What Are the Best AP World History Textbooks and Prep Books?

4 min readseptember 30, 2021

Sander Owens

Sander Owens

AP World History: Modern 🌍

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Hello, and welcome! 👋 This guide will help you figure out what textbooks and prep books are best for you as you prepare for the AP World History exam, as well as provide links to the most recent versions of them.
As you may know, for the 2019 AP Exams, the College Board changed the curriculum of World History and the course became World History: Modern, so many prep books and textbooks are now out of date because of these changes. Although they still contain all of the history you need to know, they may not be in enough depth or cover outdated key concepts.

Textbooks 📖

Generally, if you are self-studying (which is probably why you're looking for a textbook), textbooks are frequently a less good option, especially if your school does not offer WHAP, and you don't have access to a textbook. There are a couple of reasons for this:
  • Textbooks are generally expensive, usually well over $100 💰, and there are frequently more cost-effective ways to study than by using a textbook.
  • Because textbooks are designed, for the most part, as a supplement or framework for a traditional class with a teacher, they often are a bit dry and boring 😩, and many people find reading through one a bit tedious and boring.
However, if you do want to use a textbook, there is a list on the College Board website of WHAP textbooks that have been approved by the College Board. If you understand the caveats and would still like a textbook, try asking a history teacher at your school to see if they have a World History textbook, and check to see if it is AP aligned to the new course.
You may see that there are websites that have pirated copies of textbooks, and we would recommend you stay away from those for multiple reasons: frequently, there are malware risks, it is illegal and unethical to pirate material, and it quite frankly isn't worth it to be shady when there are plenty of legitimate resources out there for free or little cost!
One textbook that is updated to the current AP course that we would recommend is Ways of the World, 4th. ed., by Strayer and Nelson. It is typically pricey for a textbook (~$150), but is relatively easy to read, and is optimized for skimming with helpful vocab references, chapter summaries, and helpful charts, timelines, and graphs. In addition, it has been updated to the Modern course change, one of the few College Board approved textbooks to have done so.

Prep Books 📚

Most Concise: 5 Steps to a 5: AP World History: Modern 2021 Elite Student Edition (Amazon):


image courtesy Amazon.com

$14.62 New: This book is relatively inexpensive, contains multiple practice exams, and is available on multiple platforms if that kind of learning helps you. If you would like to use the digital resources, it might be worth purchasing a new copy so you have guaranteed access to the online resources. Although it may not have as much depth as some other books, it contains concise, helpful review materials. This book has received high praise from our team for its conciseness in the reviews.

Cheapest: Barron's AP World History: Modern (Amazon):


image Amazon.com

$9.99 New: At only $9.99, the Barron's book is definitely the cheapest of the options here. However, it only contains two practice texts and is generally considered to be one of the wordier prep books out there, with less concise prose than some of the other options. However, if you are on a tighter budget, it could be the best option.

For the Paper Practice Test Lover: Princeton Review's Modern Premium Prep, 2021 (Amazon):


image Amazon.com

$25.99 New: although the Princeton Review book is the priciest of all of the prep books, it contains the most practice tests, the vast majority of which are in the book. In addition, it is the most thorough prep book out there — which could be a positive or a negative, depending on your learning style, and how you process text. However, although it is thorough, this means it is often a little bit confusing and wordy, so this is not as helpful for last-minute prep, although it is really good for learning the material.

A Little of Both: AMSCO's WHAPM (Amazon)


image Amazon.com

$19.95 New: The AMSCO book is unique in that it is somewhere between a textbook and a prep book - it has the digestibility and conciseness of a prep book with the goal to teach, rather than a review of a textbook. Thus, we would recommend it for the best of both worlds. It is much easier to read than a textbook, but it is quick and to the point like a prep book. Although it does not contain a full practice exam, it contains practice questions and is centered around the WHAP themes, and is designed to help you learn skills that you will need on the exam, such as analyzing secondary sources. If you are unsure of what book to get, we would highly recommend you make the jump to the slightly higher price for AMSCO and begin learning there - you can add one of the prep books mentioned above if you feel AMSCO isn't sufficient.
I hope this guide has provided you with some information to help you make the right choice about which book to use, and you can make the right decision to help you get the score on the exam you want!
All prices are current as of writing and are subject to change.
Browse Study Guides By Unit
🐎Unit 1 – The Global Tapestry, 1200-1450
🐫Unit 2 – Networks of Exchange, 1200-1450
🕌Unit 3 – Land-Based Empires, 1450-1750
🍕Unit 4 – Transoceanic Interactions, 1450-1750
✊🏽Unit 5 – Revolutions, 1750-1900
🚂Unit 6 – Consequences of Industrialization, 1750-1900
💣Unit 7 – Global Conflict, 1900-Present
🥶Unit 8 – Cold War & Decolonization, 1900-Present
✈️Unit 9 – Globalization, 1900-Present
✏️Frequently Asked Questions
🚀Thematic Guides
🗺Regional Guides
🤓Historical Thinking Skills
🧐 Multiple Choice Questions (MCQ)
📋Short Answer Questions (SAQ)
📝Long Essay Questions (LEQ)
📑Document Based Questions (DBQ)

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