The Review Book for You

Sophie Feinberg, Editor

With Advanced Placement (AP) exams right around the corner, many students are scavenging for the review book that will guarantee a passing score. Because there are so many options available, it can be difficult to decide which book is a good fit. Here is a guide that lists some of the most common review book companies that may help you make your choice.

Princeton Review is
Princeton Review is the most popular prep company and is a favorite of many Gables students.

Company: Princeton Review

  • Our Rating: A+

Princeton Review is one of the most commonly used review books. It offers a “how to” guide on studying with the book, a detailed overview of the test, test-taking strategies, extensive content review and 2-3 full-length practice tests. Students and teachers alike rate this book highly for its quality practice questions.

Barron’s offers the addition of a CD-ROM practice test.

Company: Barron’s

  • Our Rating: B+

Barron’s is described as the leader in test preparation and student’s number one choice. The book includes Barron’s Essential 5 review techniques, a guide to using the book, an overview of the exam, a diagnostic test, content review with practice questions, a free response and essay guide, and 4 other full-length exams, including two on a CD-ROM. Barron’s is appreciated for its role in helping students find their weaknesses. Many psychology and biology teachers recommend this book. However, many educators criticize it for errors found in the practice essays and questions, which brings its ranking down.

5 Steps to a 5 includes a specially designed review schedule.
5 Steps to a 5 includes a specially designed review schedule.

Company: 5 Steps to a 5

  • Our Rating: A

5 Steps to a 5 is “a unique 5-step study plan.” It offers a guide to studying based on time constraints, a full diagnostic exam, strategies, a review of the content with quizzes, and a section with 2 practice tests geared toward building test-taking confidence. Also included are helpful books and websites recommended for review. Recent editions also offer an app and online quizzes. There are conflicting reviews as people either rate it very high or very low.

REA's Crash Course review books are perfect for crunch-time review sessions.
Barnes and Noble
REA’s Crash Course review books are perfect for crunch-time review sessions.

Company: REA or Crash Course

  • Our Rating:  A-

REA identifies itself as the test prep AP teachers recommend. It offers comprehensive review that uses online, book and mobile tools. There are free online tools identifying your strengths and weaknesses (with book code) and customizable e-flashcards. In the hard copy there are reviews of the book’s contents, test-taking strategies, content reviews with sections mini-quizzes and mini-tests, and a full exam. This is a less common review tool, but students say it will help you pass, although it may not be with a 5. I recommend combining two sources to get a more extensive and two-sided review. For a quick review, Crash Course provides a shorter, concise summary of the material that is almost guaranteed to be tested. It offers strategies and a free online practice exam. It is great for a quick review/refresher in the week before the exam, but it almost requires you to already have a grasp of the test format and a decent amount of content. However, both books are not rated as highly as other sources.

“I like to use Crash Course or Princeton Review. Crash Course is my favorite because it just summarizes everything and makes it simple, easy and interesting to read,” junior Marla Chavez said.

Cliffs Notes offers many practice tests and works very well for English APs.
Cliffs Notes offers many practice tests and works very well for English APs.

Company: Cliffs Notes

  •  Our Rating: B

Finally, there is Cliffs NotesCliffs Notes offers strategies, focused reviews and full length practice exams. It is often a wordier and more bland review so if you are under time constraints, it may not serve you as well. Also, it can differ in form from the AP test, but is more highly recommended for English APs.

As testing season is upon us, review is key. With so many options to choose from and so much content to review, it is a good idea to look to your teachers for recommendations because some resources suit certain subjects better. Remember to use variety in your studying by incorporating videos, flashcards, reading and visuals, and see what method works best for you. Good luck!