length assessments and two longer one that replicate the actual APs. Additional resources like a collection of MP3 audio files and a summary of often-used Chinese characters are also included. 

Going through these seemingly basic, yet incredibly help topics can further strengthen one’s mastery of the Chinese language.

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 Test is a good fit for them or not.


  • Numerous practice tests can help users prepare for the actual exam
  • The CD included can fast-track one’s absorption of tones and proper pronunciation
  • Online version can be installed on any mobile device for easy accessibility
  • Very affordable


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

This 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. Therefore, it’s a great option for anyone studying on his or her 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 an effectual 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 on the subject. 

Once those implements are set up, the book then shifts its attention to refreshing the user’s mind on critical topics that will come out in the exam. It presents the information in a clear manner so students don’t get overwhelmed, while likewise sharing occasional tip along the way. Of course, 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 feel more manageable. It also serves as a helpful guide for younger students taking this for the first time.


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


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

Test Structure

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. Moreover, instead of the usual pen and paper, the test will be 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 test will require individuals to listen and read various conversations before selecting the most applicable response. This will take roughly 80 minutes. On the other hand, 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.

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

Last Time The AP Chinese Exam Was Changed

It does not seem that the AP Exam for Chinese has had many significant changes in the past years. Both the format and content have widely remained the same since it was first introduced to school. Therefore, students and teachers alike can make use of all the resources available.

Additional Tips & Resources For Studying

Compared to studying for say a math or science related test, the AP Chinese exam is a bit trickier. As mentioned earlier, student shouldn’t just rely on memorizing words or reading through textbooks to pass. They’ll need to really 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 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 basic of Mandarin. It’s great for beginners still learning the ropes.

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 who find themselves in this boat will want to read along to learn some helpful tips.

Build a Strong Foundation – Before even taking on the AP Chinese exam, it’s important for every participant to know the fundamentals first. Begin by learning the Mandarin version of the alphabet or some super simple phrases like hello and how are you. Practicing these over and over is a good way of training oneself with how to speak the language.

Listen to Audio Files – Hearing these records 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 one’s knowledge of how to pronounce words.

Practice, practice, and practice! – Studying in solitude should not be a reason to not be able to practice. Conversing with someone is ultimately the best way to get better while expanding your vocabulary in the process.

Never Settle for Memorizing, Always Understand – Remembering keywords and phrases won’t do anybody any good if they don’t know the why’s behind it. It’s always best to dig deep, keep an open mind, and fully embrace learning this subject.


It’s definitely crazy to think that about 17% of the world’s population is fluent in Mandarin, which makes the AP Chinese course all the more valuable. Essentially, it transforms this subject from just a class to a practical skill for everyday use.

After all, shouldn’t this be the end-goal of all our learnings in school?