Best AP Physics 1 Books – May 2021 Exam

While Physics 1 doesn't require knowing calculus, getting a high score in the AP Physics 1 exam might seem next to impossible. With the overwhelming number of chapters and concepts, it isn’t really the easiest course. 

Luckily, you can fare well in this test with a tad bit of strategy and adequate preparation. Over the next few sections, we will take a look at the best test-taking strategies that'll help pull up your score, which in combination with the right books should make it easier to get a 5.

The Ultimate AP Physics 1 Prep List

As you look at our recommendations below keep in mind what you need the book for. If you're self-studying and need to learn the concepts from scratch than a book with just practice questions probably isn't enough.

AP Physics 1 Essentials is a comprehensive and easy-to-read guide that is tailored for both beginners and advanced readers. 

The biggest highlight of this book is that it comes with 600 problems with relevant solutions and explanations. Since the explanations are substantiated with appropriate examples, students will gain a deeper understanding whereby they have a clear vision about approaching the question and formulating the answers. 

The book covers every important topic included in the AP Physics 1 course including (but not limited to), dynamics, impulse motion, momentum, gravity, ration, power, energy, mechanical waves, sound, and more. Each of the chapters offers detailed insight into these topics. The best part: every chapter comes with a set of questions that'll help you understand your strengths and weaknesses.

In addition to the detailed analysis of the chapters, we were also impressed by their online portal that lists the important questions and answers with a set of supplemental problems and interactive videos. Since the portal also features a dedicated answer forum, you can clarify your doubts as and when needed. 

This book, with its interactive insights and information, will help prepare for your exam both as a guide and as review material. It introduces you to the essential concepts that'll help you ace your upcoming AP Physics 1 exam. Since the format is straightforward and easy-to-approach, it'll barely take you a few days to understand the concepts.
Going by its rave reviews and the quality of the content, this book certainly seems to be worth your time and money. 


  • Follows an extremely straightforward approach.
  • Comes with questions, answers, and subsequent explanations.
  • Helps prepare for your exam as a guide and a review book.
  • Backed by an online portal that includes questions, answers, and interactive videos.
  • Familiarizes you with the essential concepts tested in your AP Physics 1 Exam. 


  • The number of full-length AP Physics 1 tests are limited.

If you’re looking for a detailed review of the AP Physics 1 test, Barron’s AP Physics 1 is one of your best bets! 

This book offers a comprehensive subject review covering every important concept like kinematics, circuits, harmonic and circular motion, sound, and more. The concepts aren’t just detailed but are also thoroughly explained with a set of realistic and practical examples. 

As with other AP Review books from Barron, the Physics 1 book comes with four full-length practice tests. While two of them can be accessed through the book, two others can be accessed online. Each of the questions is backed by answers, explanations, and thorough assessments.

In addition to these full-length tests, the book also comes with a diagnostic test that assists students in targeting the areas that require maximum attention. So, while the review and the practice tests cover the important areas, this diagnostic test adds an extra edge to your preparation. 

The concluding chapters of this book also comes with some vital tips and advice for approaching complex problems in your AP Physics 1 Exam. Here you’re also introduced to the test-taking strategies that save your time by helping you complete the exam within (and even before) the allocated time.
Overall, this is an excellent study material for your upcoming AP Physics 1 test, and given its positive reviews, we’ll certainly recommend it. 


  • Offers a comprehensive review of important concepts like motion, sound, waves, circuits, and more.
  • Includes four full-length AP Physics 1 Practice Tests.
  • Comes with both online and offline tests.
  • The bonus diagnostic test helps address your weak areas.
  • Backed by a set of vital test-taking strategies. 


  • Some of the concepts included in the book may not be as relevant for your AP Physics 1 Exam.

Cracking the AP Physics 1 lives up to its reputation by offering some of the most relevant insights about your upcoming exam. The book is tailored for exam-takers and course material is aligned with the 2021 syllabus. This way, you only study the concepts that might be asked in the AP Physics 1 Exam.

As with other Cracking the AP books, this one leaves out the unnecessary details that may not be as important for your exam.
What we loved most about this book is perhaps the fact that it only includes suggestions that work. The techniques incorporated in the course have been tried and assessed by previous test-takers. So, when you follow these methods and align your preparation with them, you end up working smarter and faring significantly better. The book will help you create a solid pace and will also make way for logical guessing. By the time you finally complete it, you’ll know every important strategy to fare a full five.

The book comprehensively covers the concepts of kinetics, Newton’s law, rotation, motion, circuits, waves, and everything else between. Since it includes plenty of charts and figures, grasping the concepts become easier.
In a bid to help you with proper practice, Cracking AP Physics 1 features four-full length practice tests with proper answers and explanations. You will also find another bonus online practice test with answers, examples, and substantial reasoning. Other excellent additions include practice drills at the concluding section of every content review section and detailed walk-through along with a set of sample questions.

Finally, it is also backed by a set of useful study plans, a complete list of formulas, and updated information for the 2020 course. In fact, you can also check the changes in the course with the handy ‘Student Tools’ tab that can be accessed via the online portal.


  • Offers a comprehensive content review of every vital concept.
  • Includes a set of practice drills at the end of every chapter.
  • Comes with study plans and detailed walkthroughs for approaching the AP Physics 1 questions.
  • Features four full length offline practice tests and one full length online practice test. 


  • The number of questions might seem limited to advanced learners.

This Elite student edition of 5 Steps to a 5 is perfectly aligned with the 2021 AP Physics 1 Curriculum and it offers useful study plans that assist you in building the required skills, expertise and knowledge for getting a high score in the AP test. 

The book features three full-length practice tests (two offline and one online) along with detailed answers, study strategies, and other vital details about the scoring pattern. So, when you prepare for your exam with this book, you aren’t just introduced to the basic AP Physics 1 concepts, but you also get to be familiar with the answer patterns and approaches. 

Since the guide is available in both digital and print formats, you can use it online via your smartphone, laptop, or directly from the book. It also includes a 'Five Minutes to a Five" section that is dedicated to helping you with AP curriculum activities. Using this will help reinforce and recapitulate vital AP Physics 1 Concepts and according to most users. Since the activities are short, completing them won’t take much time either. 

The book also comes with practice exercises, an AP Planner, and an extremely useful analytics tool. The practice exercises are duly backed with answers and explanations, the AP planner can be personalized according to your study schedule, and the analytics tool is extremely handy in helping you assess your readiness for the test.
Other vital additions include games, flashcards and interactive sessions that keep you hooked throughout the course. 


  • The course guidelines are relayed in a simple and easy-to-grasp format.
  • Comes with two offline and one online exam.
  • Features an excellent analytics tool that helps with the preparation.
  • Comes with a set of games, and interactive flashcards.
  • Includes an AP Planner that can be tweaked according to your schedule. 


  • Certain sections include irrelevant details that may not be as appropriate for your AP Physics 1 Exam.

AP Physics 1 Exam Format

The AP Physics 1 Exam will have two sections, namely; the Multiple choice and the Free-response section. Here's what you need to know about them.

Section 1

Type: Multiple Choice

Time: 90 minutes

Number of Questions: 50

Score: 50% of the total score

Section 2

Type: Free Response

Time: 90 Minutes

Number of Questions: 5

Score: 50% of the total score

AP Physics 1 Exam Strategies

If you’re looking to ace the AP Physics 1 Exam, check out these useful strategies that won’t just pull up your score but also help you prepare better.

Brush Up the Basics

Unless you brush up on your basics, it is only likely to get stuck while tackling the more complex questions. This is precisely why you should study every concept thoroughly. If you are unsure of a certain topic, use your review book or check online. You can also use the illustrative diagrams for better understanding. Regardless of the resource, you're using, make sure you intuitively navigate it and do not miss out on any detail. This will inadvertently help you fare better.

Understand the Equations

You can never fare well in your AP Physics 1 exam unless you completely understand the vital equations. Once you have a clear idea, make an effort in memorizing them. Some commonly asked equations include the equation of velocity, acceleration, power, angular velocity, kinetic energy, angular acceleration, centripetal acceleration, momentum, and impulse-momentum. You should also memorize the equation for Newton's Second Law since it is commonly asked in the tests.

Focus on The Concept of Scalar and Vector Quantities

Very often, students struggle with the concepts of scalar and vector quantity. Since this is frequently asked in the exam, it is important to understand them in detail. The easiest way to do this is by understanding the differences between scalar and vector quantities. While scalar quantity only has magnitude, a vector quantity has both magnitude and direction. Once you get this idea clear, approaching the toughest of questions will be simpler.

Read the College Board’s Description

If you are running short of time and are only looking to focus on the important bits, use the college board’s description for AP Physics 1. This document can be easily accessed from the website of the college board and it contains several vital concepts that aren’t just necessary for the exam but are imperative in enhancing your problem-solving abilities. Using this document will also offer a better understanding of physics.

Create Diagrams for Certain Questions

Certain questions in AP Physics are probably best handled when you draw a supporting diagram with it. This is even more relevant when the question involves calculating the total force in a specific direction. For questions like these, make a coordinate axis along with vectors and component vectors in the image. Next, mark the vectors with symbols that clearly define the subscript. This way, the examiner will get the impression that you indeed have a clear idea about the question asked.

Use the AP Assessment Tests

Almost every leading AP Physics 1 Review book comes with a set of full-length AP exams. It is important to complete these exams once you’re done with the course. This won’t just help you manage time but will also help identify your strong and weak areas. When you have a clear idea about the areas requiring your attention, devote your time to addressing the faults and clarifying your doubts.