7 Books to Give Students a Leg Up on the AP French Exam and Language Skills for Life
The AP French Language and Culture Exam is probably one of the most stress-inducing tests your high school students will ever take.
It can be incredibly challenging and requires intense preparation throughout the year.
Preparing your students for this important academic event can be fulfilling for both them and you, and it’s a great opportunity to empower them with French language skills for the rest of their lives.
As you do this, it pays to remember that having the right tools matters.
Besides familiarizing yourself and your students with the exam format, you need a foolproof way to teach the French language efficiently.
Books may not be as modern and interactive as digital tools, but they aren’t going anywhere for one simple reason: They work!
Not only will the right books help maximize your students’ chances of scoring a 5 on D-day, they’ll help cement their language skills for college and beyond!
How to Use Books Efficiently in Your AP Classes
Know your options, and find the books that work best for you and your students. Especially if you’re recommending books to your students, know each manual’s strengths and weaknesses and understand for whom they are designed. This will help your students make informed decisions and buy the ones that are suited to their own specific skills and personalities.
Choose books that work for you and your students and use them all the way through. Time is better spent studying than keeping the search for the perfect books open.
Most review books come with corrected exercises. In theory, this makes them perfect for self-study. In practice, students often have questions that remain unanswered, and they don’t always fully grasp why an answer is correct when all they have is the answer.
Make sure to remain available to discuss any questions they may have regarding grammar, vocabulary, structure, etc. A good way to do this is to devote 5-to-10 minutes per class to questions and discuss them as a group.
Alternatively, have your students write their questions on a piece of paper and drop them into an “AP question box.” Leave that box in your classroom, or encourage them to send you targeted emails. Discuss the questions at the beginning of classes and provide concrete examples of what to watch out for.
Here are some fantastic books that will make a significant difference to your AP French students.
AP Ammo: 7 Books to Arm Your Students for the AP French Exam and Beyond
1. “Barron’s AP French Language and Culture”
The Barron’s is the go-to textbook to prepare for the AP French Language and Culture Exam: It offers in-depth preparation. If it’s not already on your list, this is perhaps the book you’ve been waiting for all along.
Get the latest edition for maximum efficiency. Having the newest version will help you stay current.
The Barron’s includes a comprehensive grammar review, 2 full-length practice exams with questions answered and explained, tips to prepare for the exam more efficiently and strategies to acquire the skills required by the College Board. It also includes an audio CD with model conversations and oral presentations, multiple-choice sections, persuasive essays and insights on the exam.
Add the Barron’s to your students’ book list and make sure that the school library has a few copies on the shelves as well: The book is designed in such a way that students should be able to self-study, so give them the opportunity to do so at their leisure.
Alternatively, you can incorporate it into your after-class hours and review the content together: This will enable students who don’t understand their mistakes to come to you with questions.
2. “AP French: Preparing for the Language Examination”
This is another must-have: Similar to the Barron’s, this book from Pearson is focused and comprehensive, with numerous activities and study points to prepare your students for D-day.
The book features lots of exercises to gain familiarity with the exam’s format and to effectively practice for the AP French Exam. Considering how well-written and insightful it is, the book can easily be used to prepare your lessons for other advanced French courses, not just for AP classes.
Use it for inspiration if you’re looking for engaging classroom activities: The materials are perhaps a bit advanced, but your students will thank you for raising the bar early on! Also use it if you’re looking for better-explained grammar points: This book is designed for English speakers, and it has just what you need to expound on any French grammar rule.
Unlike the Barron’s “AP French,” the Pearson’s “AP French” is best used in a classroom setting, as most students wouldn’t buy the entire set: It’s on the expensive side.
But fear not, you’ll get your money’s worth and you’ll be doing your AP students a favor: The book’s 9 units cover specific skills in all 4 areas tested by the College Board: listening, speaking, reading and writing. It doesn’t get more thorough than that!
The book includes an audio CD or tapes to make the listening sections more aligned with the actual AP French Exam. Not only is it perfect to prepare your students for the real thing, but it’s also a great way to make your classes more engaging!
A recent edition of the book gives you access to digital resources for teachers: eText with audio links, downloadable audio files, a teacher’s resource book and more exclusive materials that you can use with your AP students in your study sessions!
3. “AP French Language and Culture All Access”
Here’s another great book you can use in the classroom and need to add to your students’ reading and study list ASAP!
Buying the book gives you access to print and digital content and enables you and your students to use the material anywhere, offline or online.
The book provides a strategic review of the AP French material that students should know, including useful tips and strategies to answer all questions by section based on past answers.
The web version also offers diagnostic tools to help your students pinpoint their strengths and weaknesses so they know exactly what they need to focus on in their studies. Ask them to share their results with you by printing out them out, so you can adapt your study plan accordingly. Use the resources available online if necessary, and make sure that your students, too, spend some time reviewing relevant materials if they are lagging behind.
The online tools provide customizable e-flashcards, perfect for practicing and reviewing! While students can use the book (and digital versions) autonomously, make sure that you follow up with them by devoting a few minutes to their questions at the beginning of class.
Alternatively, ask them questions: Give them a topic to prepare for in advance as homework, and grill them! This will keep them on point and give them incentive to come prepared for all classes.
4. “Exercices de Grammar Française – Cahier Avancé”
This is a favorite French grammar book for French language learners. While written in French, all explanations are devoted to non-French natives: They’re simple and to the point, and include lots of examples!
All activities and exercises are organized by grammar category, which makes it perfect to help your AP French students review difficult grammar points for the multiple choice, writing and speaking portions of the AP French Language and Culture Exam.
Each study set features an explanation based on select examples, a series of progressive exercises and corrections. It’s easy to use and quite rudimentary, but highly efficient, making it your new favorite reference tool for creating highly effective grammar lessons or grammar review activities!
Bring the book to the classroom and have your class work together on a theme: Create study groups of 2 to 3 students and let them work together on a select grammar point per study session. You have the option of keeping the groups unchanged for the entire year and letting groups study whatever they want: This will empower your students by giving them the freedom to study what they really need to, and to help each other throughout the year.
Make sure that your students keep a log of what they have studied so you can track their progress. Let groups work with each other, and follow their progress by shadowing them: Simply walk around the class and monitor what’s going on. Make sure to jump in and add your input when you realize that they have stalled.
5. “Écrire pour convaincre”
This is an oldie but goodie, and the title says it all: “Write to convince.”
Look no further if you’re searching for tools to empower your students with their writing and help them nail the essay portions of the AP French Exam!
The book is made up of a set of activities to develop and strengthen the learning capabilities of your students by focusing on analysis and critical thinking.
From document analysis to free writing activities, the book looks at argumentative skills and shows students how to communicate better. The book is strategically divided into 2 parts: One on general aspects of argumentation, which discusses best techniques and practices to convince in French, and different types of argumentation, which details how to best analyze and understand documents.
Each thematic section features an extensive vocabulary list of important words to use to express oneself better on a specific subject: best structures and common expressions and idioms your students should use to make their opinionated writing more effective. Each point ends with a model opinion essay to show your students what’s expected of them.
Use it in the classroom: This book will give you lots of great ideas to prepare your lessons and to help your students improve their writing skills. There are a lot of fantastic readily available materials inside: Make the most of them!
Get the book for the school library so your students can browse it at their leisure, and by all means, recommend it to them.
6. “En d’autres termes”
Another oldie but goodie, and again, the title says it all: “In other words.”
This book focuses mainly on increasing French vocabulary skills and on word activities to broaden your students’ active and passive lexicons.
The book contains a wide array of idioms, false cognates, common slang words, day-to-day language and proverbs, all of which can make a significant difference with the examiners and which will serve your students well for the rest of their studies. How so? The words used are highly authentic—using authentic French vocab is a great trick to help your students speak French like natives.
“En d’autres termes” is one of those great vocabulary enrichment books that you can use in your regular classroom as well: When focusing on vocabulary, it can be a fantastic resource to go to for inspiration before creating your own study plan.
7. “Lagarde et Michard XXe siècle”
To pass the AP French Language and Culture Exam with flying colors, your students need to do their best to immerse themselves in French language and culture. What better way to achieve that than to use the book that top French students use themselves to prepare for the French baccalauréat?
The “Lagarde et Michard” is just that: It’s a (very!) comprehensive set of extracts and select pieces from the leading literary works by French writers from the 20th century.
Organized by themes, topics, movements and authors, the book features numerous significant excerpts from major writings that best embody a certain notion developed. Each extract is accompanied by an introduction to the work that includes information on what it’s about, the context in which it was written, how it affected the literary world and the author, and is followed by questions to lead discussions, extensive notes and comments.
If you’ve been looking for an insightful book that emphasizes significant literary works for your culture activities, this is it. This is ultimately a teacher’s book and can be a bit overwhelming to some students. It’s all in French, so while you can’t beat the authenticity, don’t expect all your AP French students to fully grasp the content right away.
Do keep it handy in the school’s library: Your bookworm-students will delight in browsing through the dense, content-rich book and will learn a lot about French literature.
Oh! and if you’re wondering…the authors, Lagarde et Michard, wrote similar books for 16th, 17th, 18th and 19th century French literature too, so feel free to buy the entire collection: It’s a great one-time investment.
Now that you have the best possible list of books to prepare your French students to ace the AP exam, rest assured that they are fully equipped for the test.
Bonne chance à tous ! (Good luck to all!)