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What Are the Best AP Computer Science Principles Textbooks and Prep Books?

5 min readβ€’october 18, 2021

Harrison Burnside

Harrison Burnside

AP Computer Science Principles ⌨️

80Β resources
See Units

Understand the Exam πŸ“‘

The AP Computer Science Principles exam is FIVE-able when you have the right resources. πŸ˜‰
The exam includes two sections: the Create Performance Task and the End-of-Course Multiple-Choice Exam.

Create Performance Task:

  • Worth 30% of the exam score
  • 12 hours of class time

End-of-Course Multiple-Choice Exam:

  • Worth 70% of the exam score
  • 2 hours long
⚠️NOTE: most prep books and online resources are not updated to the 2021 CED, so ignore all references to the Explore Performance Task and the 7 big ideas (now only 5 big ideas).

Prep Books πŸ“”

Rating Scale:
πŸ₯‡ = Best Value
πŸ€“ = Easiest to Read
πŸ’Έ = Cheapest
πŸ–Š = Most Thorough
✍️ = Best for Create Performance Task
πŸ”  = Best for Multiple-Choice Questions

5 Steps to a 5πŸ₯‡πŸ€“πŸ’ΈπŸ” 


Buy it on Amazon here!

I, personally, used this book to study for tests throughout the course and to review for the AP Exam in May. Reading this book for the content review a few weeks before the exam was very helpful in reviewing what was necessary to know for the exam‼️
  • Useful pseudocode guide πŸ‘¨β€πŸ’» at the end of the book for the code that the College Board uses on the AP Exam.
  • The practice questions at the end of the units are very helpful to check for understanding!
  • We don't recommend using this book for help on the create performance task.
  • The practice exams πŸ“ in this book are also not similar enough to the types of questions on the AP exam.
    • Many of the AP exam questions contain stimuli and situations while the practice tests mainly are looking at basic recall.
In Review:
This prep book is my top recommendation, as it is one of the only ones on the market. The book is pretty thin and not too word-heavy in a nice style to read. The book is currently less than $8.99 on Amazon. πŸ’Έ

Barron's πŸ–ŠοΈβœοΈ


Buy it on Amazon here!

This prep book is great to use for people who are looking to prepare consistently all year πŸ“† before the exam or already have a schedule to study more than a week before the exam!
  • 3 full-length practice exams on paper and another 1 online + even more practice questions!
  • Create Performance Task sections of this book are great 🀩 so make sure to consult this book while working on that section.
  • Barron's prep books are known to have high-caliber content and hard review questions, but this book is a slight exception.
πŸ’‘If you read the Amazon review πŸ“ on the link above, you might see many complaints about small content inaccuracies, but don't let that impact your whole decision process! The book is almost all correct and awesome πŸ’« but some of the content is not proofread ☹️
In Review:
This prep book is my secondary recommendation if you want more enrichment than 5 Steps to a 5. The book is pretty thin and not too word-heavy in a nice style to read. The book is currently more expensive than the 5STA5 on Amazon at about $15 πŸ’°
While the College Board lists some APCSP textbooks on their website for classes to use, they actually have a disclaimer at the top of the page that they do not actually recommend or endorse those textbooks for the course. Since there are not a lot of textbooks that fit the course requirements, we have compiled a listicle πŸ“œ of online resources that could substitute for a textbook!

Online Resources πŸ–₯️

Rating Scale:
πŸ₯‡ = Best Overall
πŸ€“ = Easiest to Understand
πŸ–Š = Most Thorough
🀯 = Best for All Learning Styles
  • none of these resources will win the cheapest πŸ’Έ award since they are all free πŸŽ‰

Fiveable πŸ₯‡

Fiveable offers free live streams πŸ“½οΈ (and their replays), study guides, trivia games, videos, and slide decks for APCSP students. Beyond the content, Fiveable also offers a community platform where students can ask questions and receive feedback from AP Computer Science Principles πŸ’» teachers and other students.

Khan Academy APCSP Quizzes and Articles πŸ–ŠοΈ


Source: Khan Academy

  • There are articles to read, annotate, highlight, and review πŸ“‹ with practice questions that are actually similar to the style of questions on the real AP Exam.
  • Khan Academy has units quizzes that you can take to earn points to prepare for the AP CSP Exam in a game-ified way πŸ‘
  • Khan Academy is free, which allows you to use their practice tests.
  • Online practices with coding samples in 4 different programming languages which can be helpful in finding a platform to create your Create Performance Task Projects in.
  • No Direct PT Create Instruction ☹️

Harvard’s CS50 YouTube Lectures Playlist πŸ€“


Source: YouTube

A Harvard Professor Teaches a lecture called CS50 which closely aligns with the AP CSP curriculum.
  • The lectures about Algorithms, Data Structures, Computational πŸ–₯️ Thinking, and Information help emphasize content in a video format for visual and auditory learners.
  • The lectures are very easy to watch and listen to and help prepare for the AP Exam. They are posted on YouTube πŸ“½οΈ in a playlist that is linked above!

codeHS AP CSP Exam Review Playlist 🀯


Source: codeHS

A teacher, Calvin Studebaker, created a playlist on a coding website for students to help review for the AP Exam!
  • These questions are very similar to those on the AP exam, so this playlist was one of my top resources preparing for the exam.
    • Benefit most by using all 30 activities including printing πŸ–¨οΈ out the reference sheet to practice for some of the quizzes that needed it.
  • These AP Style Quizzes are very good reviews as each quiz has 5 questions that can be self-paced.
  • You can do all of the quizzes in one day if that is the time you have left before the exam or you can do 5 quizzes per week if you have 6 weeks before the exam ⏰

Closing Thoughts πŸ’­

APCSP is a relatively small class πŸ‘¨β€πŸ« with a small number of resources online, but there are some amazing ones! If you use a good mix of the resources in this article, then you should be all set to do awesome 🀩 on your Create PT and ace your MCQ 🧐 exam.
Browse Study Guides By Unit
πŸ•ΉUnit 1 – Creative Development
βš™οΈUnit 2 – Data
πŸ“±Unit 3 – Algorithms & Programming
πŸ–₯Unit 4 – Computer Systems & Networks
⌨️Unit 5 – Impact of Computing
✏️Frequently Asked Questions
πŸ“Exam Prep

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