College admissions are more competitive than they’ve ever been. So today’s applicants need to do what they can to set themselves apart. More than 1.2 million high school students each year recognize Advanced Placement (AP) courses as a great way to do that.
AP classes are college-level courses offered to high school students. The end-of-year AP exams give high schoolers the opportunity to demonstrate they’re ready to tackle university as well as gain some valuable college credit if their scores are good enough. Making the tests super important.
Studying for them can be daunting. Fortunately, there are tons of AP prep courses that can give you everything necessary to conquer the exams with confidence. All at a fraction of the price of their in-person equivalents.
As an AP tutor with more than two years of experience, I’ve reviewed a number of them. Below, I’ll tell you which are my favorites as well as what you should be looking for in a good online AP prep course.
What is the best online AP prep course?
- Princeton Review
- Khan Academy
- Marco Learning
- Varsity Tutors
Princeton Review offers the best overall online AP prep course. Its experienced instructors, comprehensive content, and personalized lesson plans (as well as its Cram Course for last-minute studying) make it the gold standard of AP prep programs. And what’s to lose? They guarantee you your money back if you don’t get the score you were promised.
Kaplan’s well-priced private tutors and private study options make it a great second choice. It focuses heavily on test-taking strategies, so you won’t just learn the material, you’ll also learn how to beat pretty much any AP exam that you’ll be taking.
If you’d prefer to study on your own and are looking for study guides, planners, practice tests, and cheat sheets, Fiveable or Khan Academy are right for you. Khan Academy has tons of free videos that will help you master material that’s giving you trouble–it’s definitely the best free AP prep course out there. Fiveable has lots of free materials, like study guides and cheat sheets, and its paid classes are still affordable.
Best free online AP prep course
Best online AP prep course reviews
Platform: Princeton Review | Length: 24 hours
Princeton Review is top dog when it comes to online test prep courses. It offers a variety of AP review programs depending on your needs and budget. Its AP5 course offers 24 hours of individualized, personal tutoring sessions with expert educators, and you’re guaranteed money back if you don’t receive a 5.
The AP4 program provides real-time learning and up to five practice tests at a more affordable cost than the AP5 course. Both will prepare you well for when it comes time to put pencil to paper.
You will :
- Practice answering multiple-choice and free-response questions
- Learn much more about the specific course material
- Improve your time management
- Be able to approach the exam with confidence and poise
- Individualized tutoring (with AP5 program)
- Hundreds of practice questions help reinforce your knowledge
- Practice exams prepare you for testing conditions
- Money back guarantee if you don’t get the score you were promised
- Comprehensive subject expertise
- A bit on the pricier side, though excellent value for what you get
- No free trial
Who’s it for: If you’re looking for a more hands-on, interactive experience, then Princeton Review is for you. Its prices –$150/hour for AP5 tutoring, $5,700 for the full 24-hour course or $1,099 for the AP4 course – are higher than other online options. But still a great deal. If you have the money and are serious about getting a top score, these are the programs to go with.
Overall: Expert instructors, holistic content, concentration on test-taking strategies, and a tailored approach make Princeton Review my top choice. No matter what you’re preparing for, Princeton Review will likely be able to help. And if it can’t, you’ll get some or all of your money back.
Platform: Kaplan | Length: 16 hours
Kaplan is another great online AP test prep service that offers real-time instruction. Its educators are well-versed in pretty much any AP test you’ll need to take, and the course's flexible curriculum lets you shape your study experience to your needs.
- Supplement the information you already learned in class
- Answer review questions and take practice tests to reinforce your learning
- Gain test-taking confidence
- Study with experienced instructors
- Focus on review and knowledge reinforcement
- Expert educators available for real-time learning
- Flexible curriculum
- Comprehensive course offerings
- No free trial
Who’s it for: Like Princeton Review, Kaplan is a great option if you want personalized instruction from experienced tutors. Kaplan focuses on test-taking strategies and time management, so it’s a good bet if standardized tests feel overwhelming to you.
Overall: Kaplan is a fantastic choice for those looking for a holistic, online AP test prep experience. Flexible, expert educators will work with you on a variety of subject-specific exams to make sure you get the score you’re after.
3. Khan Academy
Platform: Khan Academy | Length (course dependent): 44-100 hours
Khan Academy is by far the best free resource for online AP exam prep. Offering more than 20 AP subjects, Khan Academy is likely to have what you’re looking for. Its videos are digestible and straightforward, making it great for explaining any concepts that you may have missed in class.
- Review subject-specific material
- Focus on those tricky concepts that might not have made sense in class
- Practice test taking
- Lots of subjects covered
- Gives you control over your learning
- Tracks your progress
- No real-time feedback
- No interactive learning option
Who’s it for: Khan Academy is great for self-motivated, independent learners who are looking to build on the knowledge that they already have. If you don’t want to spend money and prefer a flexible study regime, Khan Academy is the option for you.
Overall: While it doesn’t offer live instruction, Khan Academy is far and away the best free AP exam prep resource out there. Its videos, which you can watch at your own pace, are sure to help you clear up any confusing concepts ahead of your test.
Platform: Study.com | Length (course dependant): ~25 hours
Study.com is a lot like Khan Academy. It’s a great resource for independent learners who’re looking to bolster their knowledge with self-study lessons, videos, and practice tests. Offering personalized study plans that track your progress, Study.com is a solid online AP exam prep resource.
- Review material in your target subject
- Practice taking tests
- Shore up your knowledge
- Allows you to learn what you need at your own pace
- Many subjects covered
- Focus on test taking
- No real-time feedback
- Costs money (roughly $80 per month), but offers lots of test prep
Who’s it for: Study.com is best if you’re a motivated, independent learner who wants to review subject material as well as gain lots of practice taking tests. If you have the money and want course review plus test-taking prep, consider Study.com.
Overall: Study.com has a wide course offering, meaning it likely has whatever subject you’re looking to review. While it is more expensive than Khan Academy, it offers lots in the way of practical test-taking preparation. If you want flexibility and personalization, Study.com might be the option for you.
Platform: Marco Learning | Length: 4 hours
Marco Learning offers a combination of live instruction–four, hour-long “bootcamp” classes before an AP exam–as well as videos, practice tests, and study guides, many of which are available for free. Importantly, it focuses on both material and test-taking strategies.
- Prepare to go confidently into your AP exam
- Review critical test-taking tips and tricks
- Go over exam-specific material
- Take practice tests
- Offers live instruction
- Includes some free resources
- Focus on practice tests
- Structured study plans
- Many subjects covered
- Costs money, though it’s a great value for what it is ($49.99 for four video sessions)
Who’s it for: Marco Learning is an excellent resource if you want both subject-specific review and test-taking preparation in real-time at a relatively low cost. If you’re looking to study more on your own, Marco Learning’s free offerings, including lesson plans, study guides, and practice tests, will certainly be helpful.
Overall: Its mix of real-time learning and self-study make Marco Learning an excellent option if you’re looking for a flexible yet structured prep plan. If you need more help than Marco Learning’s ample free offerings can provide and have $49.99, its live sessions will put you in a great position to get a top score on your exam.
Platform: Fiveable | Length: 15 hours
Fiveable offers comprehensive, interactive AP exam prep that covers a wide range of subjects. Notably, its courses focus equally on material as they do on test-taking strategies and exam practice. Its five-lesson program is great if you’re in need of more support. And if you’re looking for one-off sessions, Fiveable offers those starting at $15 per session.
- Practice exam-specific questions
- Review content related to your subject in real-time
- Receive support from expert educators
- Holistically prepare to beat the exam
- Lots of focus on test-taking strategies
- Affordable ($40 for five classes or $15 for one)
- Wide array of materials (study guides, cheat sheets, etc.)
- Real-time instruction with experienced instructors
- No individual tutoring offered, but the group session are comprehensive
Who’s it for: Fiveable is great if you’re looking for an affordable, thorough exam prep service that offers structured study plans, real-time lessons, and support in reviewing on your own. If you’re particularly nervous about test taking, Fiveable is a terrific option for you given its focus on preparing students to master the ins and outs of standardized testing.
Overall: Fiveable is a superb service if you want interactive, holistic support in preparing for your AP exams. Its emphasis on practice tests, exam strategies, and subject-specific content review makes its one of the best all-around services available.
Platform: PrepScholar | Length: 4-32 hours
PrepScholar offers a comprehensive, structured curriculum that will ensure you’re well-prepared for your AP exams. Its expert-designed study materials, individualized study plans, and interactive lessons offer a well-rounded review of content and exam strategy.
- Work one-on-one with experts
- Explore critical test-taking strategies
- Review subject material
- Boost your confidence ahead of your exam
- Individualized lesson plans
- Many subjects covered
- Expert tutors
- Holistic curriculum
- A bit pricey (cheapest option is $360) but still a great value for private tutoring
Who’s it for: PrepScholar should be a top choice if you’re looking for an interactive, hands-on experience with expert instructors. Though PrepScholar is a bit pricier than some of the other options listed above, it's an incredible bang for your buck if you’ve got the money.
Overall: As far as thorough and personalized AP exam prep courses go, PrepScholar is right up there with the best of them. Working individually with tutors who are well versed in both the subject matter and exam strategy allows you to customize the experience to fit your needs.
Platform: Varsity Tutors | Length: Depends on subject, but typically 6-12 hours
Varsity Tutors is an excellent online AP exam prep service if you’re looking for a hands-on, personalized approach and seeking the guidance of experienced tutors. Offering one-on-one sessions tailored to your learning style and needs, Varsity Tutors will make sure you’re ready to tackle your AP exam.
- Work individually with your tutor to study subject-specific material
- Review exam-taking strategies
- Bolster your knowledge with real AP exam questions
- Receive the support you need to ace the exam
- Individualized tutoring with experienced educators
- Flexible scheduling
- Tailor-made learning experience
- Free resources, including hundreds of practice tests
- Not the most straightforward pricing, though tutors run from $50-$100 per hour depending on the subject. Still a good price for what you get
Who’s it for: If you prefer a bespoke learning experience and individualized support, Varsity Tutors is right for you. Their skilled instructors will tailor their guidance to best allow you to thrive. If you like one-on-one tutoring and could use some more in-depth help, consider going with Varsity Tutors.
Overall: Varsity Tutors combines flexibility in scheduling, curriculum, and teaching to most effectively serve its students. I love that they empower students to customize their experience, making it highly effective. If you have the money and the desire for individualized support, Varsity Tutors is an excellent choice.
Platform: Barron’s | Length: depends on individual study habits, but 20-60 hours
Barron’s provides extensive, well-structured study materials to support students in preparing for their AP exams. Offering full-length practice tests, timed online exams, study guides, flash cards, and detailed strategy explanations, Barron’s gives you the tools you’ll need to succeed.
- Hit home concepts with numerous practice tests
- Experience real test conditions with timed exams
- Master test-taking strategies
- Use a variety of test prep resources
- Diverse materials that aid studying
- Comprehensive curricula
- Simulates real-life testing conditions with timed exams
- Relatively affordable (books are normally <$25)
- Learn at your own pace
- Lack of interactive learning
Who’s it for: Barron’s is for you if you’re a self-motivated learner and are good at making and sticking to study plans. As an exam prep service, it offers you total freedom over your learning experience. If you thrive with maximum flexibility, Barron’s should be a top choice.
Overall: Holistic curricula, in-depth study materials, and practical exam simulations, Barron’s offers everything that an independent learner could want. Use Barron’s robust offerings to learn at your own pace and focus on the material that you’re most concerned about. Barron’s is a great option if you’re feeling ready to study on your own.
Platform: Peterson’s | Length: varies by subject and learner, up to 4.5 hours of tutoring
Peterson’s AP exam prep offerings are varied to suit your needs. If you prefer to study on your own, they’ve got excellent resources that include flashcards, test-taking tips, instructional videos, and practice tests. If you’re looking for more personalized guidance, fear not, for Peterson’s also offers live tutoring sessions.
- Have access to comprehensive study materials
- Learn at your own pace
- Create a personalized study plan
- Practice exam strategies
- Track your progress to optimize your studying
- Lots of materials to study on your own
- Various learning tools (videos, flashcards, etc.)
- Live instruction offerings
- Diagnostic tests to personalize your study plan
- Cost (starting at $49/month), but still a good value
Who’s it for: Whether you prefer to study on your own or to work one-on-one with an experienced tutor, Peterson’s has something for you. Its diagnostic tests allow you to customize your study plan, and its diverse study tools will help you along the way. If you need more support, Peterson’s instructors are there to help at a relatively cheap price (starting at $45/month for three months).
Overall: Peterson’s is an all-around solid option, especially at the price point offered. Though it’s maybe not as specialized as some of the other services, it has something for everyone. Its study tools and instructors will give you the power to design your study plan and execute it at your own pace.
What are the advantages of taking an online AP prep course?
- Personalized, comprehensive study plans
- Flexibility to learn at your own pace in a study environment that’s comfortable for you
- Diverse offerings ensure that there’s something for you
- Cheaper than in-person tutoring
- Likely to improve your score, helping you get into your dream school
Online AP prep courses are great because they can offer you the same personalized, comprehensive study plan as their in-person equivalents but at a fraction of the price. Completely virtual AP prep courses give you the flexibility to learn at your own pace and the freedom to study in an environment that’s comfortable for you.
Buyer’s guide: what to look for in an online AP prep course
- The specific subject you’re studying should influence the course you choose. Some programs are better than others when it comes to specific subjects, so be sure to look at what a course offers for your target subject to make sure that it effectively builds on what you’ve already learned in class.
- Test taking strategies and time management skills will be part of any good AP prep course’s curriculum, so make sure the program you choose includes those.
- Practice materials, including exams, will feature heavily in an effective online AP prep course. It’s important to properly reinforce your knowledge.
- Flexibility and customizability are important if an online AP prep course is to meet your needs and fit comfortably with your schedule.
How much do online AP prep courses cost?
The price tags of AP prep courses vary tremendously and totally depend on what level of support you’re looking for.
Some courses, like Khan Academy, offer their services for free and are great options for individual learners.
Others, like Princeton Review, offer more robust services that can cost more than $5,000.
But it’s important to remember that even the most expensive programs are likely cheaper than in-person tutoring. Luckily, given the number of online offerings, there’s something for every budget.
How long does it take to prepare for AP exams?
Preparation time is a major question for anyone getting ready to take an AP exam. The reality is that the amount of time you should spend preparing for your AP exams depends largely on your study habits, how effective your in-class learning was, etc. Still, most courses run from four hours at the low end to more than 100 hours. Whichever is best for you depends on your needs.
You can’t go wrong with any of the 10 services that I’ve reviewed. All are fantastic in their own ways, so what’s most important is that you choose the one that best suits your needs.
Princeton Review’s course takes my top spot because of its holistic content, instructor quality, emphasis on personalized learning, and, above all, its track record of success. And with the money back guarantee, what’ve you got to lose?
But Kaplan is a great number two thanks to its affordable private tutors and tailor-made study plans. Not only will you master the course material with Kaplan, you’ll learn the ins and outs of how to ace the exam you’re sitting for.
And if you’re not looking to spend money on your AP exam prep, look no further than Khan Academy, whose free videos and study materials have been helping students for years.
Happy studying, and good luck on the exam!
Online AP courses: frequently asked questions
The best program for you depends on your needs, but Princeton Review is #1 in my book.
Anywhere from free to north of $5,000 depending on what you’re looking for.
Depends on the course, but from as little as four hours to as much as 100+ hours.
If you want to get a good score, it’s a good idea to take a prep course.
Max is a graduate of Tufts University, where he studied international relations. He currently works as an online tutor.