Best AP Human Geography Books – May 2021 Exam

There are many AP Human Geography books that claim to be the best resource and/or study tool for intending examinees. And yet, less than 60% of the students who take the exam score a 3 or higher. This is not to say that simply purchasing a great AP Human Geography book is an automatic guarantee of success, but it certainly makes a great jump off point.

Like most AP courses, the introductory college-level human geography course comes off as slightly intimidating -- and can seem insurmountable, especially if you're reading this page a month before the exam or even closer to it. 😉

So, we scoured the market in search of the best AP Human Geography study materials to help ease the pressure, and get you a step closer to that 5. 

The Ultimate AP Human Geography Prep List

The common denominator among great AP text books is that they encompass the curriculum of the course in question and are a reflection of the examiners expectations -- which, in this case is the College Board. 

According to the course overview designed by the board, AP Human Geography is intended to stimulate each students understanding of Human Geography and through geographical analyses cultivate their interest for the subject of the consequences of human activity on the environment, societal change, as well as patterns and spatial organization and processes.

Thus a great AP Geography book for the 2020 exam would be one that:

  • Covers all seven units of study that make up the AP Human Geography framework. These units include geographical thinking and population/migration, cultural, political, agricultural/rural, city/urban, industrial/economic patterns and their processes.
  • Feature in depth explorations of the principles and theories of the course
  • Helps students develop skills relating to concepts and processes, spatial relationships and data, source and scale analysis.
  • Is interactive and engages the thought process of students
  • Evaluates the learning process of students.

Each of our recommended materials reflect all or some of the above mentioned elements.

Living up to their sterling reputation as one of the best household names in AP material publication and test preparation, Barron's AP Human Geography is everything you want in a Human Geography review book -- from a diagnostic test to evaluate your current abilities to concise information on all seven units of the AP Human Geography framework, and practice tests; lots and lots of them too.

We especially love how the book seems to walk the fine-line between sticking to need-to-know information without skimping on any of the relevant concepts. It is also worth mentioning that all four practice tests (two on the hard cover and two online) are accompanied with answers and answer explanations, with the online tests even featuring automatic scoring for a taste of the full AP grading experience.

Even more, each chapter is fitted with its own glossary of terms so that you can stay in the loop without having to go digging for definitions -- in all ramifications, this is as good as it gets.


  • Diagnostic and online practice tests with automatic scoring
  • Post-chapter glossary of terms
  • Concise information


  • Practice questions might be a tad too difficult.

For students looking to get the most possible information in the least possible time, this book is the perfect pick.

This book offers a complete but brief analysis of the AP Human Geography course overview discussing the framework units in a concise, easy-to-read manner.

The targeted focused-review format of this book helps for seamless memorizing or just a quick refresher on the subject.

And this is topped off by the free practice exam that can be accessed online and also features detailed answers as well as an automatic scoring analysis which offers students a quick evaluation of their abilities while pointing to specific concern areas that need improvement.

It's not ideal for in-depth studying, but as a quick review of the key concepts this book is indespensable.


  • Targeted, focused-review presentation
  • Great for memorizing important concepts
  • Relatively affordable


  • May need to be paired with a different material

This book is specifically for students looking for an experiential angle to AP Human Geography.

Through discovery-based learning, users can grasp the geographical concepts and their relevance to human challenges using this book. 

So, rather than just exam preparation material, this is a book for everyone looking to get a keen understanding of the subject.

The author goes from addressing the unique inter-relationship between diversity and global development to engaging users in the use of geographical tools and techniques.

This is no ordinary AP Human Geography book. And naturally, it is reflected in its price tag. But even though this costs a pretty penny, it certainly proves its money's worth. 


  • In-depth, unique analysis of Human Geography concepts
  • Engaging presentation
  • Great for non-examinees


  • Quite expensive

Cracking the AP Human Geography Exam offers a comprehensive insight to the AP Human Geography course framework, boasting everything students need to score a perfect 5 -- and from what we've seen, it is not too far from the truth.

The book is a balanced presentation of tried-and-true test-taking techniques, content reviews and engaging activities to help users grasp geographical concepts easier, and it also features detailed illustrations, maps and trends for visual learning.

Even more, it features 2 full length practice exams plus post-chapter drills to better evaluate progress.

To top things off, the book comes with access to an online portal which houses relevant exam and pre-college updates that will be especially useful for intending undergraduates.


  • Includes test-taking tips and tricks
  • Comprehensive content review
  • Access to online update portal


  • Digital version does not include images

This is a broader alternative to the AP Human Geography Crash Course and is compiled by the same publisher -- REA. 

The book provides a detailed account of the AP Human Geography course framework and also features a course review that can be used as reference material or a primer.

Its practice exams mirror the format of the most recent AP Human Geography exam, and questions are all accompanied by detailed answers with explanations aimed at clarifying and strengthening the users understanding of the topic. 

Best of all, it also includes suggestions for taking the test as well as a study schedule which is especially useful for better planning and properly pacing study sessions.


  • Detailed course content representation
  • Includes a study planner
  • Provides thorough explanations to practice test questions


  • Should be used as a supplementary textbook

AP Human Geography Books To Avoid

Amsco Advanced Placement Human Geography

While there are a few textbooks with some problem areas due to human errors, students insist that the Amsco Advanced Placement Human Geography is altogether unreliable. It has been decried as unrefined and rushed with a multitude of complaints regarding typographical errors and misprints. Even worse, it features practice quizzes which do not have answers, and as per publisher arrangements only teachers and schools may request or access the answer key. Now, there are a few things that are forgivable, but needing to hunt down answers that will help further your study progress is certainly not one of them.

5 Steps to a 5: AP Human Geography

Unfortunately, some users did not have much praise for this book either, which is rather surprising since 5 Steps to a 5 has a rock-solid reputation for top-tier AP study materials. The book is riddled with errors, incorrect definitions and does not feature a scoring chart to accompany the 4 practice tests included. And while we cannot hide our disappointment, this does not discredit the accuracy of other editions by this publisher.

Test Structure

The AP Human Geography exam will test the knowledge of students on the skills and concepts outlined in the course overview. The exam will require participants to answer a total of 63 questions split into two sections, in a period of 2 hours and 15 minutes.

Section I of the test will query examines in multiple choice form. The section features 60 questions which account for half of the total score and should be answered in an hour or less. It will especially test the abilities of students to employ quantitative and qualitative analysis in problem solving.

Section II accounts for the other half of the total exam score and features 3 questions which should be answered in an hour and 15 minutes. The focus of this section will be testing the ability of students to describe, explain and apply geographic scenario, data or situation. 

Last Time The AP Human Geo Exam Was Changed

The most recent change to the AP Human Geography exam was made after the May 2019 exams implemented beginning in the 2019-2020 school year. However, the intention of the college board is to keep the point system and questions the same so that students know what to expect in subsequent exams.

The changes made to the exam include:

  • Increasing the emphasis on quantitative and qualitative analysis.
  • Narrowing down the task and stimulus types 

Additional Tips & Resources For Studying

Barron's AP Human Geography Flash Cards

Flash cards are a fun, fail-proof way to study and memorize key concepts, especially when they are rather abstract. These flashcards are the perfect complement to the Barron's AP Human Geography textbook. It contains a set of over 400 hand-sized cards which feature explanations of various concepts and can be arranged in order of relevance in order to customize the study process.

Figure Out the Curriculum and Learning Objectives

It goes without saying -- studying without a clue of the course overview can have fatal consequences. By figuring out the course syllabus, you will not only have a specific set of goals which will align with the learning objectives of the examiner, but you will also be able to evaluate your strengths and weaknesses and adequately tackle them before the exam.

Master the Test Format

Knowing the exam structure often proves to be one of the most invaluable tools for success. It can help you learn to pace yourself while answering questions and also offer some insight into what questions should be given attention based on the grade point system of the examiner. Not to mention, being familiar with the test format also includes understanding certain relevant terms and terminologies frequently used by the examiner.

Practice, Practice, Practice

There is no such thing as being over-experienced where AP exams are concerned. Luckily, the internet is littered with resources that are especially useful for tracking practice tests and exams. Practicing not only helps to sharpen your skills, but it also helps to evaluate your progress and discern areas of concern.

Don't forget to Use CollegeBoard Resources.

What better way is there to ensure a perfect score than to use materials provided by the examiners themselves? The AP Human Geography Student Page is fitted with everything from instructional materials to practice resources all of which are especially designed to provide insight for the exam and even throughout the school year. Think of it as a sneak peak into the true expectations of the examiners.


Of all the seasoned experts and authors claiming to have the cheat-sheet on learning, retention and reproduction, nobody knows what works best for you better than you.

That's right, the process of learning is a lot of things, but it is certainly not cut and dry or one-size-fits-all. So, if you must make that perfect score then it is going to require a lot of self evaluation and even more self discovery. And when you find what study system works best for you, you can pair it with any of our highly recommended resource materials and be ready to take AP Human Geography by storm.

Good luck!