The Best AP Biology Review Books of 2019

By December 3, 2018 September 11th, 2019 AP Book Reviews
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Not sure what the best AP Biology review book to buy is? In this comprehensive article, we break down our top picks for what our favorite AP Biology study guides are for this year.

You can never go wrong with a good and reliable review book for your AP Biology classes or for the exam itself. This is because Biology itself covers a wide range of topics that can easily overwhelm you if you don’t know where to start and what to focus on. This explains why only 61.5% of those who took the most recent exam got a score of 3 or higher. In that case, you really need a good study aid that can guide your entire review for the Advanced Placement Biology exam.

Nevertheless, choosing the right review book for your exam can also be quite a daunting and difficult task. Since the exam was modified several years back, not a lot of review books have adjusted to reflect those updates. Because of that, we have put together a list of the best AP Biology review books that not only follow the modified outline but also promise to give you the highest score possible in the upcoming exam.

If you prefer a video, check out the summary section to watch our overview of what we cover here. If you prefer just getting to studying, get our top pick for AP Biology here.

Our Favorites (the best AP Biology review books)

Campbell Biology by Lisa Urry, Michael Cain, Steven Wasserman, Peter Minorsky, Jane Reece

This isn’t really a review book but your basic knowledge of biology should start somewhere. There is no better way for you to build your foundation in any subject than to use a full-length textbook. After all, a review book is simply a review book that should only be used to help you recall things you have studied in the past. That is why you should start your review for the AP Biology exam with one of the best biology textbooks.

Campbell Biology is one of the most successful biology textbooks on the market and is widely used by high school and college students alike because of how comprehensive it is. It aims to help you understand biology in a deeper sense while also challenging you to apply what you have learned using engaging activities and exercises that really work the brain.

Though it is a long read even for textbook standards, this material is still great in its own right because of how easy it is to follow and understand. The contents are organized well and it has an understandable writing style that isn’t too heavy for students. The book also uses diagrams, illustrations, and examples that make it easier for you to comprehend what you are reading. Overall, it’s just a fantastic textbook that should be the foundational rock for your AP Biology classes and review.

Satisfied customers on Amazon love how comprehensive and versatile the book is. Even doctors praise the book for how useful it is for college and AP Biology courses. To top it all off, it is even called the best biology book on the market by most of the positive reviews online. It does carry a hefty price tag but it is a book you can never do without if you want to master biology.

What makes it unique:

  • It is the most complete and comprehensive AP or college-level textbook on the market.
  • The latest edition of the book comes with media resources that can improve the way you learn the subject.

Why choose this book:

  • Your foundation of biology should start somewhere, and this book more than covers everything you need to master the basics of the subject.
  • Despite being a long read, it isn’t too heavy of a text because of how it makes you understand the concepts of biology in an interesting and easy-to-comprehend manner.

Preparing for the Biology AP* Exam by Jane Reece, Lisa Urry, Michael Cain, Steven Wasserman, Peter Minorsky, Robert Jackson, Fred Holtzclaw, Theresa Knapp Holtzclaw

This is the partner book to Campbell Biology and was made specifically for the AP Biology exam. In that sense, it summarizes the contents of its mother book to fit the outline and the demands of the College Board. It goes hand in hand with Campbell but can also stand on its own as a review book that supplements what you have already learned in your past biology courses.

Like its mother textbook, this review book specializes in making biology engaging and interesting to read in an understandable way. However, since it was made specifically for the AP Biology exam, it takes out the most important topics from Campbell and summarizes them in a comprehensive and in-depth manner without having to stray away from what made its mother book a favorite among students and teachers alike.

Because it was tailor-made for the AP Biology exam, this review book contains different types of questions such as multiple-choice and free response at the end of every section or chapter to train the way you answer questions and exams. The book also helps you connect certain topics with one another to get you acclimated to what the updated version of the exam demands.

It’s just a really solid book that has gotten a lot of positive feedback on Amazon. Reviews all rave about how helpful of a material it is at providing you the concepts needed in the test while also preparing you with questions that perfectly represent what would come out in the AP Biology exam. And, for the price, it is the perfect companion to your Campbell textbook or any other biology book for that matter.

What makes it unique:

  • It was tailor-made as an AP Biology companion to Campbell Biology.
  • The book covers the important topics using the same style used by its mother textbook.

Why choose this book:

  • If you own or have already read Campbell, then no other review book can be as useful as a supplementary material as this one.
  • The practice questions perfectly mirror the updated style of the AP Biology exam. This gives it a clear reason to belong in our list of the best AP Biology review books.

Cracking the AP Biology Exam by The Princeton Review

Known for the quality of its review books, The Princeton Review has produced a pretty solid material to be used for the AP Biology exam. This review book delivers you everything you need to know to get a perfect score of 5 in the upcoming exam.

The book contains a comprehensive review of the topics that are in the College Board’s outline. This part of the book is easy to understand and read because of how it is broken up into sections. The chapters also end with a review of the important terms and words and with questions that will test what you have learned.

There is a section that gives you an overview of what you should expect in the exam and how you would be able to maximize the book to get the most out of your review time. It also guides you in creating your own study plan that caters to your goals, needs, and remaining study plan.

The best parts of the book are the test-taking tips and strategies you can use to get the highest score possible as well as the practice tests that come with it. The Princeton Review’s practice tests are usually considered challenging enough to help you adjust to what you will be encountering in the actual AP Biology exam. Because of such, it’s a solid study aid that’s cheaper than others on the market.

What makes it unique:

  • The book is easy to read and contains diagrams that help make the entire review process interesting and bearable.
  • You are guided through the process of making your personalized study plan to make sure that it fits all your needs and goals.
  • The premium edition contains up to five practice exams. Meanwhile, the regular edition has three practice tests.

Why buy this book:

  • It is a well-rounded review book that delivers content, tips, strategies, and practice questions and exams.
  • This book tends to be student-friendly and caters to the needs of teenagers. In that sense, it isn’t too overwhelming and dry.

The Runners-Up for Best AP Biology Review Books (still good but a little lacking)

Barron’s AP Biology by Deborah Goldberg

Barron’s basically covers everything you need to get a good score in the exam as far as content and topics are concerned. It is considered to be one of the most popular books in that regard because of how extensive and comprehensive the subject review part of the book tends to be. The way the review is handed out to you also mirrors the College Board’s outline.

When it comes to layout and format, Barron’s AP Biology also stands out. The layout is simply pleasing and easy on the eyes and will not tire or bore you quickly compared to other books that tend to be dry. Its use of diagrams and illustrations also helps you learn in a more visual sense to break the monotony of endless reading. You can really see that the author and publisher of this book put in the necessary effort in its design.

The book also contains dozens of practice questions to hone your skills at answering multiple-choice and free-response questions. And, to top it all off, it has two practice exams that each have answers thoroughly explained to make you understand how and where you went wrong.

However, what makes this book a runner-up on the list is that it does not have test-taking tips and strategies. Some customers also complain that it tends to get too wordy. And, finally, it has not been updated to fully reflect the latest format of the AP Biology exam. But it is still a solid book that deserves your consideration.

What makes it unique:

  • It has one of the most comprehensive of the top AP Biology content reviews on the market.
  • The layout and design are pleasing enough to get the student engaged for longer periods of time.

Why choose this book:

  • It has plenty of practice questions that are similar to what you will be encountering in the exam.
  • If you prefer a light read that doesn’t feel too boring or bland, then this review book should be at your corner.

AP Biology Prep Plus by Kaplan Test Prep

An updated book that perfectly follows the restructured style of the AP Biology exam, Kaplan Test Prep’s review book is can be a must-have material if you prioritize getting the most up-to-date study aid on the market. Because of this, Kaplan promises its review book to help build your confidence and test-taking skills in time for the exam.

As mentioned, this review book is well-aligned to the updated format and structure of the exam. To that end, the chapters deliver a comprehensive overview of the topics and are aligned to the four main ideas that the new structure of the exam focuses on. There are also quizzes after each chapter to help develop your retention and the way you approach and answer questions in the actual exam.

AP Biology Prep Plus comes with a study plan that you can easily customize according to your goals and remaining prep time. In that sense, the study plans are tailored to adjust to you instead of the other way around. This gives you the freedom to pace yourself during the entire review process and to maximize whatever time you have left before the exam.

A good feature of this book is that the tips and strategies it gives are tailored specifically not just for any exam but for the AP Biology exam. This means that your training will be focused solely on answering the actual exam. In line with that, the book also comes with two full-length practice tests to help you gauge how prepared you already are.

If there was a knock to this exam, it is that it gets too wordy in the sense that it is not an easy read for students though it tries hard enough to relate to them. It isn’t as light as its competitors are and can get a bit too bland for some students. However, it is still worth your time and money for an affordable price.

What makes it unique:

  • This one of our best AP Biology review book picks perfectly aligns itself with the new format of the AP Biology exam.
  • The tips and strategies are specifically made for the AP Biology exam and not just for any other exam.

Why choose this book:

  • Go for this top AP Biology review book if you want a review material that completely follows the new restructured format of the exam.
  • It delivers a comprehensive review that does not skimp on the details.

The Best Value for Your Money for Best AP Biology Review Books (good and affordable):

CliffsNotes AP Biology by Phillip Pack

This revised version of Cliffs Notes’ review book for AP Biology has been updated to reflect the restructured format of the AP Biology exam. Nevertheless, it retains all of the great qualities that have made it a favorite among students and teachers alike. The best part is that it has become more affordable lately.

Despite how affordable the book is, it does not sacrifice content. It has all the information you need to get to know the exam as well as the strategies you might want to use to stand out and separate yourself from the rest of the pack. It also trains you to answer the different types of questions you will be encountering in the exam.

The book, of course, includes a review of all of the relevant topics that will come out in the exam. The content is detailed well enough for you to get a deeper understanding of the concepts. And, at the end of every chapter, there is an overview or summary that serves to improve your retention of the most important information.

What makes it a great value for your money is that it also comes complete with practice materials. The two full-length practice tests are modeled after the AP Biology exam. They also come with their own answers and explanations to help you understand how to get to the right answer.

What makes it unique:

  • It knows how to summarize the topics after each chapter really well.
  • The book reflects the changes in the reformatted AP Biology exam and is up-to-date when it comes to information.

Why choose this book:

  • This is a solid book that is worth the affordable price tag because of how effective it is at improving your knowledge.
  • It doesn’t have a lot of weak points as a book although it might need to improve on its practice materials.

Summary of the Best AP Biology AB Review Books

To put all together, here is a table of the best AP Biology review books we went over today, with their list prices and page counts for reference.

ProductList PriceNumber Of Pages
Campbell Biology $259.99 1488
Preparing for the Biology AP* Exam $19.96 464
Cracking the AP Biology Exam 2019 $25.99 464
Barron's AP Biology $18.99 560
AP Biology Prep Plus 2018-2019 $21.99 528
CliffsNotes AP Biology, 5th Edition $18.99 432

Because of how the College Board has reformatted the AP Biology exam, you are better off using the most updated materials on the market. However, keep in mind that review materials are only for review purposes. To that end, you might want to start things off with a comprehensive textbook that helps you understand all of the basics of biology.

Once you already got that covered, feel free to choose one or more of the books we have listed for you. There are plenty of other quality books on the market but we believe you can’t go wrong with our choices.

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