Most helpful positive review
94 of 94 people found the following review helpful
The best AP Chem test prep book
on August 9, 2012
I'm an AP Chemistry teacher who has taken the time to purchase and compare the various test prep books for this exam. I started out by looking at the Amazon ratings, and I only ordered test prep books that had an average rating of at least four stars. That left me with three books for AP Chem. The 5 steps book, the AP Chem for Dummies book, and the Princeton Review. I admit I bought the 2012 version of all three; they generally don't change much from year to year and I feel comfortable extrapolating the 2013 rating from the 2012 editions (which were much cheaper bought used on my teacher salary!)
Of the three, I find the Princeton Review book to be the best overall. They do a good job of mirroring actual AP Chemistry exam questions, and I detected no lapses in the content coverage. What's even better, though, is the authors of this book made a conscious effort to exclude things that you just don't need to know. The biggest problems with the 5 steps and the Dummies books was that there was just too much stuff. You're buying a review book to help you pass the exam, and learning anything beyond that is not useful in a test prep book, generally. The 5 steps book also had really bad practice questions, while the Dummies book wasn't particularly user friendly when it came to the formatting.
The only weakness the Princeton Review book had is that it really is, at its core, a supplemental text. There's not a great deal of time spent on actually teaching the material (more worked-out examples would have been nice). The bones are quite good, but I really feel like it's best used as a companion to a full-on AP Chemistry course. The provided tests are well written and mirror the AP exam content nicely, and in my opinion that's one of the best things you can get out of any test prep book. So, even though the book is not perfect, I'm giving it five stars because it is significantly better than the competition and that's what really matters here. Oh, and as an aside, even though I bought mine used I wouldn't necessarily recommend a student do so. The "used" part of my book meant it came with lots of circled answers and writing pretty much everywhere.
In any case, this is the book I will recommend to my students for the 2013 exam. One thing to be aware of, though, is that the AP Chemistry content is undergoing a pretty big shift effective 2014. So, if you're reading this review anytime past May 2013, it is outdated and I wouldn't necessarily assume that the new guide will be modified to match the new content. As I mentioned earlier in my review, a lot of times the authors of books like this will simply print essentially the same book year after year, and I've found that sometimes they can get frightfully out of date (Kaplan is a notable offender in this regard). That being said, the folks at the Princeton Review might be all over the new content, and it will certainly be the first test prep book I review come 2014 to see if they managed to keep their book current.