The Best AP Computer Science Principles Review Books of 2019

By December 24, 2018 October 16th, 2019 AP Book Reviews
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Not sure what the best AP Computer Science Principles review books are? In this guide, we detail our top picks, runner-ups as well as best value for your budget to help you ace the big test.

The AP Computer Science Principles exam is one of the newest AP exams in existence. Nevertheless, when it was launched, thousands of young students took the exam as more people are now seeking to learn more and master the principles that make up computer science. In a sense, it differs from AP Computer Science A because of how it focuses more on the big ideas of the subject matter instead of just problem solving and programming.

Some may think that the exam is a little easier compared to the others because of how 72.7% of those who took it got a score of 3 or higher. But because of how relatively new this AP course is, there haven’t been a lot of AP Computer Science Principles review books released specifically to cater to it. But while the smaller playing field makes it easier for you to choose the best material to use, knowing what fits your needs can still be tricky. This is why we have listed down our top choices for you. Here are the best AP Computer Science Principles review books available for this year’s exam.

If you prefer a video summary, check out the summary section of this guide. If you want to just get back to studying, get our top choice for AP CSP here.

Our Favorite (the best AP Computer Science Principles review book)

5 Steps to a 5 AP Computer Science Principles by Julie Sway

Following the five-step process that has made McGraw-Hill Education one of the more popular publishers of review books, 5 Steps to a 5 aims to give you a 5 in your upcoming AP Computer Science Principles exam by using a systematic procedure that has always been successful.

The five-step plan starts out by helping you build your own study plan using three models. You are then asked to take a diagnostic exam to determine how prepared you already are prior to using the book. After that, you are given tips and strategies you can use to get ahead of the pack during the actual exam. Next is the review part wherein you aim to study and retain all of the important concepts and terms in the outline of the exam. Finally, you will be taking practice exams that will help you gauge yourself.

There probably aren’t any negatives when it comes to how useful and fantastic this book is. The review part is comprehensive enough to cover all of the topics you need to master. The practice questions are all designed to mirror what you will be encountering during the exam. Even the strategies are time-tested and proven. You simply can never go wrong with this book. And becauseof its price, it is both affordable and valuable during your review.

What makes it unique:

  • It helps you review for your exam in a step-by-step procedure.
  • The top AP Computer Science Principles review book has hundreds of practice questions and exercises that aim to build up your confidence and answering skills.

Why choose this book:

  • Despite how new the AP Computer Science Principles exam is, this book has already covered everything you need to know to get a 5 in that exam.
  • The competition seems thin but this book has already stood out as one of the best all-around materials in its class.

The Runner-Up Best AP Computer Science Principles Review Book (still good but a little lacking)

AP Computer Science Principles Crash Course by Jacque Corricelli

Because of how new the AP Computer Science Principles exam and courses are, it can be tough to study for the exam in a relatively quick and efficient manner. But here comes Crash Course with yet another book that literally lets you go through a crash course to help prepare you for the exam faster than any other review material on the market.

Another book that belongs to a line of review materials known for helping time-crunched students to review for their AP exams, AP Computer Science Principles Crash Course contains everything you need to know to get the highest score possible in the upcoming exam. It prides itself for its targeted review, which only focuses on the topics that will be covered by the AP Computer Science Principles exam and on the things you need to know.

You will also be given tips and strategies that are made by an expert in the field of computer science. The strategies and techniques the book teaches you are all based on the author’s analysis of the content and format of the exam. And, based on her track record and background as an AP teacher and computer science expert, there is no reason for you to not take advantage of these tips.

This review book also comes with an online practice exam that aims to make you find out if you are indeed already prepared for the AP Computer Science Principles exam. This online exam is time-tested to make you feel the pressure of what it’s like to take the actual test itself. The practice test comes with answers and explanations that can help you understand where you need to improve and perform better in the future.

For its price, it is a quality book that delivers a fast and efficient crash course of the entire scope of the AP Computer Science Principles exam. It does not tend to dwell on a lot of other aspects as it merely focuses on giving you a quick review that is sure to produce positive results. This is why satisfied Amazon customers rave about how useful a material it is not only for the AP Computer Science Principles exam but also for their high school computer science courses.

What makes it unique:

  • It follows the Crash Course model of delivering a quick, efficient, and easy-to-understand review. It simply goes straight to the point without having to waste time on other trivial matters and topics.
  • The practice test you take online also tests your time management during the exam.

Why choose this book:

  • If you are already crunched for time or if you just simply fancy a material that doesn’t take up a lot of your valuable review time, then this is your weapon of choice for the upcoming exam.
  • It has received a lot of positive reviews online and is a best-selling book on Amazon.

The Best Value for Your Money (good and affordable)

Computer Science Principles: The Foundational Concepts of Computer Science – For AP Computer Science Principles by Kevin Hare, Pindar Van Arman

This book understands that computer science is the fastest field of study in the world today, and the way it approaches your review process seems to reflect that fact. In that sense, this book helps you understand the fundamentals and the “Big Ideas” of computer science as it relates the subject matter’s basics to examples of things you encounter every day such as using a computer for the simplest of reasons or logging in to check your social media accounts.

Computer Science Principles also helps you see the more creative side of computer science to make your review feel like it isn’t a review at all. And before you even know it, you have already mastered all of the basic fundamentals of computer science and you’ll also be on your way to expertly editing photos, programming your own apps, and designing personalized websites. Along the way, you will also be introduced to the basic concepts and ideas that will come out in the exam.

At just 199 pages, it is a particularly quick, easy, and interesting read that promises not to take up a lot of your time while also helping you learn a lot of the things you need to know for the upcoming AP Computer Science Principles exam. This book is also light and easy on your wallet. It brings both affordability and value to the table to give you the bang for your buck.

What makes it unique:

  • It focuses on teaching you the fundamentals that make up computer science principles as a field of study and a subject.
  • The book does not approach you like conventional review materials do and it has more of a conversational tone that is light and easy for the student.
  • It is a very interesting book that has earned a lot of feedback for helping students see the lighter and brighter side of computer science.

Why choose this book:

  • It’s not your conventional pick for the best AP Computer Science Principles review book but it does its job in a more interesting and engaging manner.
  • Choose this book if you want to read a material that easily breaks down concepts that are normally difficult and complicated.

Summary of the Best AP Computer Science Principles Review Books

Here’s a recap of what we went over today:

ProductList PriceNumber Of Pages
5 Steps to a 5 AP Computer Science Principles $18.00 208
AP® Computer Science Principles Crash Course $14.95 304
Computer Science Principles: The Foundational Concepts of Computer Science $11.99 199

Because AP Computer Science Principles is still a new field that only started in 2016, there have not been a lot of review books or textbooks that cater to it as of the moment. However, it won’t take too long for the playing field and the market to increase in size given the fact that, in 2017 alone, more than 70,000 students took the AP Computer Science Principles exam.

While it may be true that computer science is the fastest growing field of study in today’s digital world, there are still only a handful of review books to choose from to help you out in your upcoming AP Computer Science Principles exam. Nevertheless, the three we’ve listed and broken down for you stand out and are more than enough to help you get through your exam with flying colors. That’s a wrap! In this guide we reviewed all of the best AP Computer Science review books available.

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Looking for more reviews of AP study guides?
Check out our archives for other AP Math & Computer Science, AP Sciences, or our general Advanced Placement section.

If you’re taking AP Computer Science A, check out our post on the best AP Computer Science A books here.


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