The Best AP English Language and Composition Review Books of 2019

By January 1, 2019 January 12th, 2019 AP Book Reviews

Looking for the best AP English Language review books to buy for acing the exam? Look no further. In this comprehensive buyer’s guide, we review our top picks, runner ups, as well as best value to help you score a 5 on your AP English Language exam.

Though English may be your native language, passing the Advanced Placement English Language and Composition (commonly simplified to AP English Language) is not an easy task. Only 47.4% of those who took the most recent exam actually got passing grades. This is because it is an exam that requires you not to have full familiarity or even mastery of written English and how to use its rules for composition. That is the exact reason why you should review for the AP English Language and Composition exam.

But because the subject matter tends to be broad, reviewing for the exam can also be tricky especially if you do not know the topics that will be covered. In that regard, the best AP English Language tools you can use are review books. There are plenty of review books you can use to study for the upcoming AP English Language and Composition exam. However, we have put up a list of review books we believe can best help you get the highest score possible for the exam.

Our Favorites (the best AP English Language review books)

The Language of Composition: Reading, Writing, Rhetoric by Renee Shea, Lawrence Scanlon, Robin Dissin Aufses

A textbook rather than a review book, The Language of Composition is arguably one of the most useful materials you can use. It has a versatile book that can be used as a textbook for your high school English classes and for AP English Language and Composition courses and as a review book for the AP English Language and Composition exam itself.

It was built from scratch by a group of English experts that all have a wide experience in the field of teaching the language. It is a book that was primarily written for the AP English Language and Composition course but is one that teaches you how to write, think, and compose like a college student or even a professional should. In that sense, it is a comprehensive and substantial material that gets the job done.

One of the best parts about this book is that it teaches the subject matter in a fun and interesting way. It can get you engaged and interested with the wide selection of poetry, stories, and essays that are easy to comprehend and relate to. Before you know it, you have already mastered everything you need to know in preparation not only for the upcoming AP English Language and Composition exam but also for college.

While it may be a book that targets high school students, it can be used by anyone looking to improve his/her writing. It has a way of developing you into a good and more imaginative reader and writer by giving different rhetorical strategies. It also gives you different types of perspectives of how language affects other fields in society such as gender, advertising, and even other communities.

When used as a review book, it should be read months before the exam because of how long it is. However, because it was written primarily for the AP English Language and Composition course, it covers everything you need to know to pass the exam itself. In that sense, it functions well as a primary resource.

Priced at about $90, it is quite expensive especially considering that you will only be using it for a course or for review purposes. In that case, it might be better for you to buy a used book or to rent one instead. However, it is a book that anyone should have by their side not only for the AP English Language and Composition exam but also for other purposes such as improving your understanding and knowledge of the subject matter.

What makes it unique:

  • It contains a comprehensive discussion of the course matter and was primarily built for the AP English Language and Composition course itself.
  • The book dwells on how the English language affect society while also giving you a different perspective on how it is used.

Why choose this book:

  • This is your weapon of choice if you have a lot of time to review for the exam.
  • The book not only helps you to pass or get a high score in the exam but also trains you to think, read, and write as a college student should.

AP English Language & Composition Crash Course by Dawn Hogue and Advanced Placement

Known for being a quick and affordable read for those looking to save both time and money, Crash Course delivers a review that is still top-quality despite being brief. In contrast to the first book on this list, this review material offers a more targeted and focused kind of review that does not dwell much in other topics except for the ones that are on the outline of the College Board.

Covering only the things you need to know to get a high score in the AP English Language and Composition exam, Crash Course gives you quick overview on the different topics you need to master while also helping you improve the way you write essays and answer multiple-choice questions.

It may only be a quick crash course but this top AP English Language review book also gives expert advice and tips you can use as strategies for the upcoming exam. All of these strategies have been tried and tested in the past and will surely help you perform better in your exam. The book also comes with a practice test that can be considered as challenging as the real thing.

While this book is not the complete thing, it is a great choice if it is used in conjunction with AP English Language and Composition textbooks that are a lot more comprehensive. It acts like the summary of the more in-depth course textbooks such as the first book on this list. And, for the price of about $14, it gives you a quality fast-tracked review that is easy on your wallet.

What makes it unique:

  • It has a targeted and focused subject review that helps prepare you for the AP English Language and Composition faster than any other material on the market.
  • Unlike AP English Language and Composition textbooks, this material comes with strategies and tips as well as a practice exam.

Why choose this book:

  • Though this book’s aim is to deliver a focused type of review, it is actually one of the more ideal review materials for the AP English Language and Composition because of how it works to make you recall your background in the subject matter.
  • You won’t have to waste valuable time reading through things that probably won’t come out in the exam.

Cracking the AP English Language and Composition Exam by The Princeton Review

The Princeton Review has always excelled at delivering review books that can certainly give you the edge. In that sense, Cracking the AP English Language and Composition Exam is the all-around book you need to get a score of 5 in your upcoming exam because of how it focuses at giving you a well-rounded review of the highest quality possible.

The book contains a comprehensive and in-depth summary and synthesis of the AP English Language and Composition topics. It also gives you a more focused review on the key concepts you need to master for the upcoming exam while also providing tips you can use to improve your English writing and composition skills. This material is also consistently updated accordingly. It contains information that fits to what the College Board prescribes on a yearly basis.

To improve the way you answer the upcoming exam, the book has sample essays that are analyzed and scored accordingly by experts in the subject matter. You can use these samples to guide how you will compose your own essays in the exam. There are also drills that test out how well you can handle multiple-choice questions.

A trademark of The Princeton Review’s books, this material comes with two full-length practice tests that are considered more challenging than the actual one to make sure you don’t get rattled when you take the AP English Language and Composition exam. The practice tests come with their own answers and detailed explanations.

Amazon reviewers consider this book as one of the top materials to use for the AP English Language and Composition exam. They say that it is easy to follow and use compared to the other books on the market. Some have even used it for their high school English courses because of how understandable and relatable it is. And, for the price of about $13, it is an affordable book that certainly gives you the bang for your buck.

What makes it unique:

  • It offers a well-rounded review that not only dwells on the topics covered but also on the strategies you may want to use for the exam.
  • The full-length practice exams are more difficult than any other exam its competitors can offer.

Why choose this book:

  • It is a balanced book that offers you everything you need to know for the upcoming exam without having to sacrifice quality.
  • If you want an AP English Language review book that challenges you with its practice tests and questions, then this is the best choice for you.

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

5 Steps to  5: AP English Language and Composition Elite Student Edition by Barbara Murphy, Estelle Rankin

Following the usual format of the 5 Steps to a 5 line of review books, the AP English Language and Composition version continues the culture of excellence already established by its predecessors and peers. And, with the Elite Edition, you can get extra content that promises to give you the edge in your upcoming exam.

Using the five-step plan this book offers, you are promised a systematic approach and procedure that certainly helps you get that score of 5 in the AP English Language and Composition exam so long as you diligently follow the steps to heart.

To help bolster your chances of getting a 5, the book contains an overview of the topics that will come out in the exam. There are also a lot of practice exercises you can use to gauge your skills and knowledge in writing and composition. And because not every topic is the same, the book offers tips and strategies that are specific to each section or chapter.

If there was a knock to this book, it is that it does not contain a more detailed and in-depth review of the subject matter and its topics. And, because it is a special edition of the normal book, it can cost about $18 to $20 and is more expensive than the normal edition or any of the other its other competitors on the market.

What makes it unique:

  • It offers a systematic five-step plan that is certainly easy to follow and understand.
  • The Elite Student Edition comes with a lot more questions and activities that are both engaging and interactive.
  • Using its online platform gives you access to more practice exams and to other interesting content.

Why choose this book:

  • If you want to use a more systematic procedure in your review, then this top AP English Language review book best fits you.
  • This edition comes with a lot of bonus content both in the book and online.

CliffsNotes AP English Language and Composition by Barbara Swovelin

Not really known for its line of AP review materials, Cliffs Notes was still able to deliver a quality book that is specifically aimed for those taking the AP English Language and Composition exam. It is not as well-known as its other competitors but it is a rather effective and quality study aid that promises to help you get as high a score as possible.

The book offers a detailed explanation and introduction to the format used by the College Board. It then helps you out by providing expert strategies you can use to tackle the different types of questions you will be encountering in the exam. It will then introduce you to an overview of the exam you will be taking and will test your skills out with four full-length practice tests.

What makes this book a runner-up on our list is that it does not contain an in-depth review of the topics that will be covered in the exam. It does cover the subject matter but not in the most comprehensive of ways. It is more like a book that gives tips and strategies rather than a true review book. Nevertheless, we still recommend it because of its high-quality strategies and practice tests.

What makes it unique:

  • It dwells more on introducing to you the type of test you will be encountering and what kind of strategies you may want to take.
  • It has more practice tests than most of its competitors.

Why choose this book:

  • Go for this material if you want a book that focuses more on tips, strategies, and sample tests and questions.
  • It contains essay topics that have come out in previous AP English Language and Composition exams. You can use those topics to guide the way you answer your exam.

The Best Value for Your Money (good and affordable)

Barron’s AP English Language and Composition by George Ehrenhaft

Not really known as an affordable line of review books, Barron’s AP English Language and Composition is actually a book that delivers value for a comparatively cheap price. Barron’s has always been known for having great materials for different AP exams. And if you add in the fact that this book is affordable, you have a great material in your hands.

This book is a well-balanced review material since it not only offers a good and complete overview of the topics that will be covered by the exam but it also offers you tips and advice for answering multiple-choice and essay questions. There are also sample essays you can use to help improve your writing.

The review book itself offers five practice exams that aren’t necessarily too difficult but are nevertheless reflective of what is to come in the AP English Language and Composition exam. You can also go online to have access to a bonus practice exam if you feel like taking on more challenges. Overall, the perks this book offers makes it more than worth the $12 price tag.

What makes it unique:

  • It helps you answer essay questions by giving organized and well-composed responses.
  • The book contains sample student essays that each have their own expert critiques.

Why choose this book:

  • It is more affordable than other books that are just about the same in terms of quality and substance.

Summary of the Best AP English Language Review Books

Here’s a summary of the best AP English Language review books we went over:

Product List Price Number Of Pages
The Language of Composition $200.00 1216
AP® English Language & Composition Crash Course $14.95 288
Cracking the AP English Language Exam $18.99 256
5 Steps to a 5: AP English Language 2019 Elite $28.00 544
Barron's AP English Language and Composition $16.99 416

For any kind of AP exam, preparation is key. In that regard, the AP English Language and Composition is no different. It focuses more on free-response questions that require you to have a mastery of the English language both in terms of its rules and in its written form. Because of that, review books really are an essential part of making sure you get the highest score possible.