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2024 AP Art History Exam Guide

12 min read • july 10, 2023


Your Guide to the 2024 AP Art History Exam

We know that studying for your AP exams can be stressful, but Fiveable has your back! We created a study plan to help you crush your AP Art History exam. This guide will continue to update with information about the 2024 exams, as well as helpful resources to help you do your best on test day. Unlock Cram Mode for access to our cram events—students who have successfully passed their AP exams will answer your questions and guide your last-minute studying LIVE! And don't miss out on unlimited access to our database of thousands of practice questions.

Format of the 2024 AP Art History Exam

Going into test day, this is the exam format to expect:

80 multiple-choice questions with 60 minutes to complete them.

There will be around 40 questions put together in sets of 3-6 that will be based around color images of works of art.

There will also be around 40 individual questions centered around color images of works of art. 

6 free-response questions with 120 minutes to complete them.

Question 1 is a long essay focusing on comparison. You should spend ~35 minutes on this question.

Question 2 is another long essay focusing on visual and contextual analysis. It is recommended you devote 25 minutes to this response.

Questions 3-6 are short essay questions and it is recommended that you spend 15 minutes on each one.

Question 3 focuses on describing using visual analysis .

Question 4 is based on describing using contextual analysis .

Question 5 focuses on attribution .

Question 6 is based on analyzing continuity and change .

👉 Check out the 2023 AP Art History Free-Response Section posted on the College Board site.

Scoring Rubric for the AP Art History Exam

View an example set of questions and the corresponding scoring guidelines from the College Board to get an idea of what they look for in your responses!

Check out our study plan below to find resources and tools to prepare for your AP Art History exam.

When is the 2024 AP Art History Exam and How do I Take it?

Tests will be taken in person at your school. Here is what we know from College Board so far:

The exam date will be in-person and on paper at your school on Monday, May 6, 2024 at 12 pm, your local time. 

You will have 3 hours to take the exam. We will have more updates from the College Board soon, but as of now this is what we know!

How Should I Prepare for the Exam?

First, download the AP Art History Cheatsheet PDF - a single sheet that covers everything you need to know at a high level. Take note of your strengths and weaknesses!

We've put together the study plan found below to help you study between now and May. This will cover all of the units and essay types to prepare you for your exam. Pay special attention to the units that you need the most improvement in.

Study, practice, and review for test day with other students during our live cram sessions via Cram Mode . Cram live streams will teach, review, and practice important topics from AP courses, college admission tests, and college admission topics. These streams are hosted by experienced students who know what you need to succeed.

Pre-Work: Set Up Your Study Environment

Before you begin studying, take some time to get organized.

🖥 Create a study space.

Make sure you have a designated place at home to study. Somewhere you can keep all of your materials, where you can focus on learning, and where you are comfortable. Spend some time prepping the space with everything you need and you can even let others in the family know that this is your study space. 

📚 Organize your study materials.

Get your notebook, textbook, prep books, or whatever other physical materials you have. Also, create a space for you to keep track of review. Start a new section in your notebook to take notes or start a Google Doc to keep track of your notes. Get yourself set up!

📅 Plan designated times for studying.

The hardest part about studying from home is sticking to a routine. Decide on one hour every day that you can dedicate to studying. This can be any time of the day, whatever works best for you. Set a timer on your phone for that time and really try to stick to it. The routine will help you stay on track.

🏆 Decide on an accountability plan.

How will you hold yourself accountable to this study plan? You may or may not have a teacher or rules set up to help you stay on track, so you need to set some for yourself. First, set your goal. This could be studying for x number of hours or getting through a unit. Then, create a reward for yourself. If you reach your goal, then x. This will help stay focused!

AP Art History 2024 Study Plan

🗿 unit 1: global prehistory , 3000–500 bce, unit summary:.

The artists of the Paleolithic and Neolithic periods didn't have access to the same materials that we do nowadays, and instead used media, or materials, that were readily available, like natural pigments, stone, and bone. Also, people had very little time to create art before the specialization of labor, which is when people were assigned specific jobs and responsibilities. This makes the artistic works of this unit all the more impressive ( cue the round of applause 👏).

Definitely do this:

📚 Read these study guides:

Unit 1 Overview: Global Prehistory , 30,000-500 BCE

1.1 Cultural Influences on Prehistoric Art

1.2 Materials, Processes, and Techniques in Prehistoric Art

1.3 Theories and Interpretations of Prehistoric Art

1.4 Unit 1 Required Works

If you have more time or want to dig deeper:

💻 Learn about the best prep books so you can start studying early:

Best AP Art History Textbooks and Prep Books

🏛 Unit 2: Ancient Mediterranean , 3500 BCE–300 CE

When people ask AP Art History students about their favorite work in the course, many of them say ones from this unit, and with good reason. The ancient Mediterranean is home to some of the most renowned artworks and historical sites of all time, like the Pyramids of Giza and the Colosseum . The people of this area also developed new artistic techniques that are used to this day, showing the influence of groups like the Mesopotamians , Greeks , and Romans on art throughout history.

Unit 2 Overview: Ancient Mediterranean , 3500-300 BCE

2.1 Cultural Contexts of Ancient Mediterranean Art

2.2 Interactions Across Cultures in Ancient Mediterranean Art

2.3 Purpose and Audience in Ancient Mediterranean Art

2.4 Theories and Interpretations of Ancient Mediterranean Art

2.5 Unit 2 Required Works

🎥Watch these videos from the College Board :

Ancient Mediterranean , 3500 BCE-300 CE [Part 1]

Ancient Mediterranean , 3500 BCE-300 CE [Part 2]

Ancient Mediterranean , 3500 BCE-300 CE [Part 3]

Ancient Mediterranean , 3500 BCE-300 CE [Part 4]

💻 It is never to early to want to prepare for the exam:

How to Get a 5 in AP Art History

⛪️ Unit 3: Early Europe and Colonial Americas , 200–1750 CE

Now that the Roman Empire and ancient civilizations of unit 2 have fallen (or at least settled down a little bit), we get to discover their respective countries and some new ones, too! This unit will go over the artistic movements of Europe from 200 to 1750 CE and explain how peoples' conversions to religions like Christianity and Islam and historical events influenced the art made there. Later in the unit, we'll also get to travel to European-conquered areas of the Americas and see how those traditions have syncretized with the continent's native artistic traditions. 

Unit 3 Overview: Early Europe and Colonial Americas , 200-1750 CE

3.1 Cultural Contexts of Early European and Colonial American Art

3.2 Interactions Within and Across Cultures in Early European and Colonial American Art

3.3 Materials, Processes, and Techniques in Early European and Colonial American Art

3.4 Purpose and Audience in Early European and Colonial American Art

3.5 Theories and Interpretations of Early European and Colonial American Art

3.6 Unit 3 Required Works

Early Europe and Colonial Americas , 200-1750 CE [Part 1]

Early Europe and Colonial Americas , 200-1750 CE [Part 2]

Early Europe and Colonial Americas , 200-1750 CE [Part 3]

Early Europe and Colonial Americas , 200-1750 CE [Part 4]

⚔️ Unit 4: Later Europe and Americas , 1750–1980 CE

In this unit, we'll get to see how different historical events and social problems from 1750 to 1980 have influenced the art made in each period and how that has influenced the works that we see today. We'll also get to see artists in each movement break traditional rules by choosing to depict subjects that have never been painted before, create new techniques, use newly invented media, and expose issues that have historically not been acknowledged.

Unit 4 Overview: Later Europe and Americas , 1750-1980 CE

4.1 Interactions Within and Across Cultures in Later European and American Art

4.2 Purpose and Audience in Later European and American Art

4.3 Materials, Processes, and Techniques in Later European and American Art

4.4 Theories and Interpretations of Later European and American Art

4.5 Unit 4 Required Works

Later Europe and Americas , 1750-1980 CE [Part 1]

Later Europe and Americas , 1750-1980 CE [Part 2]

Later Europe and Americas , 1750-1980 CE [Part 3]

Cultural Interactions in Later European and American Art [Part 1]

Cultural Interactions in Later European and American Art [Part 2]

Purpose and Audience in Later European and American Art [Part 1]

Purpose and Audience in Later European and American Art [Part 2]

Materials, Processes, and Techniques in Later European and American Art

🌽 Unit 5: Indigenous Americas , 1000 BCE –1980 CE

We're going to move on to some of the cultures that weren't covered in that section. In unit 5, we'll be exploring works made by indigenous (native) American artists, both before and after European colonization (pre-Columbian and post-Columbian), and see how the region's distinctive cultures have influenced the art made there. As we go through this unit, be sure to make note of the similarities and differences that you see between these works and those made by mestizo (part indigenous, part European) artists in Unit 4.

Unit 5 Overview: Indigenous Americas , 1000 BCE-1980 CE

5.1 Interactions Within and Across Cultures in Indigenous American Art

5.2 Materials, Processes, and Techniques in Indigenous American Art

5.3 Purpose and Audience in Indigenous American Art

5.4 Theories and Interpretations of Indigenous American Art

5.5 Unit 5 Required Works

Indigenous Americas , 1000 BCE-1980 CE [Part 1]

Indigenous Americas , 1000 BCE-1980 CE [Part 2]

⚱️ Unit 6: Africa , 1100–1980 CE

With more than 3,000 different ethnic groups and 2,100 languages spoken on the continent 🗣️, Africa is extremely ethnically diverse, and we can see this through its art. Unlike in Europe, where art styles vary by nation or region (Central Europe, Western Europe, etc.), African art can look completely different in neighboring villages because of religious, ethnic, cultural, and linguistic dissimilarities. 

Unit 6 Overview: Africa , 1100-1980 CE

6.1 Cultural Contexts of African Art

6.2 Purpose and Audience in African Art

6.3 Theories and Interpretations of African Art

6.4 Unit 6 Required Works

Africa , 1100-1980 CE [Part 1]

Africa , 1100-1980 CE [Part 2]

🕌 Unit 7: West and Central Asia , 500 BCE–1980 CE

Unit 7 may be one of the shortest units in AP Art History at 11 required works, but it still packs a mighty punch. The works from West and Central Asia are incredibly diverse in media (materials used to create a work), function, and pretty much every other identifier, which is why so many AP Art History students enjoy this part of the course. 

Unit 7 Overview: West and Central Asia , 500 BCE-1980 CE

7.1 Materials, Processes, and Techniques in West and Central Asian Art

7.2 Purpose and Audience in West and Central Asian Art

7.3 Interactions Within and Across Cultures in West and Central Asian Art

7.4 Unit 7 Required Works

🛕 Unit 8: South, East, and Southeast Asia , 300 BCE–1980 CE

In unit 7, we learned about West and Central Asia , but now, we're going to move east to the areas that we haven't explored yet; welcome to South, East, and Southeast Asia ! In this unit, you'll learn about the influence of different religions and philosophies on people's beliefs and how this translates to their artworks. We'll also learn more about cross-cultural interactions on the continent between Europeans and native groups, and how this led to artistic syncretism (fusion of different cultures).

Unit 8 Overview: South, East, and Southeast Asia , 300 BCE-1980 CE

8.1 Materials, Processes, and Techniques in South, East, and Southeast Asian Art

8.2 India and Southeast Asia

8.3 Interactions Within and Across Cultures in South, East, and Southeast Asian Art

8.5 Unit 8 Required Works

🐚 Unit 9: The Pacific, 700–1980 CE

Spread across approximately 25,000 islands, the Pacific region is one of the most expansive and remote places studied in AP Art History . Because of this unique characteristic, many of its people have not had contact with those living in nearby areas, keeping artistic styles to their islands of origin and not allowing for syncretism (the blending of elements from another region into native art). 

Unit 9 Overview: The Pacific, 700-1980 CE

9.1 Materials, Processes, and Techniques in Pacific Art

9.2 Interactions Within and Across Cultures in Pacific Art

9.3 Theories and Interpretations of Pacific Art

9.4 Unit 9 Required Works

Materials, Processes, and Techniques in Pacific Art

Interactions Within and Across Cultures in Pacific Art [Focus: Polynesia ]

Theories and Interpretations of Pacific Art [Focus: Polynesia & Melanesia ]

🏢 Unit 10: Global Contemporary , 1980 CE to Present

This is the final unit of AP Art History ( cue the round of celebratory applause 👏 )! Unit 10 is a great way to finish off this course because its works are unlike any that we've seen previously with respect to theme, media (things used to make a work), and technique. Unfortunately, though, contemporary art (art made in the second half of the 20th or the 21st century) gets a bad rap from many viewers.

Unit 10 Overview: Global Contemporary , 1980 CE to Present

10.1 Materials, Processes, and Techniques in Global Contemporary Art

10.2 Purpose and Audience in Global Contemporary Art

10.3 Interactions Within and Across Cultures in Global Contemporary Art - coming soon

10.4 Theories and Interpretations of Global Contemporary Art

10.5 Unit 10 Required Works

Purpose and Audience in Global Contemporary Art [Part 1]

Purpose and Audience in Global Contemporary Art [Part 2]

Purpose and Audience in Global Contemporary Art [Part 3]

Interactions Within and Across Cultures in Contemporary Art [Part 1]

Interactions Within and Across Cultures in Contemporary Art [Part 2]

💻 Use these Quizlet decks to help you study for the exam:

Best Quizlet Decks for AP Art History

Key Terms to Review ( 26 )

Ancient Mediterranean

AP Art History


College Board

Early Europe and Colonial Americas

Free-Response Section

Global Contemporary

Global Prehistory

Indigenous Americas

Later Europe and Americas



Pyramids of Giza

Scoring Rubric

South, East, and Southeast Asia

West and Central Asia


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AP® Art History

One month ap® art history study guide.

  • The Albert Team
  • Last Updated On: March 1, 2022

One Month AP® Art History Study Guide

AP® Art History can seem impossibly tough to review in a single month. It involves a massive amount of memorization, thousands of years of history, and some serious analysis. The sheer amount of material in art history makes it difficult to remember everything as you prepare for the AP® test. But with the right study guide and the best materials available, it can be a breeze to review AP® Art History and ace the exam.

We’ve created this one-month AP® Art History study guide to help you review all the essential ideas in the course and practice for the AP® exam. Using our guide, you won’t need to worry about studying material that won’t be tested. We focus only on what you need to know on the AP® test. Plus, we’ve searched everywhere to find the best resources for AP® Art History so you don’t have to look for them. With enough motivation and a good plan, you can confidently take the AP® Art History exam without worrying about forgetting what you’ve learned at the last second.

To get more tips on preparing for the AP® Art History exam, check out this article on How to Study for AP® Art History.

What We Review

What You will Need for this One-Month AP® Art History Study Guide

If you don’t have the right materials, it will be hard to score well on the exam or even make it through your AP® Art History class. These are the key resources for this study guide. We will reference these throughout the guide, so it’s important that you have access to them. If you can’t find one of the resources we list below, try to find a substitute that you can use instead. AP® Art History questions . The system has hundreds of questions on everything in art history, from prehistory to postmodern art. The problems are designed to hone your understanding, and the system tracks your progress to improve your study. The art history questions test both your knowledge of the content and your understanding of the broader themes of art over the ages. It’s a perfect way to improve your chances of excelling on the AP® Art History test.

Plenty of practice tests. If you don’t practice, you cannot possibly prepare enough for the test. AP® Art History has a specific curriculum, and you have to know what the exam will require you to understand. Practice tests are by far the best way to find out what the exam is like and to practice for test day. One of the best resources to find practice tests is CollegeBoard’s AP® Central for AP® Art History. This central website includes a full online practice exam, a multiple-choice exam, and all of the official free response questions since 2003. We’ll be using these practice tests regularly, so save this website.

AP® Art History flashcards

Flashcard site like Quizlet or flashcard app like Anki . You could also use paper index cards, but those are quite a bit harder to make and study. Anki is great because it uses spaced repetition algorithms to remind you to study at the best possible times. We recommend creating flashcards with an artwork on one side and information about the artwork on the other side. This will help you become familiar with all the art you need to know for the exam. One great resource for making flashcards is this free set of downloadable AP® Art History flashcards . You can download them straight to your phone or put them on your kindle device.

AP® Art History on Khan Academy . This completely free, interactive, video-based course includes almost all of the relevant material for AP® Art History. If you work through the entire class, you’ll be able to take the test with with confidence and excel on the exam. In this study guide, we’ll use the Khan Academy to guide our progress and supplement the material. It’s important that you can keep track of this website, so we would recommend making it a bookmark on your browser.

A review book for AP® Art History. There are three major books for learning and reviewing AP® Art History: REA, the Princeton Review, and Barron’s.  The latest edition of the REA book was published in 2012, so it is somewhat outdated. This isn’t a big deal, since there haven’t been any massive changes to the AP® exam since 2012. However, it always gets glowing reviews from AP® Art History teachers, and if you understand everything in the REA book you’re nearly guaranteed to get a five.  The Princeton Review was written to cover only the essentials – what you absolutely need to know for the test. It’s best as a review for those who are taking an AP® Art History class in school, not as a way to learn the material.  Finally, Barron’s book is up-to-date for the 2016 exam and is great for either reviewing or for learning the material for the first time. It loses out on some of the unique and helpful aspects of the other two books, but it is perfect for most people’s needs. For this guide, we’ll be using Barron’s review book: Barron’s AP® Art History, Third Edition . However, you can relate our advice to any review book your using. All of them cover the same material, just in a different way and sometimes in a rearranged order.

Return to the Table of Contents

Extra Resources for AP® Art History

You probably will not need these resources to pass the test, and you don’t need them to use this study guide. But we might reference these resources at some point, and they will be very useful on the AP® Art History test. Since most of them are free, you can use them as an extra way to enhance your study and increase your understanding of the history of art.

An AP® Art History textbook. If you’re taking the class in school, you probably have already been given a textbook. You should take advantage of this book to gain a better comprehension of art history. The AP® exam tests your ability to integrate your knowledge of a variety of periods and artworks, and a textbook is a perfect way to develop this deep, integrated understanding. If you don’t have a textbook, you don’t have to buy one. They can be very expensive, and this study guide will cover all the material without the need for a textbook. If you do want to get a textbook, great! One of the best options is The Annotated Mona Lisa: A Crash Course in Art History from Prehistoric to Post-Modern. It’s a very intriguing, sometimes funny, and remarkably inexpensive textbook on the full history of human art. If you’d like to look at more options, the CollegeBoard has created an example textbook list for AP® Art History .

This YouTube playlist on AP® Art History from Art Academy. Videos are the best way to learn for some people. They include images, text, and audio at the same time. These three separate routes of communication help reinforce the knowledge in your brain. This set of videos is a wonderful method for reviewing and learning art history.

The Modern Art and Ideas course on Coursera . Do you love the avant-garde, exciting, abstract paintings and artworks of the modern era? Are Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dali, and Claude Monet some of your favorite artists? This course is a great option for delving into this period and learning everything about modern and postmodern artistic expression. This is a mostly supplemental resource, as it only covers the modern era and wasn’t made for AP® Art History students. Use it to learn more about your passion and grow your understanding. However, you shouldn’t depend on it in your preparation for the AP® exam.

AP® Art History Worksheets and Study Guide . An expert AP® Art History teacher compiled this extensive set of worksheets, photos, study guides, and review notes to help students prepare for the exam. Using this resource, you’ll be able to directly test your knowledge right after you learn the material. Since testing yourself has been shown to be one of the best ways to improve retention, using these worksheets to your advantage can dramatically increase your score.

How to Use the AP® Art History Study Guide

AP® Art History textbook

Your study is determined by how prepared you are right now. If you are very prepared, for example, you will not spend time reviewing concepts and learning content. Instead, you will focus on answering sample questions, making sure you have the material memorized, and practicing for the AP® test. In contrast, if you’re not as prepared, you should be learning new ideas and reviewing old content at the same time.

Before you start using this study guide, you should probably take a diagnostic test to evaluate how much you already know. This will be valuable for guiding your review in the future and helping you decide what to study. If you want to take practice exam, there’s a diagnostic test at the beginning of Barron’s review book. If you’ve already taken a test in school, you can use that to gauge what you know.

Once you’ve taken the test, grade it to determine your score. If you got a 4 or 5, you’re very prepared. However, remember that practice tests are easier than the real exam. You should keep reviewing until the test. If you got a 3, you’re somewhat prepared. If you got a 1 or 2, you’re not very prepared, and you should use this study guide to improve your score before the test. However, it’s not just your score that matters. You should also look through your test to see what you missed and what you understood. Try to pinpoint the concepts and sections that you didn’t really get. For example, if you missed a lot of questions about prehistoric art, you should focus a lot of your study this month on making sure you know everything you need to know about prehistoric art.

If you don’t feel prepared at all: Learning the content well enough for the exam will require extra diligence. Depending on your situation, you need to study about 10 to 15 hours a week. Do not skip any of the readings or practice tests. Do everything in this study guide until you can describe all of the major concepts in AP® Art History without help. Take as many practice tests as you can, and use them to decide what you should study the most. Use this study guide to make your study time efficient, so you don’t waste any of your valuable hours on material you don’t need to know.

If you’re somewhat prepared: This guide is an efficient and comprehensive way to strengthen your memory and fill in the gaps in your knowledge of AP® Art History. Again, this category is mostly for people who scored around a three on the diagnostic exam. If you haven’t taken a practice test yet, but you feel confident in your general grasp of art history, this category is probably for you too. Since you already know most of the course’s concepts, you don’t need to learn any new material. When this study guide tells you to learn a new concept, just skim over the reading or lecture to review the concept. Your focus should be on practicing, memorizing, and reviewing. Instead of reading a textbook or review book, just take plenty of practice exams and answer tons of sample questions. You should study about 10 hours a week in the five weeks before the exam. Every day, practice going through your flashcards, complete some questions on, or answer a few AP® questions.

If you’re very prepared: You probably know who you are. You might have already taken art classes before, and maybe you already know a lot about the subject. You might have scored a 5 on a few practice exams, or maybe you just feel very confident in your knowledge of AP® Art History. Maybe you’re already well on your way to creating a masterpiece of your own. No matter which situation you’re in, you mostly need to focus on practicing. Even if you’re a pro, there are probably a few gaps you need to fill in. The AP® test is filled with difficult problems and very specific questions about artworks, so it is important to know what’s ahead of you. This study guide will make sure you know all the content you need to confidently knock off the AP® exam and walk out with a 5. You should spend at least five hours a week studying for the test in the month before the exam.

There are a few main ideas the CollegeBoard wants you to understand for the AP® test. These are called the Big Ideas of AP® Art History. They’re the broad, conceptual principles you should understand before you walk into the testing room.

  • Big Idea One: Artists manipulate materials and ideas to create an aesthetic object, act, or event. This concept deals with the broad practical and philosophical aspects of art. If you understand this idea, you should be able to answer this question: What is art and how is it made? You should be able to describe many different aspects of an artwork – its medium, its form, its function, its impact, and its context. You should be able to think and write about why an artist made a work in a particular way.
  • Big Idea Two: Art-making is shaped by tradition and change. This is one of the main principles of the history of art. Every culture and every time period has different artistic practices, and it can be incredibly interesting to learn about the diversity of art across time and space. The main question in this unit is this: Why and how does art change? If you understand this idea, you should be able to tell a coherent story about the history of a particular kind of art. For example, can you explain when, why, and how impressionism arose in the tradition of modern art? Most questions about the direct history of art deal with this big idea.
  • Big Idea Three: Interpretations of art are variable. If two people walk into a museum and look at a piece of art, they almost never agree on the exact meaning of the artwork. If they did, it would virtually be a miracle – two people looked at a certain arrangement color and space and came to the exact same conclusion. All the differing interpretations are partly why art is so interesting and valuable – it reveals our inner diversity. If you understand this big idea, you should be able to answer this question: How do we describe our thinking about art? On the AP® test, you need to be able to write your ideas about what an artistic work, using references to the artist, the history, and the nature of the piece to interpret the art.

That’s it! There are only three very big, abstract ideas you need to comprehend for the AP® test. However, there is a long and detailed list of artworks and events you must know in order to apply these ideas. There are ten major periods of history or areas of artistic culture that the AP® test requires you to know about. You need to know a selection of artworks from each of these areas or time periods. There are a total of 250 pieces of art on the test.

  • Global Prehistory, 30,000 – 500 BCE. This unit makes up about 4% of the average AP® exam, and it includes 11 works of art. It includes the earliest rudiments of artistic expression like cave paintings and ancient pottery.
  • Ancient Mediterranean, 3500 BCE – 300 CE. This unit makes up about 15% of the average AP® exam, and it includes 36 works of art. It covers primarily Greece, Rome, Carthage, Crete, and the other ancient art-producing cultures on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea.
  • Early Europe and Colonial Americas, 200 – 1750 CE. This unit makes up about 20% of the average AP® exam, and it includes 51 works of art. Most of the American tradition arose from this period, and this unit includes many of the more commonly-known artworks.
  • Later Europe and Americas, 1750 – 1980 CE. This unit makes up about 22% of the average AP® exam, and it includes 54 works of art. It’s the largest unit in AP® Art History. It also covers many of the most popular pieces of art in the Western tradition.
  • Indigenous Americas, 1000 BCE – 1980 CE. This unit makes up about 6% of the average AP® exam, and it includes 14 works of art. There are countless interesting, beautiful artworks created by Native Americans, and this unit will give you an introduction to this vibrant body of work.
  • Africa, 1100 – 1980 CE. This unit makes up about 6% of the average AP® exam, and it includes 14 works of art. While Africa has a long history of artistic expression, many of its artworks have been lost. As a result, most art history courses cover only modern African art. This unit covers many the most important works that influenced the African aesthetic tradition.
  • West and Central Asia, 500 BCE – 1980 CE. This unit makes up about 4% of the average AP® exam, and it includes 11 works of art. The region covers China, Mongolia, and many of the former Soviet states in central Asia.
  • South, East, and Southeast Asia, 300 BCE – 1980 CE. This unit makes up about 8% of the average AP® exam, and it includes 21 works of art. Many of the pieces from this region are characterized by eastern religions like Buddhism, Hinduism, or Taoism, and they are often highly intricate. One of the most famous examples of Southeast Asian art is the Angkor Wat temple in Cambodia.
  • The Pacific, 700 BCE – 1980 CE. This unit makes up about 4% of the average AP® exam, and it includes 11 works of art. The Pacific Ocean covers a massive portion of the Earth, and it is dotted with lush islands that are often filled with very creative inhabitants. This unit covers the artwork of Hawaii, Tonga, Fiji, the Philippines, and countless other Pacific islands.
  • Global Contemporary, 1980 CE – Present. This unit makes up about 11% of the average AP® exam, and it includes 27 works of art. Many of the artists from this unit are alive or have artworks in modern art museums near you – Marcel Duchamp, Damien Hirst, Jean-Michel Basquiat, and more.

This guide is based on a study schedule of six days a week and two hours a day. However, if you don’t need to review certain ideas, feel free to skip over them. You get a break at the end of each week. However, even on your rest day, you may want to skim over your notes and test yourself on a few flashcards.

There are a few things you should be doing nearly every day this month, regardless of how prepared you are. First, you need to make a deck of flashcards for reviewing and memorizing key ideas in AP® Art History. Since AP® Art History is a very memorization-focused course with dozens of artworks, names, and dates, you should make sure to add what you learn to your flashcards. Otherwise, you will forget what you know when you need it most.

Second, you should be taking notes throughout the course. Use your notes to keep track of what you know and what you need to study. Nearly every day, you should review your notes and practice your flashcards to keep the material fresh in your mind.

If you miss a day, try to catch up the next day. Don’t cram, as it will not be effective in the end.

AP® Art History study guide calendar

We’ll start off this month of studying by making sure you understand what you will be required to know on the AP® Art History test. By the end of the day, you should know what concepts will be tested and what you need to review for the AP® exam. You should have a strong understanding of what you’re up against.

Read pages 9 all the way through 23 of the AP® Art History Course Description from the CollegeBoard . This description includes a full outline of everything you need to know on the AP® test. Every time you see a word or concept that you are unfamiliar with, write it down in your notes. You’ll want to come back to these concepts later in the month to review them. As you read, try to understand the broad, main ideas of art history.

After you’ve finished reading, go to page 24 of the Course Description . This section describes all the major content areas in AP® Art History. We already explain the ten content areas, but look over this page to get a preview of what you’ll be studying.

Next, skip down to page 191 of the AP® Art History Course Description . This part of the description is all about the test itself. It’s vital that you read through this section carefully, as it tells you exactly what the test will be like and how your responses will be graded. Plus, this section includes 34 practice multiple-choice questions and six practice free-response questions. Set aside some time to answer all of these questions. Go to a place where you won’t be interrupted. Treat this like a real practice exam.

After you finish the test, grade your answers. What do you already know? What do you need to learn? Make sure to write down any key ideas that you don’t understand.

Hopefully you’re excited to get started! Get some rest today. For the remainder of this guide, we’ll be reviewing everything there is to know about art history.

Today we’ll be starting our review by understanding the main ideas of art history. Before we delve into all the specific artworks and learn about the masterpieces of the past, we need to learn about the concepts that bind all these works together. Why make art? What is art? Why and how does artistic expression change over time? How should we interpret art? It is very important that you can answer these philosophical questions for the AP® exam. You won’t be graded for having the ‘correct answer’ in most cases; rather, you’ll be graded for having a thoughtful, insightful, and well-informed response.

Watch this Khan Academy video on why we should look at art . It’s only a minute long, which makes it a perfect introduction.

Next, watch this Khan Academy video on the basics of art interpretation . This is a wonderful example of how art historians use the work itself, the meaning of the work, and the historical concept to interpret art. Contrary to what most people think, there is a legitimate method to art interpretation that involves serious research and reflection.

After that, just watch the following three videos on Khan Academy: first, a brief history of religion in art , second, is there a difference between art and craft , and finally, how art can help you analyze .

Last of all, there are some important cultural and religious ideas you need to firmly understand if you want to do well in art history. The main religions that have influenced art are Christianity, Buddhism, Islam, Judaism and Hinduism. Go to Khan Academy’s page on the cultures and religions of art history. Use this resource to study any material you don’t know. For example, do you know the five pillars of Islam? If not, read about them and watch some videos on the Islamic faith. Do you know who Krishna is, and his importance in Hinduism? If not, you need to study up. It’s not important that you know every detail in these five religions. You just need to have a good familiarity with each of them so you can use them to interpret artworks.

Now that you have been introduced to art history, it’s time to really delve into the content. The first major content area is global prehistory. This unit is fairly small, so there’s only one chapter on it in Barron’s book.

Open up your Barron’s review book and turn to page 69, which is the beginning of the chapter on Prehistoric Art. Read this chapter for the rest of your study session. Remember to take notes and add to your flashcards! Pay attention to important dates, artists, and ideas. Usually these will be bolded in the review book.

Then, to quiz yourself on what you just learned, answer all of the questions on Global Prehistory. Don’t worry, there are only 19 questions, and they shouldn’t be too challenging if you read the chapter in Barron’s book. If you miss a question, go back and review the material to make sure you understand.

Remember to take some time to review the main artworks for the global prehistory unit. There are 11 pieces of art you need to be familiar with. A phenomenal resource for learning about the artworks in AP® Art History is Khan Academy’s list of Required Works of Art for AP® Art History . It lists all the artwork and includes analysis and videos to help you understand the pieces.

That’s enough to finish your review of the first unit: global prehistory. We didn’t spend much time on it because it only makes up 4% of the AP® exam. When you think of it that way, it makes sense that we’re spending a little less than 4% of this month on reviewing prehistory.

Next up is the second content area in AP® Art History: the Ancient Mediterranean. We’ll spend about three days on this unit, since it makes up a significant portion of the AP® exam – about 15%.

First of all, read through Chapter 2 of Barron’s book. It’s titled Ancient Near Eastern Art, and it starts on page 79. As you read the chapter, take notes and add to your flashcards. This chapter is only 10 pages long, so it shouldn’t take you very much time to read through.

Now, open up Khan Academy’s review of the Ancient Mediterranean . Watch most of the videos and the articles in this review. You can speed up the videos to reduce the amount of time you spend watching. Plus, you don’t need to review the content if you feel very confident that you could answer any questions about it. However, be careful in overestimating yourself. One great way to test if you really know the material is to go to and answer a few questions, and then check out your accuracy.

Working through the Khan Academy review should take about 30 minutes or less.

Then, read Chapter 3: Egyptian Art in Barron’s review book.

When you’re finished reading, go back to Khan Academy and open up their review of Ancient Egypt .

We will continue our study of Ancient Mediterranean art today. Try to analyze how political, economic, and social conditions affected artistic expression in the Mediterranean region. Why did the elites in Ur choose to commission certain artworks? Can you identify any influences on the artistic style of the Egyptians?

First, read Chapter 4: Greek Art in Barron’s review book. This chapter covers one of the most significant artistic cultures in history, so make sure to pay attention.

Then, go through all of Khan Academy’s review of Greek Art .

After finishing your study of ancient Greece, open up your Barron’s review book and read Chapter 5: Etruscan Art. The Etruscans are a somewhat mysterious group of people who lived on the land that eventually become Rome. The art they produced was mythical, intricate, and often extremely beautiful.

When you finish studying the Etruscans, open up Khan Academy and complete their review of Ancient Etruria .

Before we begin, here’s a quick preview of what’s coming next in this guide. In exactly 19 days or about three weeks, we’re going to be taking your first real AP® Art History practice test. You need to know and review all of the basic concepts in AP® Art History before that test.

Today, we will finish learning about ancient Mediterranean art, and then we will review everything we have gone over in this unit.

Open your copy of Barron’s review book and turn to Chapter 6: Roman Art. Read through the entire chapter, take notes, and add to your pile of flashcards. When you finish, take a 5-minute break to refresh your mind.

Then, come back to Khan Academy and work through all of their review of Ancient Rome.

Finally, head over to and answer all the questions in the Ancient Mediterranean section. There aren’t that many questions, so it shouldn’t take you too long.

Congratulations on making it through the first week!

It’s been a tough week! In the last six days, you’ve learned or reviewed about 18% of the material that will be tested on the AP® exam. Don’t worry; you’ll have time to review this later on. Take a break to catch your breath. Catch up on your sleep and exercise. Over your rest day, try to find some time to review all your notes and flashcards.

Art of early Europe and colonial America

We’ll start this week by introducing you to one of the largest and most important content areas in AP® Art History – the art of early Europe and colonial America. This is the second-largest unit, and it makes up about 20% of the average AP® test.

First of all, read through Chapter 7: Late Antique Art in Barron’s review book. We won’t be reinforcing this chapter with any videos or quizzes, so it’s very important that you take thorough notes and use flashcards.

Then, read Chapter 8: Byzantine Art. We know this reading is somewhat rapid-fire, but these chapters are usually very short. This means you should be finishing each chapter in less than 30 minutes, unless the chapter is particularly long.

Finally, head over to Khan Academy and work through the Medieval Art in Europe section. This unit on Khan Academy also covers the basics of Islamic art, so it’s a great preview to some of the material we’ll be learning tomorrow.

With the rest of the time, go to and complete at least 20 questions. If you have extra time, keep working through the questions and try to answer as many as possible while remaining accurate.

Today is a major reading day. We’ll be reading five chapters. This will take a little less than two hours, as each chapter is less than 15 pages long and each should take you less than 30 minutes to read. After you finish each chapter, take a break for about five minutes to stretch, run outside, talk to your family, or generally stop thinking about your study. Often, this method of interrupting your study with something that will allow you to think differently is highly effective. It increases both creativity and productivity. Don’t try to binge your studying – it’s not nearly as fun as binging a TV show.

  • First, read Chapter 9: Islamic Art in Barron’s review book.
  • Second, read Chapter 10: Early Medieval Art. Third, read Chapter 11: Romanesque Art.
  • Fourth, read Chapter 11: Gothic Art.
  • Finally, read Chapter 12: Gothic Art in Italy.  That was an intense set of chapters. You should have read pages 163 through 217, which is a total of 54 pages.

When you’re finished, read through all your notes to review. Then, quiz yourself on the flashcards.

Again, we will be reading intensely today. In order to learn all the material in time, we need to stay on schedule and keep working through the content. Today we will cover chapters 13 through 18, which is a total of 58 pages. Remember to take notes and make flashcards as you read. Also, you should be taking short breaks after you finish each chapter. This will help you stay focused and will improve the quality of your studying.

Read Chapter 14: Renaissance in Northern Europe, Chapter 15: Early Renaissance in Italy, Chapter 16: High Renaissance and Mannerism, Chapter 17: Baroque Art, and Chapter 18: Art of New Spain.

These chapters cover an incredibly important period in art history and in the history of the world – the Renaissance. Leonardo Da Vinci, Michelangelo, Raphael, Donatello, and Giorgione all lived in this period.

We have absolutely raced through the unit on Early Europe and the Colonial Americas. To catch up and make sure you have solidified what you’ve learned, go back to your notes and read through all of them. Then, go through all of your flashcards and try to memorize all the important terms, names, dates, and ideas from this unit.

Next, open up Khan Academy’s review of Early Europe and Colonial America . Don’t try to watch every video and read every article. Just skim through this resource and use it to review the material and gain a deeper and more detailed understanding of some of the artworks from this unit.

Then, finish all of the questions on Early Europe and Colonial America. When you’re done, look back and see how well you performed. Did you have a high accuracy rate? If not, go back to the chapters and try to learn what you missed.

The next unit is Later Europe and Americas. This is the largest unit in the entire course, as it covers about 22% of the material on the AP® exam. To introduce you to this unit, watch all the videos and read all the materials on Enlightenment and Revolution in Khan Academy’s review of Later Europe and Americas.

This unit spans between 1750 and 1980, which is only 280 years – making it one of the smallest units by amount of time. However, in these two and a half centuries, art and culture changed dramatically. You should understand the Enlightenment, a cultural and philosophical movement in Europe that encouraged free thought, science, and reasoning. You should know the major aspects of the Reformation, one of the most important events in the history of Christianity. Finally, you should review the Industrial Revolution. The proliferation of technology and science in this period had serious and long-lasting effects on art.

Now, read and take notes on all of Chapter 19: Rococo and Neoclassicism.

After you finish Chapter 19, read Chapter 20: Romanticism. This is one of the most important chapters in the entire review, as romanticism was an artistic and cultural revolution that had permanent consequences for how humans express themselves. This movement emphasized emotion, subjective experience, and individual expression.

With any remaining time today, open up and work on answering questions from the section about Later Europe and Americas.

Now, we will finish all the readings for the fourth major content area in AP® Art History – Later Europe and Americas.

Open up Barron’s review book and flip to page 299. Read through all of Chapter 21: Late Nineteenth-Century Art. Again, remember to take notes and add to your growing deck of flashcards.

Next, read Chapter 22: Early and Mid-Twentieth Century Art, which begins on page 303. After you finish reading this chapter, you’ve completed all the chapters in Barron’s book on Later Europe and Americas.

To understand this critical unit better, we’ll watch half of the material from Khan Academy on Modern and Contemporary Art . This section includes videos and well-written articles about Duchamp, Basquiat, and Picasso, as well as other exciting artists.

Have a reinvigorating rest day! We’re about halfway through the month. In the last 13 days, we’ve already completed our review of about 52% of the material that will be test on the AP® Art History exam. If you’ve already made it this far, you are well on your way to acing the test. Great work!

AP® Art History practice test

On Wednesday next week – Day 25 – we’ll be taking our first full AP® Art History practice test. That is in exactly 10 days from today. Don’t worry, we’re more than halfway done with the course, and the remaining units are all very short.

First, finish working through Khan Academy’s review of Modern and Contemporary Art. Watch the videos, read the materials, and analyze the artworks. Don’t just skim through everything – you should be reading closely, taking notes, and watching actively.

Next, open up and spend the rest of your study session working through the questions on Later Europe and Americas.

Before anything else, make sure you’ve finished everything from the Later Europe and Americas unit. Specifically, you should have completed all of the Khan Academy review of this unit, and you should have answered all the questions on about Later Europe and Americas.

Next, open up Barron’s book and skip to Chapter 26: Art of the Americas on page 363. Don’t worry; we’ll come back to the previous chapters. For now, we’re working on Indigenous American art.

When you finish reading Chapter 26, go to Khan Academy . Read the articles and watch the videos in the section on Indigenous Americas. Analyze each of the artworks you see in this review.

Finally, go to and answer all the questions about Indigenous America. There are only 27 questions, so it shouldn’t take you very long.

That’s it for our review of indigenous American art! If you’re especially interested in this unit, feel free to learn more about it. However, since it only covers 6% of the AP® exam, we won’t spend very much time reviewing this unit.

Now we need to move onto the sixth major content area in this AP® Art History review – the art of Africa. While African art is frequently underestimated and dismissed, this lush and massive continent has produced a vast quantity of beautiful pieces in a variety of styles.

Skip to Chapter 27: African Art in your Barron’s review book. This chapter begins on page 379, right after the chapter on Native American art. Read through the entire chapter, taking notes and making flashcards as you read.

Then, go to Khan Academy’s review of Africa in AP® Art History . Complete this entire review.

When you’re done with Khan Academy, we’re going to review everything you’ve learned with a short set of flashcards. You may have made similar flashcards for this unit, but sometimes it’s helpful to look at other people’s study materials so you can gain a different perspective. Study all the flashcards in this deck on African art on Quizlet .

Take note of how the flashcards are made. They include a picture of the artwork, and then on the other side, there is some information about the work. There are five pieces of information about each artwork: the name of the piece, the approximate date the piece was made, the artist or group that made the work, the location of the work, and the symbolism or meaning of the artwork. This is a great way to study Art History and a wonderful method to build your flashcard deck.

To finish off our study of art in Africa, open and work through the section on African Art. There are only 24 questions in this section, so you should be able to complete it in within 30 minutes.

You have now made it through 73% of all the content that will be tested on the AP® exam, and you have completed six of the ten units in AP® Art History. Keep up your progress!

Today we will review West and Central Asia. Some people have trouble distinguishing the two units on Asian art in AP® Art History. Basically, West and Central Asia includes the art of the Middle East, some Indian art, and a few pieces from the central Asian empires of the Mongols, Persians, and more. On the other hand, the unit on South, East, and Southeast Asia covers the large, extremely populous area we usually think of as the Far East. This includes China, India, Japan, Korea, Indonesia, Cambodia, and many of the smaller countries in Southeast Asia.

Barron’s book does not actually have a chapter that directly covers West and Central Asia, but that’s fine. Instead, just go to Khan Academy and work through their entire review of West and Central Asia.

When you finish Khan Academy, we’re going to utilize a new resource – this lecture on West and Central Asia from Jasen Evoy, a wonderful AP® Art History teacher. He covers most of the material in this unit in a condensed but detailed way. Since the video is on YouTube, you can watch it at a variety of different speeds. We would recommend adjusting the speed to best fit your studying – slow down if you want more time to take notes, or speed up if you just need a quick refresher.

Finally, go to and complete all the questions on West and Central Asia.

Today we will start our review of art history in South, East, and Southeast Asia. This includes the art of Japan, China, Korea, India, Indonesia, Cambodia, Thailand, and more. For today, we will read two of the three chapters for this unit and do a little bit of work on Tomorrow, we will finish the third chapter and review everything in this unit.

First of all, open up your Barron’s book and flip to Chapter 23: Indian and Southeast Asian Art. This chapter begins on page 325 of Barron’s review book. Read the entire chapter.

Then, continue reading in Chapter 24: Chinese and Korean Art.

When you finish Chapter 24, go to Khan Academy . Work through the sections on India, China, and Korea in the South, East, and Southeast Asia unit.

That’s it for today! Use any remaining time to work through unfinished questions on .

Start today’s study session by opening your Barron’s review book to Chapter 25: Japanese Art. Read this chapter and take notes.

When you finish reading, go to Khan Academy and complete the sections on Japan, Cambodia, and Indonesia.

Use the rest of the time to review your flashcards and study your notes. Make sure you understand all the artworks from this unit. If you have extra time, read more about some of the works you studied in this unit – maybe do some research on the Taj Mahal, Angkor Wat, or The Great Wave.

Have a good rest day! There are only nine days left until the end of the month and only four days left until your practice test, but you have made a ton of progress. You have reviewed about 85% of the material you need to know for the AP® test, and you only have two units remaining. Today, try to take a break, go for a walk, or get some exercise.

AP® Art History Oceanic Art

There are only three more days until your practice test! Today, we’ll review all the material in the unit on Pacific art. We’ll also introduce you to Global Contemporary Art. Tomorrow, we will complete most of the material in the Global Contemporary unit. Finally, on the day before the test, we will finish off our review of Global Contemporary art, and then we’ll do a short review of everything you’ve learned so far.

First, open your Barron’s book to page 393. Read through all of Chapter 28: Oceanic Art.

Then, go to Khan Academy and work through their review of the Pacific unit in AP® Art History.

Last of all, you should complete all the questions about the Pacific on . There are only 20 questions, so this should not take you very long.

The very last unit in all of AP® Art History is Global Contemporary Art. This is a fairly large content area, but we have plenty of materials to help you comprehend it all.

Start by flipping to page 403 in your Barron’s review book. Read Chapter 29: Contemporary Art. When you finish, congratulate yourself for completing all of the content review chapters in Barron’s book!

Next, go to Khan Academy’s review of the Global Contemporary content area. Complete this entire review. Remember to take notes and flashcards, even if you are just watch a video.

Finally, finish about 30 questions in the Global Contemporary section on .

This is the last day before your practice exam! Try to use your time as productively and efficiently as possible.

First, finish all the questions on about Global Contemporary Art.

When you complete this section, go back through all the previous sections and start analyzing your performance. Are there any particular areas you haven’t really understood? Are there any sections you have low accuracy on? Use this information to direct your study. If you repeatedly missed questions on a specific topic, go and review this topic.

You’ve probably missed a few assignments in the last couple weeks. Maybe you didn’t review a certain concept enough. Use today to go back and finish what you started. If you didn’t complete one of the Khan Academy sections, if you didn’t really understand a chapter in Barron’s book, or if you forgot to make flashcards for a certain topic, go back and complete these chapters.

Here are a few things that you should have done by now. If you haven’t finished them, try to complete them today.

  • Complete all of the AP® Art History questions on
  • Read chapters 1 through 29 of Barron’s review book.
  • Have a full deck of flashcards for all the terms, ideas, dates, names, and concepts in AP® Art History.
  • Notes on all the major topics and notes about your progress in understanding the key concepts of AP® Art History.

If you have extra time, the best way to use it is to look at all the previous artworks you’ve studied. Try to solidify your knowledge of these masterpieces, so you can remember them for the AP® test.

Today we’ll be focused entirely on finishing a full AP® Art History practice exam. Open up your Barron’s review book and go to the section called Practice Test 1. This test includes both multiple-choice and free response, and you should complete both sections. Remember, you have 60 minutes to answer all 80 questions in the multiple-choice section and 120 minutes for the six questions in the free response section. The full test should take about three hours to complete.

Find a quiet, isolated place where you can just focus on the test. Time yourself as you work through the exam. Set aside about three hours and fifteen minutes to finish the entire test, including the break. You’ll also need about 20 minutes to grade the test.

After you are finished, take a break for about 15 minutes. Then go back to the exam and check your answers. Review all the answers you got wrong and try to understand why.

Grade your practice test and review all the answers you got wrong. Use the answer explanations, the rest of your Princeton Review book, and the other resources in this study guide to understand why you made these mistakes.

What did you get? How much have you improved in the last two weeks? Use your score to analyze your progress so far. Next week, we’ll take another practice exam.

The AP® exam is getting closer and closer, but you have already equipped yourself with nearly everything you need to get the score you want. However, you’re probably starting to lose your grasp of some of the concepts you have reviewed in the last two weeks. We’re going to use all the time we have left in this week to get back up to speed and ensure that your skills are polished enough for the AP® exam.

First of all, we need to make sure that you’ve finished everything on . Go back and finish any sections that you haven’t completed yet.

The system tracks your progress and analyzes your accuracy over time. You should see statistics about your accuracy on each section. Spend extra time reviewing and completing questions from sections that you have low accuracy on.

If you have extra time after finishing every question on, work on reviewing your flashcards. If you’re using Quizlet or Anki, you can automatically mark flashcards that you aren’t doing well on. If you’re using paper, you should mark flashcards that you consistently get wrong. Make multiple decks of flashcards based on how well you know them. Studying is all about learning from your mistakes.

Finally, review your practice test and try to analyze your mistakes. Find out why you missed each question, and then try to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

Today, we’re going to focus on learning everything you need to know about the Free Response section of the AP® Art History test.

Before you answer any AP® Art History free response questions, we need to decide on a strategy for completing the section. Read this article on AP® Art History Long Essay Writing Tips and Strategies . Use it to create your own personal strategy.

Here are some basic tips from about how to ace the free response section.

First, do the easiest question first. It makes you more efficient and ensures that you get at least a few points on the free response section. If you read a question and you have completely forgotten the material, just skip it. If you don’t know much about the artwork in a question, skip that one and move onto one you know better. At the end, you can go back and finish the questions you skipped.

Second, be organized. If you’re disorganized in your answers, it’s hard for graders to give you a good score. Have specific responses to each question. If a question has multiple parts, label all of your answers.

Finally, answer the question directly. This is not a five-paragraph essay, and it has absolutely no specified format. The only restriction on your essay in the AP® Art History test is that you have to answer the question in a way that’s clear enough for an AP® grader to understand. Don’t write conclusions, thesis statements, introductions, or transition statements. If you want to ace the free response section, just answer the question and then move on.

Now that you have a strategy, it’s time to test it out against some real free response sections. Start by downloading the AP® Art History Free Response questions from 2016 . Then, take this entire practice test. Time yourself, and treat it like a real test.

When you finish the exam, download the Scoring Guidelines . Try to grade your exam like an AP® grader would. Only give yourself points if you match the grading key.

When you’re done, evaluate your performance. What did you miss? What did you understand? You can go back to AP® Central to look at real sample responses and see statistics about each question.

Today is your last rest day before the end of this one-month study guide! Use it wisely, but not too wisely. What does that mean? Well, try to do something fun. Don’t think about the exam. You’ve already gone through 28 days of intense studying. Your determination over the last month shows that you’re more than ready for the exam. Remember to eat well, sleep fully, and exercise frequently.

Today is the last day of content review in this 30-day guide. After this, you should just be preparing for the AP® exam and reviewing what you’ve learned.

Start by watching this full review of all topics in AP® Art History . There are 216 videos in this YouTube playlist, but we don’t expect you to watch most or even half of these videos. Instead, we’ll just watch videos one through 26, all the way up to the video on Impressionism. Each video is 5 minutes long or less, so it should only take about an hour and a half. If you want, speed up the videos so it doesn’t take as long. Feel free to skim through the other videos and watch the ones that interest you, but don’t feel obligated. Watch the entire videos and take notes. If you don’t understand or don’t remember any of the concepts, write it down!

After you finish watching the videos, go back to your flashcards, your notes, and your account. Review anything you haven’t studied yet. Re-read parts of Barron’s review book, and skim over all the chapter summaries. Make sure you have memorized all the vocabulary, artworks, and names you’ll need to know for the AP® Art History test. The AP® exam is approaching!

You’re finished! In the last 30 days, you have reviewed all of the material you need to succeed in the AP® Art History exam. Congratulations!

What Should I Do to Prepare for the AP® Art History Test Day?

studying for AP® Art History

Based on when you started this AP® Art History study guide, you’re either very close or somewhat close to the AP® exam. Either way, you should keep reviewing AP® Art History lightly to keep it fresh in your mind. However, if you’re within two weeks of the exam, you shouldn’t overextend yourself in your study. It’s important to tone down your intensity at this point.

If you’re a week or two away, spend the remaining time reviewing your notes and flashcards, taking more practice exams, working on, and working on the MIT course.

If you’re less than a week away, just relax a little bit. Your score isn’t going to change significantly because you spend five hours studying the day before the test. Just trust in everything you’ve learned and be confident about your abilities. Now, this doesn’t mean you should stop studying entirely. In the week before the test, spend about an hour every day reviewing past material. Don’t take any practice tests within a week of the test, as that will only stress you out.

The day before the exam, don’t try to attempt any serious studying, tests, or comprehensive review. If you feel like you need to study, that’s totally fine. Don’t try to stop yourself. But don’t spend more than one hour studying, and never stress yourself out. Don’t try to learn any new material or take a practice test before the test. This won’t help your score; it will just hurt your confidence.

If you’re going to study, do something you enjoy. For example, you’re taking art history, so you probably like making art. Work on some projects you love, and try to make something beautiful. Maybe step outside of your normal artistic bubble, and attempt to create an artwork in the style of one of the ten time periods and areas we covered in this study guide. For example, you might be very familiar with modern art; try to step out of your comfort zone and make a piece of African art, Pacific art, or classical European art. If you don’t like making art as much but love appreciating it, just go to an art museum or look at some artworks online. Read what an artist said about his work to understand it more. Immersing yourself in the world of art will help you excel on the AP® exam, and it’s also a very enjoyable and inspiring hobby.

We can’t emphasize this enough: don’t try to learn the material in the last few days before the AP® test! Tackling content you don’t know yet will just ruin your confidence and make you think you don’t know the material. You have to focus on practicing the material you already understand. Reviewing old content instead of learning new content will improve your confidence and make sure you’ve polished all the essential skills you need to ace the exam.

Final Wrap Up: One Month AP® Art History Study Guide

By completing this AP® Art History, you have shown an enormous amount of tenacity and aptitude. You have reviewed hundreds of AP® Art History multiple-choice questions, and you’ve completed several full AP® Art History free response sections. You have finished’s entire AP® Art History review. You have read all the chapters of Barron’s book. You have built up a huge deck of flashcards. You have learned extremely valuable skills in writing, memorization, creativity, and artistic development. Design and aesthetics are important in almost every field, so don’t underestimate the power of your new knowledge.

Now, it’s time to put everything into practice. You have learned all the content you need to get a 5 on the AP® test. It’s time to do it!

With whatever time you have after you finish this guide, you should be consistently reviewing your notes and flashcards, solving problems, and answering practice questions. Get plenty of sleep every night, eat a healthy diet, and exercise regularly. Again, don’t worry about the test. After completing this 30-day guide, you should feel super confident in your knowledge and abilities. All of these simple things will help you improve your AP® score dramatically.

Let us know what you thought of this AP® Art History study guide. What worked for you? What was your favorite artwork in this course? How did you prepare for the AP® Art History exam?

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Ultimate Guide to the AP Art History Exam

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In 2019, only about 24,476 of the more than five million students taking AP exams took the AP Art History exam. If you’re planning to take the AP Art History exam, whether you’ve taken the class or have self-studied, read on for a breakdown of the test and CollegeVine’s advice for how to best prepare for it.

When is the AP Art History Exam?

The 2020 AP Art History exam takes place on Friday, May 8, at 12 pm. For more information on all of the AP exams and their 2020 test times, check out our blog post 2020 AP Exam Schedule: Everything You Need to Know . 

What Does the AP Art History Exam Cover?

The AP Art History course teaches students the nature of art (its uses, meanings, and production) and societal responses to art throughout history. It seeks to immerse students in rich artistic traditions across cultures dating from prehistory to the present while fostering an in-depth understanding and appreciation of the history of art.

In this class, you can expect to learn “visual, contextual, and comparative analysis applied to a variety of art forms, understanding of individual works and connections between processes and products throughout history.” Although there are no official prerequisites for the coursework, students who have excelled in the humanities, such as literature or history, or in studio art classes, will find that these experiences enrich their perspective as they undertake the studying of art history. 

The AP Art History course was redesigned for the 2015-2016 school year, and while much of the course content remains the same, it is now presented alongside clear learning objectives for the exam. The scope was also narrowed to focus more on conceptual understanding, critical thinking, and analysis skills, with less emphasis placed on knowledge of specific artworks. The course does still require that students become familiar with a set of specific artwork, but this set shrunk from over 500 pieces in the previous curriculum to 250 included in the course redesign. 

The AP Art History course is commonly broken into 10 units. Below is a sequence of the units suggested by the College Board, along with the percentage of questions from each unit that will appear on the multiple-choice section of the AP Art History exam. 

AP Art History Exam Content

The AP Art History exam is one of the longer AP exams, clocking in at three hours. It comprises two sections: one section of multiple-choice questions, the other of free response questions. 

Section 1: Multiple Choice 

1 hour | 80 questions | 50% of score

The first section lasts one hour, is made up of 80 multiple-choice questions, and accounts for 50% of your total score. Of these 80 questions, there are approximately 40 individual questions, some of which are based on a color image of a work of art. The other 40 questions are grouped into eight sets of 3-6 questions, each set based on a different color image. 

Section 2: Free Response 

2 hours | 6 questions | 50% of score

The second section is the free response section, which lasts for two hours, includes six questions, and accounts for the remaining 50% of your total score. This section is divided into two 30-minute essays and four 15-minute essays, which often include images of art as stimuli for the given prompt.

30-Minute Essays: The longer of the free response questions will provide you with 3-5 works of art from the AP Art History course with a unifying idea. They may also call upon you to respond with a choice of artwork of your choosing, either from within or outside of the required course content. 

Question 1: The first 30-minute free response question focuses on comparison, tasking you with comparing select artwork from the course (images provided), and articulating the similarities and differences between the works. 

ap art history sample question

Question 2: The second long-answer free response question is about visual/contextual analysis, requiring you to analyze the visual and contextual features of a work of art from the AP Art History course (this is the only free response question which will not provide an image of artwork), and respond to a prompt with a thesis supported by evidence.  

ap art history sample question

Question 3: This question tests visual analysis, and requires you to examine the visual elements of a work of art—image provided—and connect it to a tradition, style, or practice. 

ap art history sample question

Question 4: The fourth question covers contextual analysis and asks you to evaluate the contextual elements from an image set and explain how context can influence artistic decisions. 

ap art history sample question

Question 5: This question focuses on attribution. Here, you must attribute a work of art to an artist and justify your assertion using visual evidence. 

how to write an essay for ap art history

Question 6: The final free response question spotlights continuity and change. You’ll need to identify the relationships—including artistic tradition, style, and/or practice—between works of art. 

AP Art History Score Distribution, Average Score, and Passing Rate

The AP Art History exam is a tough one to master, though many students pass it with average scores. In 2019, 63.1% of students who took the AP Art History received a score of 3 or higher. Of these, only 11.9% of students received the top score of 5, with another 24.6% scoring a 4. If you’re curious about other score distributions, see our post Easiest and Hardest AP Exams .

Keep in mind, credit and advanced standing based on AP scores varies widely from school to school. Though a score of 3 is typically considered passing, it is not always enough to receive credit. Regulations regarding which APs qualify for course credits or advanced placement at specific colleges and universities can be found on the College Board website . 

A full course description that can help to guide your studying and understanding of the knowledge required for the exam can be found in the College Board’s course description .

Read on for tips for preparing for the exam.

how to write an essay for ap art history

Best Ways to Study for the AP Art History Exam

Step 1: assess your skills.

Take a practice test to assess your initial knowledge of the material. Although the College Board AP Art History website provides a number of sample test questions and exam tips, it does not provide a complete sample test. However, practice tests are readily available in commercial study guides such as Barron’s AP Art History, 3rd Edition . Varsity Tutors also offers a handful of free diagnostic tests for AP Art History . You can also find an older version of test questions from the College Board’s 2011 exam or image-based questions from the 2013 exam to get a general idea of the test’s structure and content.

Step 2: Study the Material

The content and curriculum of the AP Art History course are based on three sets of big ideas and essential questions. These overarching concepts are intended to encourage critical thinking, analysis, and appreciation of art throughout time and place, and to foster your understanding of the field of art history. The big ideas and their associated essential questions are:   

  • Big Idea 1: Artists manipulate materials and ideas to create an aesthetic object, act, or event. Essential Question: What is art and how is it made?
  • Big Idea 2: Art making is shaped by tradition and change. Essential Question: Why and how does art change?
  • Big Idea 3: Interpretations of art are variable. Essential Question: How do we describe our thinking about art?

Through the exploration of big ideas and answering essential questions, you should develop a foundational set of art historical thinking skills. Below are eight distinct art history skills you’ll develop in the AP Art History course and the percentage of the multiple-choice section of the AP Art History exam you can expect them to represent. 

In addition to these specific art history thinking skills, you will also need to be familiar with the official AP Art History image set which contains “250 works of art categorized by geographic and chronological designations, beginning with works from global prehistory and ending with global contemporary works.” These works are found in the College Board AP Art History Course Description .   

The College Board refers students to Khan Academy’s comprehensive AP Art History Study Guide . This website has a wealth of free material for effectively and efficiently learning what you’ll need to know for the exam. The College Board also provides a series of useful videos on the AP Art History teacher site that give an overview of the curricular framework, exam format, and writing tips.

There are also a number of free study resources available online. Many AP teachers have posted complete study guides, review sheets, and test questions—for example, this website from Valerie White , a ceramics teacher. Be careful when accessing these, as many will be from previous versions of the exam.

Finally, another convenient way to study is to use one of the recently-developed apps for AP exams. These can make studying on-the-go a lot easier. Make sure you read reviews before choosing one—their quality varies widely. Here’s an AP Art History app from Varsity Tutors that currently has 4.2 stars.

Step 3: Practice Multiple-Choice Questions

Once you have your theory down, test it out by practicing multiple-choice questions. You can find these in most study guides or through online searches. You could also try taking the multiple-choice section of another practice exam.

The College Board Course Description includes many practice multiple-choice questions along with explanations of their answers. There are additional questions available in commercial study guides. As you go through these, try to keep track of which areas are still tripping you up, and go back over this theory again. Focus on understanding what each question is asking and keep a running list of any vocabulary that is still unfamiliar.

Step 4: Practice Free Response Questions

All free response questions on the AP Art History exam include either images of works of art (from the required course content, except in the case of attribution questions) or a list of works from the required course content to prompt student responses. For questions that ask you to identify a piece of work, you should try to include all available identifiers including title or designation, name of the artist and/or culture of origin, date of creation, and materials. You should be able to provide at least two correct identifiers, but you will not be penalized for any additional identifiers that are incorrect. 

On the free response section of the AP Art History exam, a distinct emphasis is placed on the strength of your writing. To be successful, you will need to use clear, appropriate, and descriptive language. Your ideas should be organized logically with coherent evidence to support your assertions. You will need to make fact-based inferences and closely align your writing with the prompt’s directives.

As you complete the free response questions, make sure to keep an eye on the time. Though you will be reminded of the time remaining by the exam proctor, you will not be forced to move on to another question. Make sure you stay on track to address each section of every question. No points can be awarded for answers left completely blank when time runs out.

A fantastic way to prepare for the free response questions on the AP Art History exam is to practice with them. The College Board has the free response questions from the 2019 , 2018 , 2017 , and 2016 exams posted on its website. Another helpful resource when preparing for the AP Art History exam is also found on the College Board website— this presentation from Heather Madar of Humboldt State University provides a small sampling of the free response questions, along with insight into how students performed and the places they struggled.

Step 5: Take Another Practice Test

As you did at the very beginning of your studying, take a practice test to evaluate your progress. You should see a steady progression of knowledge, and it’s likely that you will see patterns identifying which areas have improved the most and which areas still need improvement. If you have time, repeat each of the steps above to incrementally increase your score.

Step 6: Exam day specifics

If you’re taking the AP course associated with this exam, your teacher will walk you through how to register. If you’re self-studying, check out our blog post How to Self-Register for AP Exams .

For information about what to bring to the exam, see our post What Should I Bring to My AP Exam (And What Should I Definitely Leave at Home)?

Wondering what your odds of acceptance are to your dream school? Using your GPA, standardized test scores, extracurricular activities, and other data points, our chancing engine lets you know your chances of acceptance to over 500 colleges in the U.S. You can also see how you stack up against other applicants, and learn how to improve your profile. Sign up for your free CollegeVine account to start using our chancing engine today!

Looking for more great information about AP exams? Check out these other posts from CollegeVine: 

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Advanced Placement (AP)


Thinking about taking AP Art History but aren't sure what it covers? AP Art History differs from other AP arts courses in that you're not creating your own art—instead, you're learning about the huge variety of art that has been created across time and around the world. The course covers a lot of ground, and knowing what to expect from the start can help you have a productive and manageable year. In this guide, we'll look at what students learn in AP Art History, what the AP Art History exam is like, if the course is considered hard, and resources and tips you can use to help you ace the class and the AP exam.

What Does AP Art History Cover?

AP Art History is designed to give students broad knowledge in a variety of artistic forms and styles across the globe and over the course of human history. The course covers six continents and over 30,000 years of art history. Students who take the course learn how to critically examine a wide variety of art and express their thoughts on it.

There are roughly 250 works of art (known as the AP Art History 250 ) you're expected to know as an AP Art History student. (If that terrifies you, know that the list used to stretch to over 500 before the 2015-2016 course update!)  For each AP Art History 250 piece, you'll learn facts about the art, its creation, and how it fits into larger art history patterns.

There are ten units in AP Art History, each covering a specific region and time frame. You can read the AP Art History Course and Exam Description for an in-depth look at each major topic the course covers. Below is an overview of the ten units along with the percentage of questions you can expect to focus on that unit in the multiple-choice section of the AP exam.

Unit 1: Global Prehistory, 30,000-500 BCE 

  • Origins of human art across the globe during the stone ages.
  • 4% of multiple-choice score

Unit 2: Ancient Mediterranean, 3500 BCE-300 CE 

  • A broad range of artistic works from the civilizations of the ancient Near East and Egypt, as well as the Greek, Etruscan, and Roman cultures.
  • 15% of multiple-choice score

Unit 3: Early Europe and Colonial Americas, 200-1750 CE

  • Evolution of art from the early middle ages through the mid-18th century in Europe and the Americas.
  • 21% of multiple-choice score

Unit 4: Later Europe and Americas, 1750-1980 CE

  • The effect of rapid societal change on art from the modern period in Europe and the Americas.

Unit 5: Indigenous Americas, 1000 BCE-1980 CE

  • The roots and evolution of indigenous American art from the ancient civilizations of Central and South America to Native North American societies.
  • 6% of multiple-choice score

Unit 6: Africa, 1100-1980 CE

  • The diversity of African art and the role it played in the many and varied societies on the continent.

Unit 7: West and Central Asia, 500 BCE-1980 CE

  • The techniques, materials, and evolution of art throughout West and Central Asia.

Unit 8: South, East, and Southeast Asia, 300 BCE-1980 CE

  • The tradition of Asian art from prehistoric times to modern works.
  • 8% of multiple-choice score

Unit 9: The Pacific, 700-1980 CE

  • Types of art from the vast network of islands in the Pacific Ocean stretching from Australia to Hawaii.

Unit 10: Global Contemporary, 1980 CE to Present

  • The many forms of modern art from across the globe.
  • 11% of multiple-choice score


What's the Exam Format for AP Art History?

As with most AP exams, Art History's is split into two parts: multiple choice, followed by free response. The chart below gives an overview of the exam format:

For the multiple-choice section, you'll have an hour to answer 80 questions. The questions can be sets of 2-3 related questions, or individual questions. Each question is based on a color image of a work of art. For this section you'll be asked to:

  • Analyze visual and contextual elements of works of art and link them to a larger artistic tradition.
  • Compare 2 or more works.
  • Attribute works of art beyond the images provided in questions.
  • Analyze art historical interpretations.

For the free-response section, there are six questions. Here's what you'll need to do for each:

Question 1: Long Essay–Compare a required work of art and another of your choosing and explain the significance of the similarities and differences between those works, citing evidence to support your claim.

Question 2: Long Essay–Select and identify a work of art and make assertions about it based on evidence.

Question 3: Short Essay–Describe a work of art beyond the image[s] provided in the prompt and connect it to an artistic tradition, style, or practice.

Question 4: Short Essay–Describe contextual influences of a work of art in the image set and explain how context can influence artistic decisions or affect the meaning of a work of art.

Question 5: Short Essay–Attribute a work of art beyond the image set to a particular artist, culture, or style, and justify your assertions with evidence.

Question 6: Short Essay–Analyze the relationship between a provided work of art and a related artistic tradition, style, or practice.

Question 1 is worth 8 points, Question 2 is worth 6 points, and Questions 3-6 are each worth 5 points. The free-response section as a whole is worth 50% of your total AP score.

How Hard Is AP Art History?

Is AP Art History hard? It certainly covers a lot of information and requires you to use multiple skills, but how does it compare to other AP courses and exams? We have an entire article on the toughest AP classes and tests , but in this section we'll analyze AP Art History specifically.

To start, let's look at some data. Here's how students scored on the AP Art History exam in 2021 :

There are two measurements we can look at to determine AP Art History difficulty. The first is the 5 rate, or what percentage of test takers earned the highest score on the exam. The 5 rate for AP Art History is 12%, which is roughly the average for all AP exams. The other measurement is the passing rate, or what percentage of test takers earned a 3 or higher. Art History has a passing rate of 55% which is below average. Out of 44 exams, only 12 had a lower passing rate than Art History. This means that Art History may be harder than the average AP course.

From forums like College Confidential, Reddit, and Quora, we know that, even though many students think the course material and exam questions are fairly straightforward, the sheer amount of information you need to know--about different types of art, different regions, different styles etc. can make it difficult to do well in Art History. 

Another way to gauge the difficulty of AP Art History is to ask former students their opinions. Maybe your school has a really great Art History teacher who makes the material interesting and easier to understand. Or maybe the class is known for having a ton of homework that makes it difficult to find time for your other classes.

Whichever resources you use to decide if AP Art History is hard or not, remember to take all that information with a grain of salt. What's difficult for one person can be easy for another. If you have a genuine interest in art history, you'll likely have an easier time than someone who doesn't because you'll be more motivated to learn all the information required. Similarly, if you are naturally good at memorizing facts, you may fare better than someone who can't keep dates or names straight but is excellent at broad analysis, simply because of the type of course AP Art History is.


Should You Take AP Art History?

Now you know what to expect from the AP Art History course and exam, but the question remains: should you take AP Art History? The answer really depends on how you personally feel about the course and the material it covers.

As we mentioned above, Art History can be a tough AP course with a lot of memorization and homework required to do well. If you don't have an interest in the subject, that can make it a slog to get through the class. However, because art history is an interdisciplinary subject, it can appeal to a lot of students, including those interested in history, art, different cultures, and social science in general. If you're interested in fine arts, it can be an especially good option because it's a test-based AP (as opposed to portfolio-based APs like 3D and 2D Art) that allows you to study art but also show off your writing and test-taking skills to colleges.

Many times high school students feel pressured to take "impressive" classes that they think will look good on their college applications, and they want to know how colleges will view AP Art History. The truth is that, since it's an AP course, AP Art History will automatically look good on your transcript and will be more impressive than a regular-level or honors-level course. Many colleges do tend to see STEM AP courses (like AP Biology, Calculus, etc.) as a bit more impressive, but if you're really interested in the material, sign up for AP Art History! You'll likely get a higher grade on the AP exam than you would in a course you don't care about, and a high AP score is another bonus for you.

AP Art History Practice Tests

Practice tests are one of the best ways to study for an AP exam, but only if you're using the right materials. In this section we cover the best AP Art History study resources to get your prep off on the right foot.

Official Practice Tests

Official practice materials are the absolute best to use for any AP exam. They're made by the same people who design the actual AP exam questions, so you know their practice materials will be high quality. 

For free-response questions, you can access dozens of old AP Art History exam questions and answer explanations on the AP site.

  • FRQ from 2021
  • FRQ from 1999-2020

These are a great resource, and you should be sure to make use of them. More recent questions (2016 and later) will be more useful since they'll be in line with the current format of the exam.

Additionally, the AP Art History Course and Exam Description contains 15 multiple-choice questions and three free-response questions beginning on page 327 of the document.

Unofficial Practice Tests

Because there are so many official free-response questions available, we recommend using only them for your prep. Save unofficial resources for multiple-choice questions. There are quite a few unofficial resources for AP Art History practice questions; unfortunately, many of them are low quality and not worth your time. 

A good rule of thumb is that, if the multiple-choice questions aren't accompanied by an image of a work of art, they aren't close to what you'll see on the actual AP exam and should be avoided. Right now Albert is the only really solid unofficial online resource. You'll have to create an account to access the materials, and, additionally, some questions require a paid account on top of that, but their questions are high-quality and a good match to the actual exam.

There are also prep books available that include practice exams. These can be a helpful resource but, like any other unofficial material, be sure to read reviews carefully before buying one.

3 Study Tips for AP Art History

Once you have your study materials in hand, follow the three tips outlined below to ace both sections of the AP Art History exam.

#1: Get Friendly With Flashcards

As we mentioned above, you'll need to know the AP Art History 250 works of art. For each one, you should be able to rattle off the title, artist, date and location of creation, and a fact or two about its importance. All together, that's over a thousand bits of information you'll need to keep straight. Flashcards will be your friend! Once you've created your set of flashcards, we recommend using the waterfall method as the best way to drill down into the cards you don't know and memorize all the information as efficiently and easily as possible.

#2: Make Connections Between Works of Art

Just memorizing facts isn't enough to do well in AP Art History; you also need to be able to analyze different works of art and discuss their similarities, differences, and relation to the region and time period as a whole. You'll likely be doing a lot of this in class, but because it's such an important skill, make sure to spend time on it outside of class as well. As you're going through your flashcards, draw a couple cards randomly and try to make connections between them. What characteristics do they share? How do they differ? What changes in the world contributed to these differences? If you need help getting started, the free-response questions on the AP website are a great place to see the types of questions you might be asked (as well as what strong answers look like).

#3: Keep Track of Time

A time crunch is always present on AP exams, and Art History is no exception. For the multiple-choice section, you'll have 60 minutes to answer 80 questions, which gives you 45 seconds per question. For most people, this is doable as long as they don't get tripped up and spend several minutes struggling over a single question. 

For the free-response section, time pressure is often even greater because you'll have to write what are effectively six short essays. It's very easy to get caught up in one essay and suddenly realize that there are ten minutes left in the section and you haven't even started the last two essay questions. Don't let this happen to you!

At a minimum, you should pause for a moment at the midway point of each section (that's 30 minutes into the multiple-choice section and one hour into the free-response section) and assess how you're doing for time. Have you answered about half of the questions? Then you can keep the pace you're at. If not, then you know you need to speed things up.

It's also important to be OK with skipping questions. If you've spent over a minute staring at a multiple-choice problem and still have no idea how to answer it, mark a random answer and come back to it if you have extra time at the end of the section. For free response, don't be afraid to answer the questions out of order. And keep to about 20 minutes per essay in order to have enough time to answer each of the questions.


Summary: What Is AP Art History?

AP Art History covers the history of art spanning six continents and over 30,000 years. Students who take the course will learn how to analyze and discuss various works of art (including the AP Art History 250). Is AP Art History hard? Students often mention the large amount of information you need to memorize, and the AP exam has a lower passing rate than average, but don't let that dissuade you if you're interested in the course material. If you do decide to take the class, be sure to make use of flashcards, get lots of practice making connections between works of art, and keep track of time throughout the AP exam.

What's Next?

Is art school in your future?  Read our guide on the 10 best art schools in the US to get an overview of the top options.

If you're planning on going to art school, you'll need to create a portfolio of your best work. Learn more about how to make a great portfolio that will impress your dream school.

If you're worried about paying for college, there are tons of scholarships out there for you. Read this article on the best scholarships you can win as a high school senior.

Looking for help studying for your AP exam? Our one-on-one online AP tutoring services can help you prepare for your AP exams. Get matched with a top tutor who got a high score on the exam you're studying for!

Christine graduated from Michigan State University with degrees in Environmental Biology and Geography and received her Master's from Duke University. In high school she scored in the 99th percentile on the SAT and was named a National Merit Finalist. She has taught English and biology in several countries.

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Writing in Art History

This guide provides a brief introduction to writing in the field of  art history  through the lens of  threshold concepts.  It includes:

  • A statement of threshold concepts in art history
  • “So you’re taking an art history course”: A Description of Writing Characteristics Valued in Art History
  • “This is how we write and do research in art history”: Resources for Writers

A Statement of Threshold Concepts in Art History

“Seeing comes before words, the child looks and recognizes before it can speak.” (John Berger,  Ways of Seeing )

“Seeing establishes our place in the world.” (John Berger,  Ways of Seeing )

“We do not explain pictures: we explain remarks about pictures.” (Michael Baxandall,  Patterns of Intention )

Threshold Concept #1: Connections between Looking and Writing

The statement:   It is not easy to write what you see. If seeing establishes our place in the world, art history is a tool to make sense of the visual world in which we all live.

What this means for our students:   Looking well is a time-intensive and skilled practice. Visual information is not self-evident, and writing about what is seen involves thinking about how and why visual information is understood in a particular way.

Where/how we teach this Threshold Concept : Visual analysis assignment in ART 285; Short essays in 100-level courses. Writing about and describing what is seen is also modeled in class examples and discussions.

Threshold Concept #2: Context Matters

The statement:   All art is conditioned by historical and cultural circumstances. Art history endeavors to understand these circumstances or contexts in order to explain the crucial role art occupies in humanity. The contexts that produced the work of art help art historians contextualize why art matters.

What this means for students:  Art is never understood by its visual appearance or form alone. The goal of art history is to place a work of art within its historic, religious, political, economic, and aesthetic contexts. Students should also understand that various contexts do not stand on their own, but usually overlap. Only by unpacking the circumstances that give rise to a work of art is one able to communicate how art matters and how its meanings change through time and place.      

Where/how we teach this Threshold Concept:  100-level courses engage with this concept while upper-level courses provide students with practical applications through the execution of research and writing assignments.

Threshold Concept #3: Frames of interpretation

The statement:  Art historical writing involves multiple frames of interpretation and—perhaps more importantly—the ability to hold multiple frames in suspension at the same time while producing an original argument. While there is no one “right” interpretation of a work of art, there are interpretations and scholarly arguments that have more quality or staying power than others. (See below for examples of quality art historical arguments)

What this means for students:   Research done in preparation for writing is framed not only as a search for facts to be relayed to the reader through writing, but also as discourses of interpretation within which the writer seeks to interject. This kind of writing involves a conversation with artworks, contexts, and prior interpretations and scholarship in service of an original argument.

Where/how we teach this Threshold Concept:   Research papers in upper level courses, at the end of Art 285 and the Art 480 seminar, and as part of the capstone project and honors theses ideally move students through this threshold. Being able to do this involves building upon awareness and skills gained in Threshold Concepts 1 and 2.

“So You’re Taking an Art History Course”: A Description of Writing Characteristics Valued in Art History

Art history is rooted in the study of visual, performed, and material expression. Goals for our work include interpretation, producing frameworks, narratives, and histories to understand the human experience and condition, and the expansion of what is considered “art”. We want you to know that there are some key things that we value in our field. We value the  complexity of seeing and the diversity of different ways of seeing . We tend not to value or prioritize subjective opinion and unsubstantiated claims.

What is considered effective or good writing in our field varies by genre and purpose, but overall we expect to see:

  • a direct address of the subject or work of art.
  • an interpretive analysis of a work of art backed by research from credible sources.
  • engagement with significant interpretive and theoretical frameworks.

Writers in our field must provide evidence for their claims. We understand evidence to include:

  • Formal analysis. Formal analysis is the description of the visual and material features of an object to support an argument. It can include a consideration of color, line, size, weight, form, shape, depth. Formal analysis is often a place to generate questions for research.
  • Biographical records or artists’ statements
  • Archival records
  • Ethnographic data
  • Historical events
  • Significant secondary literature
  • Adjacent artistic and cultural production (music, literature, theatre, etc.)

Writers in our field seem credible when they:

  • Address current and historical debates about the interpretation of a topic
  • Demonstrate an awareness of the historical and cultural context of a topic
  • Cite credible sources accurately.  Credible sources  include peer-reviewed journals, books, or websites from reputable institutions and organizations.
  • For more information on citing sources accurately, see the “ Quick Guide to Citations for Art Historical Writing ”

This is How We Write and Do Research in Art History

Art historical writing is about analyzing works of art to make a point or argument. Not every student in our classes needs to be able to write in the professional way of the field. However, depending on the reasons for taking our courses, we want students to become proficient and comfortable with analyzing art and the important place writing occupies in that process. Students taking an art history course should expect to write in the following genres:

  • research papers
  • exhibition reviews/evaluations
  • book reviews
  • visual analyses
  • reading reflection/canvas posts
  • museum labels
  • essay exams

Writing goals and outcomes are different depending on the level of the course.  For example:

  • Undergraduates taking Miami Plan (100-level) or elective courses  should recognize the relationship between how to develop a thesis and employ visual evidence in support of that thesis. Such a skill is undoubtedly useful for all students since looking closely coupled with the ability to make sense of what one sees are crucial for many other kinds of writing and ways of thinking. We argue the complexity and diversity of “looking deeply” is too often taken for granted in the visual world in which we live. In 100-level classes, students start to become familiar with how to write and think about art.
  • Undergraduates majoring in our field  should recognize that art historical writing is approached as a conversation or dialogue. As students progress through the major, being able to place a topic and research paper within previous published and ongoing debates is crucial. In other words, students should start to understand that writing in Art History is about creating a dialog between one’s ideas and the sources the student engages. We also want our students to understand the value of inserting their own voice when writing. Over time, majors will need to become skilled at synthesizing their ideas and arguments with original research. This very process is how objects tell us something distinctive about their historical context and their value within human history.  

Resources for Art History Writers

Annotated Sample of Writing from Art History (ART 188)

The following is a student paper from the course ART 188: History of Western Art (Renaissance to Modern). Miami faculty from Art History have inserted comments to indicate and explain disciplinary writing conventions in Art History.

This sample contains 8 comments. These comments appear within the text of the article and are noted with bold text, brackets [ ], and the word "comment" before the text they refer to.  You can also view these annotations and the original paper in a  Google Doc format .

Sample Annotated Student Essay for ART 188

The essay prompt.

Compare Hyacinthe Rigaud’s painting  Louis XIV  (1701) (on the left) to Jacques-Louis David’s  Death of Marat  (1793) (on the right). Both of these artworks were made for explicitly political purposes, though they clearly depict very different types of figures and employ very different styles. Compare these two artworks in terms of how they convey their particular political message to the viewer. What strategies does each artist employ and why? What are they trying to communicate to the viewer about the state?

Painting titled Louis XIV ; by Hyacinthe Rigaud. Louis XIV stands in front of a red velvet curtain, ornate column, dressed in white tights and an ermine and blue velvet robe, embroidered with gold fleur de lis. He holds a straight cane. An ornate sword is belted at his side. His crown sits on a small table covered with the same material as the cape.

Introduction (2 comments)

A Martyr of Royal Proportions

[Comment 1: Introduction sets the context without making claims that are too broad or general. Also sets the tone for a focus on class conflict.]  For the majority of the eighteenth-century, French farmers stayed starving and cold while an elite class of nobility consumed them. For years, the upper echelon of French society relied on the blood and sweat of the layman to provide them with ample nourishment. But after the spring of 1791, the fields would be nourished by the blood of laymen and aristocrat alike, and the old ways would be no more. A revolution had begun, and revolutionary figures like Jean Paul Marat would be painted in stark contrast to the grandiose portraiture of King Louis the Fourteenth nearly a century prior.  [Comment 2: Clear thesis signals what the argument will be and why comparing these two paintings is worthwhile.]  Indeed, the transition in composition from the early eighteenth century spoke to more than simple brushstrokes. It represented the political enlightenment of the French people attempting to secure for themselves unalienable liberties they had been denied so long. Marat, therefore, was not simply a brutalized revolutionary lying lifeless in his bathtub;  The Death of Marat  depicts the efforts of the enlightenment revolution ferociously contesting with the old paradigm of French government.

Analysis (6 comments)

[Comment 3: Clear topic sentences signal what each paragraph will analyze.]  When comparing two pieces it is important to recognize their respective contexts first. The Louis XIV portrait is painted by Hyacinthe Rigaud during the early Enlightenment period of France in 1701. This painting has King Louis XIV surrounded by opulence in a very stately posture. Louis states, “I am the state,” reinforcing his role as monarch of France for anyone viewing his kingly grandeur.  The Death of Marat , however, imparts a very different sentiment. Painted by French revolutionary artist Jacques-Louis David in 1793,  The Death of Marat  displays the infamous revolutionary writer is lifeless in a tub. At the height of the French revolution, he is soaking in a mixture of medicinal sulfur used to treat a rare skin condition he contracted in the sewers of France. Indeed, this disease that Marat contracted in the sewers placed him in the tub he would be murdered in. In this way, the poverty that drove him into the sewers also drove him to his demise; the French aristocracy could expunge the poor from the streets, but they could never extricate the ideas Marat imbued. The piece evoked compassion and provided justification to the many rebellious Parisians for whom he spoke. Furthermore, the painting immortalized Marat as a martyr and freedom fighter in the eyes of his fellow revolutionaries. The Louis XIV portrait flaunts power and status while  The Death of Marat  condemns monarchical rule in France.

After examining context, it is crucial to integrate the content of the works to get at their underlying meaning. Examining the content of the Louis XIV portrait gives the viewer an idea of the intentions and priorities of the French king. It is especially apparent that the king has a lot of money.  [Comment 4:  Descriptive prose points to specific aspects in the work of art.]  His encrusted sword and outrageously fanciful robe serve to bolster his status and wealth. It would almost seem that in a secondary effort to avoid being directly arrogant, these items are also imbued with a national relevance. The ludicrous robe displays the three-pronged lily representing the French monarchy, and his encrusted sword represents French military might. It is his shoes that cannot be accounted for. The king, old and sickly as he actually was, adorns some stylish footwear to juxtapose his position as self-proclaimed “Sun King” with some suave contemporary sneakers and a cheeky flash of the thigh. As powerful and sophisticated as he may have been, this portraiture shows  [Comment 5: Returns the analysis of symbols within the painting to the context of class conflict signaled in the introduction.]  a clear separation from reality; the wealth and power of “France” depicted in Louis’ portrait was not representative of the people who actually lived there. It was only relatable to the fancifully rich. Comparatively, the Marat portrait makes King Louis look like a bad attempt at humor.  The Death of Marat  was something extremely real and very relatable. It illustrated a man who suffered dearly at the hand of the monarchy and was ultimately killed by those who supported its rule. The rich and famous could never relate to  The Death of Marat  in the same way Parisians did; Marat would have been more honorable in the eyes of the public than any would-be king. Marat is shown in his tub, papers under arm and his quill in hand. It would appear that he was working on some enlightenment literature when he received a letter which tricked him into granting his killer access to him. Similar to the Louis XIV portrait, Marat’s body is sculpted with the precision and attention expected of the neoclassical age. The sickly and bleeding body of Marat elicits a specific emotional reaction of resentment and remorse. That the Marat painting gained the popularity that it did supports the idea that people began to relate more with enlightenment concepts and less of the idea of a king.

The skillful hand of each artist has a unique place in the message of each painting. The separate pieces are painted with unique and very different forms. Looking at the Louis XIV painting one notices that it is very full. This is assumed to be an intentional detail, as a king would surely have many possessions. Small shadows hide in the creases of cloth behind him. The only true shadow that rivals that of the king is in the very back of the painting almost out of sight. It would not be a stretch to say that the painting is full of cloth, and every cloth is radiant with color.  [Comment 6:  Attention to formal detail reasserts and supports the main argument about class and the king’s presentation within the painting.]  Light comes from the right-side illuminating Louis the XIV making him look larger with his robe on. The piece is extremely skilled but has some element of blurring when looked at closely. The overall atmosphere is one of style, color, and power regarding the king. The Marat piece does not share much with the Louis portrait; it is of a bath tub, a man, and a desk. The details of Marat are more vivid and retain their integrity upon close inspection. Marat himself is so realistic, he truly looks lifeless.  [Comment 7:  Formal analysis here connects to prior class content, and points to the art historical references within the painting.]   His posture is very reminiscent of pieta, reinforcing his martyr status in a Christ-like fashion. Despite the detail and realism of Marat,  [Comment 8:  Looks not only to what is in the painting, but how absences are treated, considering the entire composition.]  the stark ambiguity of the upper half of the painting is both unconventional and genius. With a black top half, there is nothing but Marat himself to focus on, the only thing one can really see and feel is Marat. As a result, the piece evokes keeps the viewers attention and feeling on the death of the man. One might ask who would do such a thing. Then answer inevitably reached is the monarchy.

Conclusion (0 comments)

The differences in context, content, and form of  The Death of Marat  and  Louis XIV  vary widely. These aspects are essential to the message and reception of the works. Their comparison brings out everything that is right, or wrong, with the messages they impart. In the case of David’s painting, it simply elicits the exact emotions people needed to feel; the emotions they needed reassurance of if they were to carry out their cause. The power of  The Death of Marat  inspired people to carry on fighting for the French Revolution. The influence of art certainly stretches beyond the construct of the mind, art is part and parcel of society, and should be regarded so dearly.

Annotated Sample of Read, Look, Reflect Essay

This sample contains 10 comments. These comments appear within the text of the article and are noted with bold text, brackets [ ], and the word "comment" before the text they refer to.  You can also view these annotations and the original paper in a  Google Doc format .

Assignment Context

As a student in ART 188, you might be asked to write a series of Read, Look, Reflect papers. The following paper is an example of exemplary student work. For this assignment, students are asked to read two sonnets by Michelangelo and look closely at Michelangelo’s sculpture Awakening Slave. Then they are asked to reflect on the questions below. This is a paper in which all students referenced the same assigned texts. No outside research was necessary, so footnotes were not required. Only clear references to the specific sonnet being discussed were necessary.

How does the allusion to the creative process in Michelangelo’s poems help us understand his philosophy of carving sculpture? How is that process visually apparent in the sculpture,  Awakening Slave ?

Introduction (3 comments)

Read, Look, Reflect: Michelangelo’s  Awakening Slave

[Comment 1: This introductory paragraph is effective because it begins providing an answer to the essay prompt. The author begins to explain a connection between hand and mind, which suggests a particular approach to the creative process.]   [Comment 2:  The author also gets straight to the point without making any sweeping historical claims or claims about beauty or greatness of a work of art.]  Michelangelo’s sonnets give insight into his beliefs about the mind’s vision and the hand’s product. Using sonnets to discuss the creative process and its resulting translation to Michelangelo’s sculptures is a testament to Michelangelo’s own mental capabilities, for both forms of art are quite difficult to produce well. Poetry and art require excessive refinement and revision on the part of the creator to convey what he or she wants to with a finished product. In the sonnet numbered 151, Michelangelo describes the “hand that obeys the intellect”,  [Comment 3:  Here’s one place where the author provides an interpretation of a specific quote.]  an indication that he believes that the mind is central to sculpting a vision from inspiration before the hand sculpts the stone itself. Further, Michelangelo’s choice of words here shows his reverence for the mind in its central creative role. In this paper, demonstrate how Michelangelo’s sonnets and the sculpture,  Awakening Slave , express a tension between idea and execution.

Analysis (7 comments)

With this in mind, Michelangelo’s second sonnet, numbered 152, delves further into the carving process.  [Comment 4:  The author focuses on a specific part of the poem here.]  Michelangelo speaks of a living figure “that grows larger wherever the stone decreases” in this poem, a more direct allusion to what stone is literally subtracted as artistic additions are made to the stone. From there, the sonnet further describes the process of addition, discussing how one cannot see his or her own good in the same way that others can.  [Comment 5:  The author comes to a thoughtful interpretation of the quote here.]  Rather, according to Michelangelo, other people seem to see the good in an individual and can bring it out to the surface in a way that the individual is unable to introspectively.  [Comment 6:  The author continues to reflect on the significance of that interpretation to the creative process.]  This is a powerful observation both psychologically and artistically, and though Michelangelo is commenting on both, the latter alludes more to the creative process. Artistically, it seems like Michelangelo is alluding to his personal definition of inspiration. When artists like himself create, they seek to bring out qualities worth displaying, whether they be qualities like grace and beauty, or in the case of his sculpture,  Awakening Slave , a quality like the beauty of struggle.

Because Michelangelo’s sculpture,  Awakening Slave , is still very much confined to the stone, viewers can see his poetic description of replacing raw stone with a mental vision in artistic practice. It could be argued that the sculpture is either intentionally or accidentally unfinished, but with the information from the sonnets, the former seems to be a more accurate reflection of Michelangelo’s beliefs in this art. For Michelangelo, crafting a seemingly unfinished sculpture can successfully show the struggles of the creative process, especially conflicts with inspiration itself. Conflicts could entail a situation such as if inspiration were to run dry, or a time when the pressure on the creator to produce a fully developed vision becomes too much.

The man who is supposed to be awakening in the sculpture is facing a personal struggle that he cannot escape from.  [Comment 7:  The author makes a clear and specific observation about the sculpture.]  It is worth noting that a body is more clearly defined in the sculpture than a head.  [Comment 8:  The author suggests a possible interpretation of the observation above.]  This structural observation could mean that the head, and therefore the mind, is the source of the struggle for the man depicted in the stone.  [Comment 9:  The author again makes a specific observation in the next sentence and then moves into interpretation for the rest of the paragraph.]  The central parts of the body are more prominent in the stone than the upper and lower regions of the body, giving the sculpture a warped look on the top, but also a little bit on the bottom as well. This further enhances the theme of struggle and the overtaking of the mind by said struggle. The all- consuming nature of struggle is made more powerful and central to the sculpture by that design choice, especially since viewers know that Michelangelo’s anatomical accuracy was part of what has made many of his other works so respected.

The ability that viewers have to pair Michelangelo’s  Awakening Slave  with written explanations from the artist centuries later undoubtedly adds to one’s interpretation of the art. Michelangelo’s decision to reflect on his own creative process shows that while he was a renowned artist, the talent was accompanied by other highly developed talents, too. In more than one respect, Michelangelo continues to succeed in making critics and common viewers alike understand the complexity of the artistic profession.

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