The Best AP US History Review Books of 2019

By December 17, 2018 October 16th, 2019 AP Book Reviews
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AP US History is such a high stakes exam, that you need the best AP US History review books to give yourself an edge. In this comprehensive guide, we detail what the best AP US History review books are and our favorites to buy to pass the 2019 AP US History exam.

Advanced Placement United States History, or AP US History for short, is not the easiest placement exam to study for as only 51.1% of those who took the exam were able to score a grade of 3 or higher. In that sense, it should not be taken lightly no matter how well you performed in your high school history courses.

That said, because of how rich American history is, not everyone will be able to remember all the crucial events and details that might come out in the exam. Or worse, some people might not have even learned those events back when they were in high school for one reason or another. This is why everyone taking the AP US History exam should have the best and most up-to-date review materials.

While there are many AP United States History review books to choose from, here are what we believe are the most helpful for anyone willing to ace the exam.

Check out our YouTube video in the summary section at the end to remember everything you read! If you want to just get back to studying, get our top pick for AP US History here.

After you’re done reading this, make sure to review our 47 AP US History tips and test taking strategies here.

Our Favorites (the best AP US History review books)

Cracking the AP US History Exam by The Princeton Review

If there is ever a review book that will certainly help you get a score of 5 in the AP US History Exam, it is Cracking the AP US History Exam. This review book by The Princeton Review is one of the most well-rounded and complete materials on the market because of how it covers every major historical information that will come out in the exam.

While not a textbook in itself, what makes this review material stand out is that it breaks and summarizes each section down in a quick and concise manner and without having to waste time on anything meaningless. Instead, each summary is meant to make you recall what you have learned back in high school American history and does so in a straight-to-the-point manner.

This material is also helpful because of the review questions and practice tests it comes with. Each section of this book ends with review questions that will help improve information retention. As you progress through the book while answering the review questions, you won’t even notice that you’ve already retained all the important details and information you need to ace the exam.

The practice tests that come with this review book are what sets it apart from all other materials. Designed to be more difficult than the actual AP US History exam, the practice tests more than prepares you for what is to come. In a sense, they help you expect what to feel during the actual exam and how to handle the pressure of taking a real test.

If there was a knock to this review material, it is that it mostly recycles content from its previous versions. Even some of the questions on the practice test are outdated and were only recycled from past editions. Nevertheless, it is still a useful and helpful material for anyone wanting to get the highest raw score possible.

Finally, Cracking the AP US History Exam also comes with pointers that aid you in knowing how to answer multiple choice exams. Depending on how you see it, the money you have to pay for the material is a small price for what The Princeton Review has to offer.

Buyers of this review book often rave about how effective it is at helping them study for the actual exam. With a score of about 4.5 stars on Amazon, The Princeton Review’s satisfied customers love this material for the practice tests. Other than that, customer reviews often claim that their grades and performance improved with the help of this book.

What makes it unique:

  • It has an impressively comprehensive coverage of important facts and concepts about American history.
  • The book guides you on how to answer multiple choice questions and essay questions.
  • Its premium package offers five full-length practice tests that are all more difficult than the actual AP US History exam.

Why choose this book:

  • It is one of the most comprehensive AP US History review materials on the market.
  • The practice tests are a lot more challenging than the actual AP US History exam.

Sterling Test Prep U.S. History: Complete Content Review for AP US History Exam by Sterling Test Prep

One of the better review books on the market, Sterling Test Prep aims to help you get the highest score you can possibly get in the AP US History Exam with a material that is designed in an easy-to-understand and cleanly organized way.

Organized in a periodical manner, this review material allows you to focus on one important historical period to another while also helping you properly digest and understand the major concepts and information in that certain period in American history. It covers all of the important materials that will come out in the AP exam and is one of the easier books to read because of its simple and clear layout.

Sterling Test Prep also made this book as a supplementary material to fill in what students may not have learned back in high school American history. Each chapter or time period is detailed well enough to fill in missing information that may not have been taught in some American high schools. The great part is that it does not seem to overwhelm you with information that tends to be unnecessary.

Meant as a review material for the AP exam, this book can also be used for classes themselves. Since it follows the sequences that most teachers use, it can help students in their upcoming American history exams not as a primary study material but as a supplementary reference for review purposes.

However, unlike other review materials, Sterling Test Prep’s book does not have sample tests that are on par with or that could help you know what to expect in the actual exam. It is also a bit more pricey than other review materials and books.

Priced typically pretty reasonably, it might seem a little expensive compared to other review books but it certainly helps you get the bang out of your bucket by perfectly following what the college board has outlined for the upcoming AP US History exam.

Satisfied customers on Amazon love how this book seems a lot simpler to read compared to other competitors. The fact that it is so comprehensive has also helped students in their actual American history classes. And because it follows the outline of the college board, those who have used this book were able to get better scores.

What makes it unique:

  • It is curriculum-oriented and is centered around the nine main historical periods of US history.
  • It doubles as a complementary material for actual American history courses and as a review material for the AP US History exam.
  • The book is streamlined according to the outline used by the college board.

Why choose this book:

  • The flow follows the outline of the actual test.
  • It is a supplementary material that can fill in what high school courses were not able to teach.

AP U.S. History Prep Plus by Kaplan Test Prep

Kaplan’s review material for the AP US History exam is a must-have if you want to perform really well for the actual test. This review book organizes each section into the nine main time periods of American history. In that sense, it is very easy to understand and digest.

This book is organized according to the most recent AP US History exam and can really help you understand and familiarize yourself with important information and details that will most probably come out in the actual test. Each chapter also has a quick review that will sum up all the vital key points of each timeline.

What sets this book apart from all of the other materials is that it comes with a study plan to help guide you in your preparation for the exam. The study plans vary depending on how much time you have to prepare. It has a basic plan for those that have about two months before the exam and it also has one for those who only have two weeks to cram for the test.

This review book also has two different approaches for you to use. The first one is the thorough review that makes use of each of the important details and information contained in the nine time periods or chapters. Everything in that approach is covered in great detail and will give you everything you need for the upcoming exam. Meanwhile, the second approach is for those who are short on time. It aims to give you a quicker and more targeted review while also supplying what you might have missed during your regular American history classes in high school.

Kaplan’s review book comes with three practice tests that will help prepare you for the actual exam. However, these tests are meant to be a lot easier than the AP US History exam and will not challenge you as much as other tests would. Nevertheless, for a total price of typically less than an Andrew Jackson, there is a lot to love about this review material in the comparatively affordable price tag it comes with.

Amazon customer reviews about this book have mostly been positive. With a 4.2 rating, Kaplan’s book is well-loved by students and teachers alike because it is always up to date and has a good track record when it comes to helping students prepare for the exam not only with its comprehensive coverage but also with its study plan.

What makes it unique:

  • The book comes with three practice tests that are reasonably answerable.
  • It has a study plan that can be adjusted depending on your remaining study time before the exam.
  • This material comes with a Targeted Review and Practice that is best for students that are already short on time and are looking for a more concise and targeted review.

Why choose this book:

  • It is very easy to understand and digest for the student.
  • The study plan is helpful for any kind of student because of how it can be adjusted depending on the preparation time left.


671 Epic AP Study Tips

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

Barron’s AP United States History by Eugene V. Resnick

Barron’s review material is a pretty well-balanced book that contains a good summary that’s also based on the nine main time periods of American history. The book also has practice exams that would help you test how prepared you are for the actual AP US History exam. In that sense, it has a lot of content that aims to give you a holistic review for the upcoming AP US History exam.

However, what makes this material a runner-up is that it seems like it doesn’t have a general direction to where it’s going. It summarizes the chapters well but not in the clearest, most concise, and shortest manner. Also, the book does not have a lot of practice tests and they are not even very difficult or challenging to begin with.

Nevertheless, it is a quality well-rounded material that delivers you a decent review experience with how it summarizes each time period well and with how it can also test you for the upcoming exam. And for its typical price, it is pretty affordable despite its weaknesses.

What makes it unique:

  • It comes with two full-length practice tests with answers that are explained clearly.
  • The book helps you strategize on how to take different types of tests (multiple choice, long essay, short answer, etc.).

Why choose this book:

  • This material is well-balanced when it comes content and approach.
  • The practice tests and the strategy tips are really helpful when it comes to knowing how to prepare for the real exam.

5 Steps to a 5: AP U.S. History by Daniel P. Murphy

An instructional guide published by McGraw-Hill Education, 5 steps to a 5 is a review book that gives you a step-by-step plan for the 5 that you’ve been working hard to get in the AP US History exam. In that sense, it is not merely a review material but is also an effective study plan that teaches you how to how to answer all the types of questions that will come out in the actual exam.

The book covers all of the needed information that will come out in the exam according to what the syllabus prescribes. It also comes out with sample exams and quizzes that allow you to gauge your knowledge and how well you have already prepared for the upcoming test.

The problem, however, is that it does not summarize the time periods in the most concise manner. It can be way too detailed if that were even possible. In that sense, 5 Steps to a 5 is a great material for a thorough review but is not the most ideal book for anyone looking to prepare quickly in such a short amount of time. But, for its price, it gives you the bang for your buck especially if you have a lot of time left to prepare for the AP US History exam.

What makes it unique:

  • The book comes with three practice tests. There are also three more tests on Cross-Platform.
  • It has an overview of the AP US History exam and a guide on how to take on the test and the different types of questions you will be encountering.
  • As the title of the review book suggests, it comes with a 5-step plan that can help you achieve a good score in the exam.

Why choose this book:

  • The step-by-step plan is easy to understand and digest.
  • It is comparatively more affordable compared to the other review materials.

The Best Value for Your Money (good and affordable)

AP U.S. History Crash Course Book by Larry Krieger, Gregory Feldmeth, Advanced Placement, US History Study Guide

As the title of the book suggests, this material is exactly what it is—a crash course. Helping you study for the things you only need to know for the AP US History exam, Crash Course is a fast read that is best for those who do not have the luxury of time. In a sense, it is arguably the clearest and most concise reviewer on the market because of how it goes directly to the point without having to waste a single second on anything unnecessary.

Nevertheless, it only has one practice test and does not explore in great detail some information and concepts that the actual exam would most likely cover. In a way, it is the summary of a summary and nothing else comes close to how this review material can help you make the most out of your time.

Given that it is usually priced affordably in online retail stores, Crash Course can give you the best value for your money especially if you are already short on time for the upcoming AP US History exam.

What makes it unique:

  • It has a targeted and more focused review that will allow you to study what’s necessary for such a short amount of time.
  • This review book gives you expert advice and strategies you can opt to use when taking the AP US History exam.
  • It comes with an online practice test that can help prepare you for the actual exam.

Why choose this book:

  • It is one of the easiest materials to understand.
  • This material is great for those who are in a rush and is really cheap.

Epic U.S. History Review Book by Jason Gray

Unlike any other US History book or AP US History review material, Epic U.S. History was written with young high school students in the mind of the author. This means that students can easily relate to while also retaining the important contents written in this book.

With that in mind, the author of this book also saw to it to make sure that this review material will not be as tedious and as boring as reading conventional review books that are almost as long as normal US history textbooks. Because of that thought, this book goes straight to the point while providing all the important details and information in the clearest and most concise manner possible.

But, like most affordable and short review materials, this book is not as in-depth and as informative as its competitors. In a way, it is best used as a supplementary material for other more informative review books. It can also be used for last-minute preparations especially if you are already in a hurry to review for our exam.

Epic U.S. History also provides you with study and writing tips as well as essays you can use as a guide for answering the actual AP US History exam. This AP US History review book can give you the bang for your buck especially if you want a review book that’s both easy and fun to read.

What makes it unique:

  • It covers the entire coverage in a straight-forward and less tedious manner that sets it apart from other reviewers that seem as long as textbooks.
  • This material comes with tips on how to write essays as well as samples to help you write answers that could get you the highest score possible.

Why choose this book:

  • This material can be used for review purposes or for your history courses.
  • It is best used as a supplementary book for textbooks or for other review materials.


671 Epic AP Study Tips

Summary of the Best AP US History Review Books

Putting everything together, here is a wrap up of the best AP United States History review books we went over today.

ProductList PriceNumber Of Pages
Cracking the AP U.S. History Exam 2019 $25.99 576
Sterling Test Prep AP U.S. History $25.95 350
AP U.S. History Prep Plus 2018-2019 $21.99 552
Barron's AP United States History $23.99 576
5 Steps to a 5: AP U.S. History $18.00 512
AP® U.S. History Crash Course $14.95 336
Epic U.S. History Review Book $6.99 82

While review books are indeed helpful, always keep in mind that it is still better to pay attention to and study for your American history classes in high school. Nothing can serve as a substitute to actually learning the important concepts and information in class. Nevertheless, review materials do help to make the entire review process easier and more concise.

Did you find this guide on the best AP US History review books helpful? If so, share it with a friend!

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

Also, read our 47 AP US History tips and test taking strategies guide here to jumpstart your studying.


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