The Best AP Biology Books

Exam Info And Course Content

The AP Biology exam consists of 2 sections. The first one is multiple choice, has 69 questions, lasts 90 minutes, and counts for 50% of your overall exam score. The first 63 questions are simple multiple choice ones, and the last 6 are grid-in questions. It’s critical to review your AP Biology textbooks before taking the exam.

The second section is free response. It consists of 8 questions, lasts 90 minutes, and counts for 50% of your total exam score. There are 2 long free response questions, one of which is lab or data-based, and 6 one paragraph short free response questions.

College Board provides free example test questions, so click here if you want to check them out.

Next Exam Date

Monday, May 14th, 2018

Last Time The Exam Changed

The exam was last changed for the 2012 test, so you can use any books published 2012-now, but we recommend that you use the AP biology review books below as they make sure that you are 100% ready for the AP Bio exam taking place in May 2018.

The Best AP Biology Textbooks for 2018

Textbook / Review BookDescriptionOur RatingPrice
Best Overall AP Biology TextbookCampbell Biology in Focus

1st Edition



(Best Overall)
5.0View Price
Preparing for the Biology AP Exam Pearson EducationTest Prep Series
for AP Biology


Pearson Education


(Best Prep Book)
5.0View Price
Barron's AP Biology 2017Barron's AP Biology
6th Edition


Barron's

(Best on a Budget)
4.5View Price
Best Value AP Biology review bookCracking the AP
Biology Exam 2018
Premium Edition


The Princeton Review

(Best Value)
4.5View Price

Best Overall AP Biology TextbookThe starting place for other review books is the Campbell Biology In Focus, 1st Edition textbook. You will notice our next pick on the list is an accompaniment of this textbook, as are others review books available online. This is the authority on AP Biology that every serious student needs in order to score a 5 on their exam.

This book doesn’t cover practice tests; it fundamentally teaches you all the core concepts of biology so that you understand them thoroughly. This way you can be prepared for any question that may come your way on the examination.

We can’t stress enough that this AP Biology textbook is required in order to score a 5.

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AP Biology Prep Book by Pearson EducationThis review book is the perfect match for Cambell’s Biology in Focus and works perfectly to prepare you for the AP Biology Exam.

Pearson Education’s Text Prep Series for AP Biology  has a strong core focus on simply preparing you for the types of questions that you’ll get on the real exam, and contains many real life questions from previous years. All the other prep books try to blend teaching concepts and teaching how to write the test, where this one is focused primarily on the test and makes the assumption that the student already has the Cambell Biology in Focus textbook.

The “must-know” section is also great as it lets you do a quick rundown before the test to make sure you know all of the most important topics before the exam.

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Barron's AP Biology Textbook 2017If funds are tight and you have a bunch of different AP examinations that are taking priority over biology, then you may want to consider the Barron’s AP Biology, 6th Edition. It isn’t as comprehensive as purchasing the combination above, but you will get adequate test preparation and can expect a passing grade on your exam following a thorough review of this book.

The Barron’s book offers two full length practice exams with real questions from the AP Biology exam, and you get a bonus online practice test with all questions answered and explained.

While we are a huge fan of Barron’s material, the biology exam is such that you are high recommended to purchase the Campbell textbook.

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Best Value AP Biology review bookIf you simply want to purchase a book to learn the test material and get the highest possible score, then The Princeton’s Review Cracking the AP Biology Exam 2018, Premium Edition is the right AP Biology review book for you.

While you may not get the same fundamental understanding of biology as purchasing the Campbell textbook, it may prepare you just as well for the actual exam. Including a whopping 5 full length practice tests with the corresponding answers, you can see exactly how to answer questions on the exam.

It also comes with access to their online portal for all sorts of additional study materials.

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Self-Study Tips

Self studying for the AP Biology exam is fairly simple if you’re willing to put in the work.

All you need to do is go through the two books found above, take all of the practice tests, and you will be 90% of the way there.

You are also required to understand lab data for the test and the best option for self-studying labs is buying this lab manual from Pearson and doing the labs online with the aid of the manual. It’s not the same as the real thing, but it’s more than enough to prepare you for the long lab-related free response question on the exam.

Other Study Materials

  • CollegeBoard– The sample multiple choice and free response sections start on page 129 of the AP Biology Course & Exam Description PDF and they also have some questions from older tests.
  • VarsityTutors– They have 10 diagnostic tests and 369 practice tests which should be more than enough.
  • Albert.io– They have 1155 practice questions, but you can only answer about 30 if you’re on the free plan. Still worth checking out though!
  • AP books– Even if you plan on only using online resources to study get at least one physical book. Trust us on this. You’ll need it.