All Subjects

ย >ย 


AP Art & Design

ย >ย 


Unit 4

4.0 Rubrics (Guide 4)

12 min readโ€ขaugust 31, 2020

Deciphering the APยฎ Art and Design Rubric

There are two parts to your AP Art and Design test, the Sustained Investigation and the Selected Works. Each one of these has a rubric designed for that section that measures specific "requirements and prompts" that you need to successfully demonstrate. The College Board (CB) states that the rubric is "the contract with the student", so it is incredibly important that you understand what they are talking about in it. ๐Ÿ˜‰

I'm going to break these down for you, but here is the College Board site for more information.

Scoring Rubric for Sustained Investigation

Requirements and Prompts

Submit 15 images that demonstrate:

  • Sustained Investigation through practice, experimentation, and revision (P,E,R)

  • Sustained Investigation of materials, processes, and ideas

  • Synthesis of materials, processes, and ideas

  • 2D/3D/Drawing skills (depending on the type of portfolio submitted)

State the following in writing:

  • Identify the Inquiry (link to inquiry page) or Question(s) that guided your Sustained Investigation

  • Describe how your Sustained Investigation shows evidence of practice, experimentation, and revision GUIDED BY your Inquiry or Question(s). (1200 characters maximum, including spaces, for a response to both prompts)

Questions that guide the Sustained Investigation are typically formulated at the beginning of portfolio development. Students should formulate their Inquiry or Question(s) based on their own experiences and ideas. These guiding questions should be documented and further developed throughout the Sustained Investigation.

General Scoring Note

College Board states that: "When applying the rubric, the score for each row should be considered independently from the other rows. Students may receive different scores for each row. When applying the rubric for each individual row, you should award the score for that row-based solely upon the criteria indicated for that row, according to the preponderance of the evidence. "

This means you select the score point achieved for each row. The body of work is graded holistically (as a whole, all together) for each row. There is a formula you have to plug them into to get the credit score for this section. The total score generated by that formula will represent 60% of your score. Please see the row breakdown below - trust me, it gets easier. ๐Ÿ™‚

How Is My Work Scored?

The two parts of your portfolio are combined to make your score. The Selected Works portion provides 40% of your score. The Sustained Investigation portion supplies the other 60%. More importantly, the Sustained Investigation is broken down into four sections, and each row, independently, has a portion of that percentage. Here's the breakdown:

  • Row A - 12%

  • Row B - 18%

  • Row C - 18%

  • Row D - 12%

If you are someone who "likes to do the math", more power to you! ๐Ÿ‘Œ๐Ÿฝ Here's a formula to use to create a rough approximation of your score.


This is not a guarantee of a particular score, but you can use this tool as a way to predictively score your work and figure out where you need to concentrate to move your score as you work. ๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿฝ ๐Ÿ’ฏ ๐Ÿ™Œ๐Ÿฝ

The Rubric


Scoring Criteria - Let's break it down! ๐Ÿค”

Row A


Row A deals with your Inquiry, "the process of asking questions in order to seek, to search, and to discover". As you can see, this score point assesses whether or not you IDENTIFY an inquiry and if your work is a visual answer to the inquiry.

For instance, if the inquiry identified is "How can I use the translucent properties of oil paint to represent the beautiful variety of skin tones through underlying colors in portraits of POC?", possible points could be broken down like this:

1 pt: You state your inquiry (Guiding Question) and your visual evidence was unrelated paintings in various media. There might be a portrait in there, there might be an oil, there might be a POC, however, they aren't ALL aligned with your inquiry. You didn't support or demonstrate the inquiry statement with the visual evidence. Alternatively, you don't give an actual INQUIRY, but possibly just wrote something like "I wanted to get better in my art".

2 pts: You IDENTIFY the inquiry and may show art that doesn't necessarily showcase portraits of POC, maybe it's all portraits - but not all POC or all done in oil. It relates but doesn't ANSWER your question. The visual evidence demonstrates awareness and an attempt at showing the inquiry but is not entirely successful.

3 pts: You IDENTIFY the inquiry, and it is clearly evident that the question GUIDED all of the work. Your visual evidence SUPPORTS the idea of the inquiry - there are all oil paintings of POC. but there might be uneven success - this means some of the work might be of a better/lesser caliber than others.

Row A counts for 12% of your overall score and is represented by "SI-A" in the self-grading formula above.

Row B


Row B deals with Practice, Experimentation, and Revision (P,E,R)

  • Practiceโ€”the repeated use of materials, processes, and/or ideas

  • Experimentationโ€”TESTING materials, processes, and/or ideas

  • Revisionโ€”making a purposeful change, connection, or improvement

Breaking down the score points, please notice Row B seems to dovetail nicely with Row A. If you don't have a sustained investigation (guided by inquiry), you can't practice, experiment, or revise it. Make sense? ๐Ÿ˜‰ ๐Ÿ˜Ž For the example above, the things you might address for this row would be things like mixing shades, practicing applying paint in a glazing technique (building up thin layers of paint to create depth), trying underpainting, posed vs. candid portraits, different compositions and backgrounds, etc.

1 pt: You DO SHOW any or all of the P, E, R, but your work does not show a sustained investigation. Using the example inquiry given for row A, you might have tried a variety of techniques but say you did a variety of paintings - maybe portraits, landscapes or still life, and they might not be in oil.... so it doesn't tie to your Sustained Investigation.

2 pts: Your P, E, or R relates to the SI (notice that you have an SI here, which differs from point 1) AND your written evidence RELATES to your visual evidence. So you have the SI, and it is tied to your visual evidence, similar to the Row A score point 2. So you have an idea, you tried some stuff, but it's still not solid. Example - You try creating different skin tones, but they aren't for POC, it relates.... but it's not the evidence you need for what you wrote.

3 pts: Your P, E, or R is not only obvious but what you learned from it DRIVES the work and you are able to articulate it in the written evidence. Your P.E.R all aligns with and revolves around the different ways you used of oil paint to create varied portraits of POC.

Row B counts for 18% of your overall score and is represented by "SI-B" in the self-grading formula above.

Row C


Row C deals with the Materials, Processes, and Ideas (M, P, I).

  • Materialsโ€”Physical substances used to make works of art and design

  • Processesโ€”Physical AND conceptual (thought, planning, organizing, etc) activities involved with making works of art and design

  • Ideasโ€”Concepts used to make works of art and design (that can be evident virtually or in writing)

For this score point, you need to show how you conceptualized the work, what you used to help plan or visualize it, and the physical media you chose to create it.

1 pt: Little to NO evidence that M, P, and I work together. So, if you just "paint stuff" - that is the use of a material(M). Simplistic, right? ๐Ÿค” It doesn't show that you planned or picked (P) painting for any reason other than you just wanted to paint (no idea). There's nothing tying everything together except a media.

2 pts: Visual relationships between M, P, and I become evident. Here, let's say you created those same paintings (M) of different things but added sketchbook evidence showing you tried different things as well. That becomes a process (P). You are showing the relationship of M and P visually.

3 pts: The evidence supports that ALL THREE (M, P, and I) components are working together as a result of your choices. This is SYNTHESIS. So, for this.... you created paintings (M), you used your sketchbook (P), and then decided to make them all portraits (Idea - following your SI guided question)

Row C counts for 18% of your total score and is represented by "SI-C" in the self-grading formula above.

Row D


Row D deals with your skills. You may review those skills here 2D/Draw (link) or 3D (link). Please note that this is the only portion of this rubric that really addresses how well you actually DO the art. The majority of this rubric is about how well you THINK, EXPLORE, EXPERIMENT, and REVISE your guiding question. It cannot be understated how important it is that the guiding question comes first, as all SI work should spring from it! ๐Ÿ™Œ๐Ÿฝ

1 pt: Rudimentary (emerging or underdeveloped) skills. Be honest with yourself. If you need to improve, get to work. You can do it! ๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿฝ

2 pts: Moderate (adequate) and good (proficient) skills. Lots of work falls here. Remember, it's a range in each band and this one tends to be big.

3 pts: Good (proficient) and advanced (highly developed) skills. Like other bands, place yourself where the majority of the work scores!

Row D counts for 12% of your total score. SI - D for the above formula.

Hopefully, this will help you score your work as you go, identify your strengths and weaknesses, using the rubric, to create the best portfolio possible. ๐Ÿ™Œ๐Ÿฝ ๐Ÿฅฐ ๐ŸŽจ

Sustained Investigation Examples๐Ÿฅณ

Here are some examples provided by the College Board. Practice using the rubric to evaluate them, since you will know the score - it's a great way to see if you grasp the rubric and to figure out what parts confuse you. At the end of each example, the give a rationale about why that work received the score.

As you practice with these examples, it's important for you to remember several things.

  • These are designed to demonstrate score points and there is a broad range of achievement within each band.

  • They are not listed so you can copy the work. This work is already created. You need to create the work only YOU CAN CREATE. ๐Ÿฅฐ. Show the what is important to YOU.

  • Do NOT compare yourself to these works. Artists come in all different skill levels, work across many media, and deal with different ideas. Don't feel that your work is less than any work shown..... it's just different. Different is good! ๐Ÿ™Œ๐Ÿฝ ๐Ÿ’ฏ

๐ŸŽจ Drawing Examples

๐Ÿ“ธ 2D Examples

๐Ÿบ 3D Examples

Scoring Rubric for Selected Works

Since selected works will count for 40% of your overall score, make sure to select your BEST WORK.

As you read the rubric, it gives this information first:

General Scoring Note

"When applying the rubric, the response does not need to meet all three criteria for each score point. You should award the score according to the preponderance of evidence (the score the majority of the work would receive): however, if the written evidence is completely unrelated to the work, the maximum score is 2." - AP Art and Design Rubric

So, if you state that the idea shown is "exploring color theory in logo design" and your image is a photo of a sunset, clearly there is a disconnect between the visual and written evidence. The rubric states the highest score you could receive would be a 2 out of 5 possible points. Make sure you support the visual evidence with your written commentary.

How is my work scored?

The five works are graded holistically (graded as one entity). Even though there maybe inconsistent quality, the body of work is graded on the level of the majority of the work. So, if you have 2 works that might rate a 3, and 3 works that would rate a 4, the preponderance of the evidence shows that this work would be scored as a 4.

When you look at the rubric below, you look for the score point that shows you achieving the at the highest level of the majority ( preponderance of the evidence) of the work. The work can still be of uneven quality, so look at what identifies the MAJORITY OF THE WORK.

Scoring Criteria

A. 2D/3D/Drawing Art and Design Skills

This portion of the rubric deals with how well you show the Principles of Design through the skillful application of your chosen media.

The skills, directly from the AP Art and Design rubric are:

  • 2D/Draw (link) - Use of two-dimensional elements and principles - point, link, shape, plane, layer, form, space, texture, color, value, opacity, transparency, time, unity, variety, rhythm, movement, proportion, scale, balance, emphasis, contrast, repetition, figure/ground relationship, connection, juxtaposition, and hierarchy.

  • 3D (link) - Use of three-dimensional elements and principles - point, link, shape, plane, layer, form, space, texture, color, value, opacity, transparency, time, unity, variety, rhythm, movement, proportion, scale, balance, emphasis, contrast, repetition, figure/ground relationship, connection, juxtaposition, and hierarchy.

B. Materials, Processes, and Ideas

This score point reflects the degree to which you use materials effectively to communicate your ideas visually with the viewer. For example, if you want to create a linear sculpture with strong straight lines, you wouldn't want a soft material that could flop over or bend. Selecting the correct material to create your work is important.

Process is the way you test the materials to ensure they are able to able to do what you need for them to do so that they align with your idea. This is called synergy, where all of the parts work together to successfully create what you want.

C. Writing

This point refers to your ability to identify and briefly explain your ideas and processes. This does not need to be done in complete sentences, and spelling does not count. However, try running your work through a word processing program to double-check word count and spelling. Chop unnecessary words, and then cut and paste.

The Rubric


As you can see, the rubric aligns so that each row A score point deals with the quality of the 2D/3D/Drawing Art and Design skills. Each row B deals with materials, processes, and ideas evidence. Row C is a reflection of the quality of the writing.

Note that each score point shows a reduction (or increase, depending on if you start at the top or bottom) in how well you demonstrate what that row measures. There are qualifiers for each, so as you look at this, focus on these differences! You receive the score where you meet the MOST of the points. If you meet all three under the score point 3, but might reach 2 on the score point 4.... then you would be rated a 3. Remember... the preponderance of the evidence. ๐Ÿ˜‰ ๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿฝ

Let's break down each score point and look at the differences between them. Keep in mind that each score point is designed to depict a RANGE of achievement within it.

Let's start with the 1 score point.


Please note here that the main words are LITTLE or NO evidence. All three rows mention unsatisfactory evidence of achievement was present for each row.

The 2 score point:


Here we see that the A, or skills, row is upgraded from LITTLE or NO to reflect RUDIMENTARY (simple or basic) skills. The other score points remain the same as the 1 score point.

The 3 score point:


At the 3 score point, there is a fundamental shift towards achievement in all three rows. Row A switches to MODERATE (adequate or average) achievement in skills. Row B states there is an evident relationship in M, P, and I, but it might be unclear or inconsistent.

Row C specifies that the writing must IDENTIFY, which means it must successfully explain what you are showing. From this point on, if your writing identifies the materials, processes, and ideas, you have demonstrated the Row C. 3 is the first score point that might qualify you for college credit.

The 4 score point:


The 4 score point increases quality in A and B. For A, visual evidence of skills moves from moderate (average) to GOOD (proficient) skills. B moves from having evident but inconsistent relationships between M, P, and I to CLEARLY EVIDENT relationships. Row C remains the same.

The 5 score point:


The 5 score point increases quality A and B again, while C remains the same. Row A moves from good to ADVANCED (highly developed) skills, an important distinction. Row B includes clear evidence and SYNTHESIS of M, P, and I: materials, processes, and ideas working together to create a cohesive whole.