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Best AP US History Review Books in 2021

AP Us is also popularly referred to as APUSH.

So, when you take this course, be ready to come across various actions of US history, which will expose you to an understanding of such events.

It’s when you acknowledge the past, that it will become easy to navigate the similarities of the present day and objectively compare any future occurrences.

Like any other AP exam, you will have to thoroughly study for AP history, using appropriate test prep materials, which include books.

To make things easy for you, we came up with a list of the best AP US History books, complete with a buying guide as presented below;

Best AP US History Review Books

Company AMSCO’s United States History The Princeton Review Barron’s Crash Course

5 Steps to a 5

Price $18 $16 $16.67 $11.59 $12.30
No. of Full-Length Exams Not indicated 5 5 1 6
No. of Practice Questions Not indicated Multiple, number not indicated Several, number not indicated Several, number not indicated multiple, number not indicated
No. of Pages 808 576 576 352 512
Format Paperback Paperback, Online access Paperback, Online access Paperback, Online access Paperback, Online access
Difficulty? TICK 1 TICK 1 CROSS 1 CROSS 1 CROSS 1
Kindle CROSS 1 TICK 1 TICK 1 TICK 1 TICK 1
Test-taking strategies TICK 1 TICK 1 TICK 1 TICK 1 TICK 1
1. AMSCO United States History

The first thing you will love about AMSCO’s United States History AP book is how well-written it is and the way the author gives a decent review of all critical concepts you need to hack the exam.

The edition comes with numerous short-answer questions, which will help you weigh your mastering skills as you review from one chapter to the next.

As expected, the book also comes with a full-length practice test at the end of the book.

This test is pretty similar to the actual test, and it will be worthwhile to take it.

It, however, might not be an ideal pick for students whose deal-breaker lies with the practice tests.

Another downside I find with this book is that students can’t easily order the answer key for the practice questions.

This can make self-study really difficult, especially if they have no teacher to order on their behalf.

But, if you’re determined to get it, you can always organize and have it shipped to your school, which I find too limiting.

This book is, however, a perfect purchase for students who have a teacher to supply them with various practice tests.  Or those who want to supplement it with other study materials

It’s well organized in 9 units so that you can skip back and forth, depending on your strengths and weaknesses.

Therefore, if you don’t mind the absence of numerous practice tests, then this 808 pages book is definitely a worthwhile investment at only $18 (Paperback)

There’s no kindle option.

Pros
  • Very informative
  • Affordable
  • Well-organized
  • Comprehensive coverage of content
  • Practice problems have a difficulty similarity with the actual AP exam
Cons
  • Could do better with more practice tests
  • Students can’t directly order the answer key

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2. The Princeton Review Cracking the AP US History Exam 2020

There’s a reason as to why the AP US History students speak highly of the Princeton review book.

It comes complete with all the crucial information students require to attain a high score.

That’s not all, the way the author covers the content is very detailed, relevant and informative.

All this should make the review book one of your top picks if a straight 5 is what you want!

Yes, this might not be your typical traditional textbook, but that doesn’t make it any less useful in the way it approaches the US history matter.

You will also appreciate the end-of-section summaries, which make it easy to peruse through all the content you should have mastered.

Besides, the author of this 576 pages book uses simple language, without a trace of irrelevant content.

And of course, there are multiple review questions, complete with 5 full-length exams, to boost your knowledge and confidence as the exam day approaches.

Plus, students gain access to free online content and targeted strategies for every exam section.

It will cost you $169 (Paperback). And there’s also a cheaper Kindle option.

Pros
  • Affordable pricing
  • 5 full-length practice tests
  • Excellent combination of essay and multi-choice questions
  • Comprehensive coverage of all crucial US history details
Cons
  • The cover creases easily

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3. AP United States History: With Online Tests (Barron's Test Prep)

Barron’s APUSH review book is up-to-date and well-aligned to prepare you for the actual AP history exam adequately.

The package offers detailed coverage of all essential US historical aspects, which will come handy even when faced with tricky questions.

And like The Princeton Review book, Barron’s also equip students with 5 full-length practice tests.

The tests are patterned to mimic the actual AP exam.

You will find two full-length practice tests in the printed copy you order and then access the other 3 online.

And to ensure you get the best out of these tests, they come complete with detailed explanations to answers, to point out your area of weakness for appropriate improvement.

You will also find test-taking strategies for both essays and multi-choice questions.

The numerous problem questions will also help you weigh your concept mastering skills in readiness for the full-length practice tests and the actual exam.

The 576 pages book currently goes for $16.67, with no much pricing difference on the Kindle option.

Pros
  • 5 full-length practice exams
  • Simple language with in-depth explanations
  • Well-organized
  • Useful test-taking strategies
  • Affordable
  • Detailed answers
Cons
  • No highlight on the primary areas of focus
  • Includes a few unnecessary details.

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4. AP® US History Crash Course

Every student knows how vital a Crash course can be, especially when working on a tight time frame.

Therefore, we can’t consider this best AP history review books list complete without a mention of the AP® US History Crash Course.

This quick review study guide covers only the essential must-know details that will help you answer the exam like a pro.

The best part is that it’s compiled by AP experts, with years of experience, who know which questions have a high tendency of appearing in the exam.

There are also numerous practice questions, which come in terms of mini-practice tests, and 1 full-length practice exam, which students can access online.

The benefits of taking the full-length practice test online are that the system offers you timed testing, automatic scoring, and detailed explanations to answers.

This will help you know your standing, as far as the official AP exam is concerned.

So, you can work on improving before time runs out.

But I just wish this 352 pages book could include more practice tests.

That aside, students also benefit from expert test-taking strategies and advice, which, if adhered to, can significantly boost your score.

All these, for only $11.59 (Paperback). If you’re a Kindle fan, you can also opt for that.

Pros
  • Summarized content on all crucial chapters
  • Lots of problem quizzes
  • Ideal for last-minute review
  • Affordable
  • Well-explained answers
Cons
  • Only 1 full-length practice test

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5. 5 Steps to a 5: AP U.S. History 2020

If your dream has always been to score a 5 in the AP US history, then you need a step by step guide such as the 5 Steps to a 5: A.P. U.S. History 2020, to help you out with amazing and achievable tips.

So, when you receive this book, it’s like you getting a 2-in-1 package since it not only offers a detailed review of all critical materials but can also act as your effective study plan.

Plus, you receive 6 full-length practice exams; 3 coming with the printed copy, and you get to access the remaining 3 online.

And that’s not enough; there are also hundreds of practice exercises, complete with an in-depth explanation for every answer.

Also, since the practice questions reflect both the multi-choice and free-response questions, students get a feel of the actual A.P. exam patterns.

The 512 pages AP US history review crash course will cost you $12.30(Paperback), which I find affordable with the extensive list of key terms it presents.

If the Paperback is expensive for your budget, you’ll be glad to know that the Kindle option is only $10.

Pros
  • Access to the Cross-platform prep course
  • Massive glossary key terms
  • Several question problems
  • Exam-taking strategies
  • Comprehensive overview of the AP US history
  • Excellent supplement for the history textbooks
Cons
  • Could do better with a concise summary of time periods.

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6. Kaplan Test Prep's A.P. U.S. History Prep Plus 2020 & 2021

Are you searching for a top resource for the AP US History exam?

Well, you can never go wrong with this Kaplan book, especially if a comprehensive coverage of events is what you need.

The book has been updated to suit the current A.P. exam patterns and requirements, so you can rest easy knowing that the details you get are the most current.

Also, the 3 full-length practice exams that come with this book give you a glimpse of what to expect on exam day.

The answers come well-explained to equip you with necessary details as to why some seemingly correct answers turn out wrong.

You need to know how to approach a tricky question, and there isn’t a better way than this.

Furthermore, each chapter comes with a range of pre and post-quizzes to help you monitor your progress and pinpoint which areas need more polishing and how exactly to go about it.

I also love the fact that the book offers students customized study plans that will reflect their goals and prep time.

And of course, there are numerous useful test-taking strategies designed by Kaplan’s AP US history experts. So, it really isn’t about trial and error.

It can’t go without mentioning the online quizzes that will offer you additional practice and the focused content review that will ensure students maximize their study time.

The 624 pages book is currently priced at $21.65, which is okay based on the features it offers.

Unfortunately, there is no Kindle option.

Pros
  • 3 full-length practice exams, complete with an online scoring model to keep you abreast with your performance
  • Thorough review on must-tested AP US history key areas
  • Up-to-date with the present A.P. syllabus and exam pattern.
  • Concise explanations
  • Useful quizzes at the beginning and end of each chapter
  • High-score guarantee
Cons
  • Online scoring too is too complicated for beginners

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7. Princeton Review A.P. U.S. 2021 History Premium Prep

Are you thinking of acing the A.P. Us History exam in 2021? Think of investing in the Princeton Review A.P. U.S. 2021 History Premium Prep.

The book is another masterpiece from one of the bestselling AP US history books brand.

It comprehensively covers all the significant events you need to know for a high score in your exam.

And that’s not all; the package comes with 6 full-length practice exams, 4 of which you will find in the book, and you get to access the remaining 2 online.

Most students also find the tried and tested exam-taking strategies useful in avoiding tricky traps that this exam is best known for.

There are also other long essay questions, complete with in-depth guidance on how to handle them for a good score.

And of course, once you receive the package, you can access study plans and a handy list of essential terms and concepts, which will give you a better understanding of US History.

There’s also massive information on pre-college. All this, via the online student tools.

At the end of each chapter of this 576 pages book, you will find a list of review questions that you can use to assess your material retention capability.

With all these features, it isn’t surprising that the book costs $26, with a Kindle option standing at $15.15.

The only downside is that this might not be favorable to on-budget students, but if you can afford it, then it is worth your investment.

Pros
  • Numerous extras with online access
  • Proven exam-taking strategies for success
  • Exhaustive content review
  • Pacing drills for point maximization
Cons
  • A bit expensive for on-budget students.

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AP US History Exam Format

Knowing the A.P. History exam format is an integral part of getting ready for the actual exam.

The exam presents consistent types of questions and weighs scoring guidelines annually.

It consists of two sections;

Section 1A contains 55 multi-choice questions, taken in 55 minutes, and it accounts for 40% of the exam score.

In this section, you will notice that the questions appear in sets of 3-4, and students are expected to provide an analysis of various historical texts, evidence, and interpretations.

Section 1B this is the short answer section, and it comprises of 3 questions. Students get 40 minutes to answer the queries, and this section accounts for 20% of the exam score.

It’s in this section that students will analyze historian interpretations, historical propositions, and historical sources.

There will also be questions about texts, images, maps, etc.

Here it’s primarily about students demonstrating their knowledge

Section 2A the document-based question section, with 1 question, to be taken within 60 minutes (15- minutes reading period) and accounts for 25% of the exam score.

Here students get 7 documents, each with different perspectives on historical development. They assess them and then develop an argument based on their analysis of the historical evidence.

Section 2B the long essay section, with 1 question, to be taken in 40 minutes and accounts for 15% of the exam score.

Students can be asked to explain and analyze significant U.S. history issues, argue their points out, and question choices with a focus on the same skills and reasoning procedure.

How Do I Prepare for AP US History?

  1. Practice with Non-Text Resources

A.P. review books are an excellent way to prepare for the exam, but for maximum results, it’s advisable to combine your sources.

So, invest in at least one non-text source for your practice.

Remember, you need to equip yourself with images, charts, and map analyzing skills. And so seeing makes some concepts easy to retain.

Source out for some videos, pictorial illustrations and go through them from time to time.

The best thing is that you can do this using your smartphone. And since you carry it pretty everywhere, this shouldn’t be difficult.

  1. Time Yourself Every Time You Take A Practice Test

I am saying this because I expect you to take as many practice questions and full-length practice exams as possible. So, this isn’t even optional.

Remember, there’s no extra time allocation in the actual exam. Once your time elapses, you will have to submit your work.

So, start practicing early by timing for practice and assess your progress. This will give you room to improve before the exam day.

  1. Form a Study Group

If you’re attending classes, then you have no excuse of not belonging to an AP US history review group.

Mobilize a few friends and set aside time for discussions.  With the help of the online platforms, you can easily score your essays and help each other with ideas on how to polish on your weak areas.

So, no matter how good you feel you’re, there is still a lot you can learn from your friends. Learn together. Make it fun and strengthen those friendships.

But, even as you do this, remember each one of you will be on their own on examination day, so don’t use up the time meant for individual study.

Also, no consulting each other on exam day!

  1. Thoroughly Review the Cross-Chronological Information

Invest time to polish your take on the various long-term effects of the multiple historical events in the U.S.

The best way to do this is by using flashcards. Nowadays, most test prep companies (such as the ones mentioned above) offer students the opportunity to customize flashcards. Maximize on that and keep studying on-the-go.

  1. Don’t Try to Cram Everything

The primary focus of the AP US history exam is to weigh your knowledge. So, most of the time, the sections expect you to think on your feet and figure out issues.

So, you really won’t get a chance to copy-paste anything you read in a book. As such, you should always aspire to invest time in learning to understand, such that you can apply the same strategies in different case scenarios.

FAQs About Best AP US History Review Books

Is AP US History Easy?

According to a good number of student review online, the AP US history ranks as one of the toughest A.P. courses.

But, this shouldn’t discourage you from taking the exam as thousands of students have gone through it and scored well.

So, if they could do it, you too can!

Of course, with sufficient studying and prep work

What Do You Need to Get A 5 On AP US History?

Scoring a 5 in the AP US History means you qualify for college credits in two courses, so it isn’t surprising if you want to achieve that. I mean, who wouldn’t.

But is it easy? No.

And is it achievable? Of course, yes!

I am a firm believer that nothing is impossible under the sun if you put your mind to it.

Enough with words, now let me show you how to fish;

First, you will need to get yourself some top-notch test prep resources. I have reviewed some of the books here, so that shouldn’t be a problem. Combine the books with other free online resources and flashcards.

Also, don’t forget to subscribe to AP US history blogs and join the APUSH Facebook group to mingle with your kind.

All these, together with sufficient practice questions, will get you a 5 if not a 4.

Conclusion

Tons of information revolving around US history is what best describes the AP US history exam. And so, if you want to attain a high score, you have to prepare adequately using the right materials.

The above list contains some of the best book resources in the current market. Choose one or two of them depending on your needs and get right into studying mode.

Remember, you don’t have to master everything you come across. Instead, concentrate on highly testable topics, and spend less time on “unnecessary” details.

You can also form a study group with your friends and help each other with difficult areas.

But at the end of the day, you should place yourself first before anyone else. So, no compromising on self-study time in favor of study groups (well, not unless it’s absolutely necessary and to your benefit.)

All the best!

John Reed
My name is John Reed and I am the chief editor of TestPrepPal.com. I am alumni of university of of Pennsylvania and want to help future graduates with their tests.

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