Computer Science A is the bedrock of one of the worlds fastest growing interests - computer technology. It's aimed at introducing students to college-level computer science by cultivating their understanding of hardware and algorithms as it applies to real-world problem solving.
It is worth noting that AP Computer Science A is not quite as complicated as it comes off. The college board records a 70% success rate among candidates who take the exam, making it one of the most passed AP exams. That said, high pass percentages pose a different kind of challenge; and in order to stand out, examinees must aim to outperform the majority.
Nothing better guarantees a great performance than the right study materials. And if you can't quite decide what AP computer science A books are best suited for the task, you have come to the right place.
Our round-up will take you through the best AP computer science A books for the most recent AP exam as well as a few bonus tips for exam taking, studying in crunch time, and so on.
The Ultimate AP Computer Science A Prep List
A great AP Computer Science book is a lot of things, including interactive, stimulating and easy to understand. But more importantly, it's any book that best reflects the learning objectives indicated by the College Board curriculum.
In this light, the best AP Computer Science textbook should be one that encompasses the framework of the course and helps you pass the AP exam. It:
Prepared by M.S degree holder and seasoned author, Roselyn Teukolsky, Barron's AP Computer Science A lives up to the sterling reputation of its other publications. It is considered one of the best AP computer science review books with a holistic approach to the course curriculum, featuring an interactive layout that keeps students engaged.
Barron's AP Computer Science A includes a diagnostic test, which is especially useful for pinpointing concern areas. It contains chapters on variables, import statements, binary algorithms, arrays and slew of other curriculum based topics to prepare you for the AP exam.
This edition reflects the most recent updates to the course overview, including down casting from the AP Java subset and the removal of the ClassCastException.
Barron's AP Computer Science A finishes with six full-length mock tests and includes bonus access to three additional practice tests online, which help you build your confidence for exam day. Online resources are especially great for those that study on the go.
You also get detailed answers and scoring charts for all featured free-response questions. If you're looking for the best AP Computer Science review book to cover everything you need, we suggest investing in this one.
- A complete overview of the course curriculum
- Features updates to the course overview
- Includes access to online practice tests
- Features scoring charts and answer explanations to free-response questions
- Could use a few more multiple choice examples
- Some of the practice tests are much harder than the real test and nearly undoable
It is not particularly hard to figure out why we are won over by this Decoding AP Computer Science book: it was written by a high schooler.
This may call to question the experience of the author. But if it helps to ease your skepticism, then yes, he got some help from the adults. Not to mention, a high school student may have a better understanding of how to help their peers.
This prep book features engaging life examples. It includes an online course for go-everywhere learning, will solidify your knowledge of basic Java programming language. It also includes 250 sample questions and 3 full-length practice exams to get you used to the format of the AP test.
There are some typos and errors within the review book, but we think the content outweighs the problems.
And to top things off, the author plans to invest all the book's proceeds towards making the luxury of technology available to everyone. That's why Decoding AP Computer Science is one of the best AP prep books on the market. So if you don't mind the fact that it was written by a high school student, we suggest you give this one a go!
- Covers all needed Java topics
- Written from the perspective of a high schooler
- Includes a slew of practice exams
- Some answers lack in depth
- There are some typos and errors in the code
- Should be used with accompanying material
5 Steps to a 5 has a long history of providing strong review content, so we cannot say we are surprised at the quality of this prep book.
Let's start with its customizable study guide, which is an excellent addition for those relying on self-study. This feature allows students to design a study plan that best suits them; it's the perfect way to incorporate reliable strategies that will strengthen your study pace, assimilation and retention. It also features a diagnostic test which is especially useful for evaluating your ability before each study session.
The content review section 5 Steps to a 5 AP Computer Science is an absolute winner. It touches on virtually every part of the college board curriculum and features a separate section entirely devoted to algorithm writing. It also features post-chapter quizzes, plus three full-length practice tests to ensure that you get all the practice you need for the big day.
To top things off, this five step program comes at a pocket friendly price, especially considering its quality and the track record of its publishers. If you're looking for a comprehensive content review to help you ace the AP exam, 5 Steps to a 5 is a good choice.
- Thorough coverage of the course curriculum
- Pocket friendly price
- Features a section dedicated to algorithm writing
- Practice tests
- Trusted brand - 5 Steps to a 5
- Multiple choice examples are sparse
Regardless of the latest advancements in computer technology, Java is not likely to become obsolete any time soon, and this best-selling Java-focused prep book is a sure way to strengthen your knowledge in preparation for the AP exam.
We especially love that it's authored by a computer science and mathematics expert, who has first-hand experience as a one-time consultant for the College Board.
It thoroughly explores all the AP CS material, with a special focus on Java, and it includes five full-length practice exams as well. You also get suggestions and code for 20 labs, all of which are based on the free response questions in the practice exams.
Given its special focus on Java, this is best used with a general textbook. However, this AP Computer Science book is a sufficient stand-alone resource for intermediate-level algorithm writing and programming.
If you're looking for the best AP Computer Science resource for Java, this is one of the best study guides for you.
- Includes plenty of sample code
- Features five full-length practice questions
- Java focused content
- Not recommended for beginner programmers
- Must be used as an accompaniment to a main textbook.
While Computer Science Principles has a different focus than the Computer Science A exam, their learning objectives sometimes overlap or intersect. Thus, having some insight into computer science principles will help ease the study process of computer science A in many ways.
The Fundamental Concepts for AP computer science principles does an incredible job of exploring these concepts, taking students through the intricacies of the foundational computer science as well as other complex discussions.
It should be noted however, that is not sufficient material with which to prepare for computer science A or computer science principles for that matter.
AP Computer Science A Books To Avoid
Princeton Review: Cracking The AP Computer Science A Exam
Our problem with this book is not that it is absolutely unusable, it is that, with years of experience under their belts, this book does not reflect the reputation of The Princeton Review. More than 40% of its users complain about glaring errors in the book with practice questions that are vague and unanswerable while others have incorrect declarations. Between featuring vague practice questions, and comically wrong answers the Princeton Review is hardly suitable for self-studying.
Admittedly, it has a good review of key concepts and intermediate Java programmers may be able to spot and ignore the errors easily without fatality. However, the same cannot be said for beginner programmers. It's a shame, as Princeton Review books tend to be good.
The AP Computer Science exam is designed to assess students' skills developed in line with the course framework and learning objectives of AP computer science. The three hour long exam is structured with similar question types and scoring guidelines as previous years. It's also aimed at evaluating the real-life problem solving skills and time management abilities of each examinee.
The AP Computer Science exam is in two sections.
Section 1 of the test accounts for 50% of the exam score and runs for 1 hour and 30 minutes of the total time. This section typically features 40 multiple choice questions drawn from Computational Thinking Practices.
Section 2 of the exam lasts 90 minutes and accounts for 50% of the exam score, as well. Its four featured questions are focused on Methods and Controlled Structures, Coding and Program Writing using Method Specifications and Expressions.
Last Time The AP CSA Exam Was Changed
In recent years, no significant changes have been made to the AP computer science exam. However, there have been slight tweaks to the course layout in the bid to better align students' experience with the learning objectives of the course.
Additional Tips & Resources For Studying
Understand The Learning Objectives:
This is essentially what the entire course is all about.
Every examinee with a full grasp on the course description and learning objective of AP computer science will be properly equipped to tackle any and all questions.
Every AP Computer Science student should have an understanding of algorithm development, ethical computing, code logic testing and implementation, and program design.
Don't Be Afraid to Splurge on Materials
When it comes to finding the right study materials, the truth is, you're more likely than not to get exactly what you pay for. The quality of a study material, tool or text book is reflected in its price tag. This is often commiserate with how much effort went into its compilation and production.
If you skimp on anything else, then it certainly shouldn't be your chance at getting a perfect score. Of course you might be lucky to score a few materials for a steal, but those are mostly an exception to the rule than the norm.
Look for high-quality content review books and materials that include practice tests, sample questions, test-taking tips, and more to help you ace the Computer Science A exam.
Use Online Materials
When it comes to AP Computer Science, online resources and materials are great for their ease-of-use and flexibility. They're especially invaluable for students or intending examinees who are constantly on the move.
Also, there are a plethora of online courses, review materials, test-taking strategies, and public access practice materials that are absolutely free. You should be able to find online full-length practice tests and more. So, if you're working with a tight budget, it might be time to hit the web.
We suggest checking out Khan Academy which offers a great deal of free resources to help you prepare for the AP Computer Science A exam.
Get Familiar with AP Computer Science Lingo
Learning the language of AP Computer Science is a great way to leave a lasting impression on your examiner. Students who are especially fluent in computer science lingo will better navigate the test-taking progress, even if they are met with challenging problems.
Practice, Practice, Practice
There is no such thing as too much practice.
Practice exams, mini tests and post-chapter exercises are the life-blood of any study session. Be sure to keep an eye out for mock exams that mimic the structure of the real test and also includes scoring tools with which to evaluate performance. Full-length practice tests will be especially great for this.
It's also important to use AP Computer Science materials that offer detailed answer explanations to ease the learning process.
Try not to leave your studying to the last minute.
Pro-tip: if you take a test at the beginning of your study session and retake it after the session, you can better evaluate progress.
Despite being the more technical of the two, AP Computer Science A has recorded more success among students than AP Computer Science Principles. But while this suggests that it might be a little easier to pass, there are no guarantees - especially for the unprepared.
That said, computer science is proven to be an invaluable tool across various disciplines, so studying for this course will offer you so much more than a pass mark. This is a great time to throw yourself into studying and practicing with mock exams. Armed with one of our highly recommended texts and a determination to succeed, there aren't many things that can stand in the way of landing your 5.