How Difficult is AP Art History? A Comprehensive Guide

June 28, 2023
By AdmissionSight

AP Art History, like any other Advanced Placement subject, is challenging and demands a great deal of time and effort from students. However, with proper preparation, students can overcome the difficulty and achieve success in the course and exam. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll get to know how hard is AP Art History by covering the basics, and looking at the benefits of taking the course, how to prepare for exams, common challenges faced by students, effective study techniques, and resources for exam preparation.

What is AP Art History?

AP Art History is a rigorous course that explores global artistic traditions and cultures from prehistoric times to the present. The focus of the course is not only on visual art but also on other cultural expressions, including architecture, sculpture, painting, and more. Students in this course will learn to critically analyze works of art and historical contexts that influenced their creations. The course aims to provide students with a deep understanding of the cultural significance of art and the impact of each artwork in its historical context.

One of the unique aspects of AP Art History is that it not only covers Western art but also includes art from various cultures around the world. This allows students to gain a broader perspective on art and its role in different societies. Additionally, the course emphasizes the importance of understanding the social, political, and economic factors that influenced the creation of art throughout history.

Another key component of the course is the development of strong writing and research skills. Students are required to write essays and research papers on various topics related to art history, which helps them to develop critical thinking and analytical skills. These skills are not only valuable for success in the course but also for future academic and professional pursuits.

students brainstorming for research

The Benefits of Taking AP Art History

AP Art History has numerous benefits for students who are interested in pursuing a degree or career in art history or related fields. The course encourages students to think critically and analytically, which are important skills required in a variety of professions. The course also helps students develop a cultural awareness of global art forms, which is valuable in a diverse world.

An AP Art History course can demonstrate intellectual rigor and discipline to college admissions officers, making applicants stand out from their peers. Moreover, students who succeed in the AP Art History exam can earn college credit and save on tuition costs.

Another benefit is that it can enhance a student’s creativity and imagination. By studying different art forms and styles, students can gain inspiration and ideas for their artistic endeavors. Additionally, the course can help students develop their visual literacy skills, which are important in fields such as graphic design, advertising, and media.

Furthermore, it can provide students with a deeper understanding and appreciation of art and its role in society. Through the study of art history, students can learn about the historical, cultural, and social contexts in which art was created. This knowledge can help students understand the significance of art in different cultures and periods, and how it reflects and shapes society.

What to Expect from an AP Art History Course

The course is a combination of lectures, discussions, and hands-on experiences. The course emphasizes critical analysis of artworks and their historical and cultural contexts. Students will engage with a variety of art forms, including painting, sculpture, architecture, and more. The course will require students to write essays and take exams. Students should expect to spend time outside of class researching and studying artworks, reading course materials, and writing papers.

a female painter painting on a canvas

In addition to the academic requirements, an AP Art History course also offers students the opportunity to develop their visual literacy skills. Students will learn how to analyze and interpret visual information, which can be applied to a variety of fields beyond art history. The course also encourages students to think creatively and express their ideas about art.

Furthermore, the course can provide students with a deeper understanding and appreciation of different cultures and perspectives. Through the study of art from various periods and regions, students will gain insight into the beliefs, values, and experiences of people from around the world. This can help students develop empathy and a broader worldview.

The Structure of AP Art History Exams: How They Work

The AP Art History exam is divided into two parts: a multiple-choice section and a free-response section. The multiple-choice section consists of 80 questions that test students’ knowledge of artworks and their cultural and historical contexts. The free-response section comprises two questions, which require students to write essays that analyze works of art and historical contexts. The exam typically lasts for three hours and is scored on a scale of 1-5.

Students need to prepare for the AP Art History exam by studying a wide range of artworks from different cultures and periods. They should also be familiar with key art historical concepts and terminology, such as iconography, style, and patronage. Additionally, students should practice writing essays that analyze works of art and historical contexts, as this is a crucial skill for the free-response section of the exam.

After taking the AP Art History exam, students may be eligible to receive college credit or advanced placement in art history courses. This can save them time and money in college, as they may be able to skip introductory courses and move directly into more advanced coursework. However, it is important to note that each college and university has its policies regarding AP credit, so students should check with their prospective schools to see what credits they may be eligible for.

How to Prepare for the AP Art History Exam: Tips and Strategies

Preparation for the AP Art History exam should begin early in the course. Students should read the course materials, research the artworks, attend lectures, and take notes. They should practice writing timed essays, review vocabulary, and learn to identify different art forms. Students should also take advantage of review materials online, including official study guides, practice tests, and other resources. Many universities and art museums offer review seminars and workshops for AP Art History students, which can be especially helpful for learning in-depth analysis skills.

Another important aspect of preparing for the AP Art History exam is to develop strong visual analysis skills. This involves closely examining artworks and identifying their formal elements, such as line, color, and composition. Students should also learn to analyze artworks in their historical and cultural contexts, considering factors such as the artist’s background, the artwork’s intended audience, and the social and political climate of the period. Developing these skills can help students to write more nuanced and insightful essays on the exam.

Common Challenges Faced by Students in AP Art History and Solutions

The most common challenge faced by students in AP Art History is the volume of content and the amount of memorization required. Managing time and motivation can also be a challenge. To overcome these challenges, students should create a study schedule and stick to it, utilize study groups, and review frequently. They should also take breaks and stay motivated by taking care of themselves and engaging with the content in a way that is interesting and creative to them.

Portrait of young nerdy student studying with textbooks and write quotations on a book

Another challenge that students in AP Art History may face is the complexity of the subject matter. Art history can be a difficult subject to grasp, especially for those who are not familiar with the terminology and concepts. To overcome this challenge, students should take advantage of resources such as textbooks, online articles, and videos that explain the material clearly and concisely. They should also ask their teacher or classmates for help when needed.

Lastly, students in AP Art History may struggle with analyzing and interpreting works of art. This requires critical thinking skills and the ability to make connections between different pieces of art and historical contexts. To improve their analytical skills, students should practice analyzing different works of art and discussing them with their peers. They should also read and research about the historical and cultural contexts in which the art was created.

How to Study for AP Art History: Effective Techniques to Try

Effective study techniques for AP Art History include reading and analyzing artworks as much as possible, creating visual charts and abridgments, using mnemonics and acronyms to remember historical facts, and drawing and labeling diagrams to understand architectural principles. Students should also use online resources and online courses to supplement their academic coursework.

Another effective technique for studying AP Art History is to participate in group discussions and debates. This allows students to share their perspectives and interpretations of artworks, as well as learn from their peers. Additionally, visiting museums and galleries can provide a hands-on learning experience and allow students to see artworks in person.

alarm clock with time running out. Students hands to take exams, write examination room with pencil holding on optical form of standardized test with answers

It is also important for students to stay organized and manage their time effectively. Creating a study schedule and breaking down the material into manageable chunks can help prevent overwhelm and ensure that all topics are covered before the exam. Finally, practicing past AP Art History exams and essays can help students become familiar with the format and prepare for the actual test.

Resources for Preparing for the AP Art History Exam: Books, Websites, and More

The internet offers a range of resources for AP Art History students, including official study guides, practice tests, and online review materials. Printed resources, such as art history textbooks and flashcards, can also be helpful supplements for studying course materials and identifying key themes and ideas.

Another helpful resource for AP Art History students is attending museum exhibitions and galleries. Seeing art in person can provide a deeper understanding of the artwork’s context, style, and techniques. Many museums also offer guided tours and educational programs specifically designed for students studying art history.

Additionally, forming study groups with classmates can be a beneficial way to review course materials and discuss key concepts. Collaborating with others can help reinforce understanding and provide different perspectives on the material. Students can also use online forums and discussion boards to connect with other AP Art History students and share resources and study tips.

How to Score High on the AP Art History Exam: Insights from Top Scorers

The most important thing for scoring well on the AP Art History exam is to practice writing and analyzing artworks and historical contexts as much as possible. Students should also identify and understand key themes and ideas in the course content and make connections between works of art and global cultural movements. Utilizing practice tests and timed essays with teachers or academic tutors can be a great way to prepare for the exam.

A female student using a laptop.

Another important aspect of preparing for the AP Art History exam is to develop a strong understanding of art vocabulary and terminology. This includes being able to identify different artistic styles, techniques, and mediums, as well as understanding the historical and cultural significance of different artworks. Students should also be familiar with key art historical periods and movements, such as the Renaissance, Baroque, and Modernism.

Finally, students need to stay up-to-date with current events and developments in the art world. This includes attending art exhibitions, reading art publications, and following art-related social media accounts. By staying informed about the latest trends and debates in the art world, students can develop a deeper understanding of the cultural and historical context of different artworks, which can help them to excel on the AP Art History exam.

Now that you have this comprehensive guide, you should have a better understanding of how hard is AP Art History and how you can prepare for it. Remember, the most important aspect of success in AP Art History is critical analysis and a deep understanding of global art forms. By staying motivated and interacting with the course materials creatively and effectively, you can discover a world of art and culture that can bring a new dimension to your academic and personal life.

It is important to note that while many colleges and universities accept AP Art History credit, some may have specific requirements or restrictions. It is recommended that students research the policies of their desired institutions before assuming that their AP credit will be accepted. Additionally, some colleges may require students to take a placement exam or submit a portfolio of their artwork to receive credit for AP Art History.

Finally, it is worth mentioning that AP Art History can be a valuable asset for students pursuing a variety of majors and careers. The skills developed in this course, such as critical thinking, research, and analysis, can be applied to fields such as law, journalism, and museum curation. By taking AP Art History and earning college credit, students can open up new opportunities and gain a deeper appreciation for the world of art and culture.


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