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Best AP Art History Textbooks and Prep Books

6 min readโ€ขoctober 29, 2020

Jordyn Haynes


AP Art Historyย ๐Ÿ–ผ

Bookmarkedย 857ย โ€ขย 34ย resources
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Best AP Art History Textbooks and Prepbooks

Last year, 11.9% of AP Art History students received a 5 on their exams. To give yourself the best chance of securing your score within that small percentage, you need to have the best resources at hand! Keep reading to find a list of the best AP Art History textbooks, prep books, and a few additional resources that will get you well on your way to a 5!
Rating Scale:
๐Ÿฅ‡ Best value
๐Ÿค“ Easiest to read
๐Ÿ’ธ Cheapest
๐Ÿ–Š Most thorough

๐Ÿ“š Textbooks

As an AP Art History student, a textbook provides super detailed information and really dive deep into the specifics of the course. The College Board has provided a list of recommended textbooks, which you can find here. In no particular order, below are Amazon links to the six best-reviewed textbooks from the College Board's list.
*Note: these textbooks vary in price. If your school has already provided you with a textbook, we do not recommend purchasing an additional textbook.
  1. Smarthistory Books (see what they did there?) ๐Ÿ’ธ ๐Ÿฅ‡
    https://firebasestorage.googleapis.com/v0/b/fiveable-92889.appspot.com/o/images%2F-CNC8EpmXHJrh.png?alt=media&token=1512ce8d-15eb-4e09-b23b-ff1aa05d6c95
    • Free download (physical book available for purchase)
    • Aligned with AP curriculum
    • Additional "guides" for specific groups (i.e Greeks, Egyptians)
  2. https://firebasestorage.googleapis.com/v0/b/fiveable-92889.appspot.com/o/images%2F-Cq6Y6ycL8XHm.jpg?alt=media&token=75c7c80f-e599-49d0-b07d-7cfde08bd195
    • Easy to read
    • Detailed
    • Discusses styles, materials, and history in depth
    • Multiple buying options on Amazon (loose leaf, paperback & hardcover new/used)
  3. https://firebasestorage.googleapis.com/v0/b/fiveable-92889.appspot.com/o/images%2F-jgBSAccXE9a6.jpg?alt=media&token=12e506f5-df6f-4f3a-9b9d-2c19529b9fcc
    • Historical/chronological/geographical information is well organized
    • Easy to read
    • Photo & long text format
    • Multiple buying options on amazon (rent, new/used hard cover & paperback)
  4. https://firebasestorage.googleapis.com/v0/b/fiveable-92889.appspot.com/o/images%2F-69QDvNtRxu2G.jpg?alt=media&token=d2c853b0-7f75-4b1f-9f8d-4b0191e60132
    • Highlights focal points of artworks
    • Includes context & information world movements that influence artists
    • Timelines for each major era
    • Explains continuity and how artists influenced each other
  5. https://firebasestorage.googleapis.com/v0/b/fiveable-92889.appspot.com/o/images%2F-4kBUVj4RPUqJ.jpg?alt=media&token=355fe531-4b16-4f17-b688-45a8de8e39c7
    • Strong analysis of artwork
    • Key terms and concepts are distinguished
    • Provides context to time periods
    • Multiple buying options on Amazon (rent, buy new/used)
  6. https://firebasestorage.googleapis.com/v0/b/fiveable-92889.appspot.com/o/images%2F-LXoNp7mCdf6M.jpg?alt=media&token=e60bdc42-ecba-4510-928c-62f0660cb0d3
    • Information presented in accordance with 5 learning objectives: Identify, Interpret, Relate, Apply, Select
    • Includes maps, context, and explanations of techniques
    • Paperback & eBook available on Amazon
  7. https://firebasestorage.googleapis.com/v0/b/fiveable-92889.appspot.com/o/images%2F-LZSF85hJ5p5M.jpg?alt=media&token=b6c96230-3816-49f2-9f7d-7656ff3e5e61
    • Concise, well-written descriptions of artwork (unlike the long text format of other textbooks)
    • Easy to read
    • Multiple buying options on Amazon (rent, new/used paperback & hardcover)
Hot ๐Ÿ”ฅ tip: The second and third textbooks are available on library genesis for free! ๐Ÿ™Œ

๐Ÿ“” Prep Books

Prep books are an amazing way to supplement in-school learning with extra practice and an easy-to-follow content review. Here's a list of the best AP Art History prep books, along with background information to help you find the prep book that best suits your needs.
  1. This book has it all: 2 full-length practice tests (complete with scoring guidelines and explanations for each question), a clear and thorough review of major artists and movements, extra multiple choice practice questions, and chapters that expand beyond the European tradition. It also includes a set of online flashcards for the AP Art History image set and separates the chapters by stylistic choice/technique similar to movements.Not only does this expand the reader's knowledge about the artworks, but it allows the readers to expand their ability to make connections across time periods & content areas! Barron's is best suited for those looking to boost their in-school learning throughout the course and before the exam.
  2. AP Art History Crash Course ๐Ÿค“ ๐Ÿ’ธ
    Crash Course is a great tool for students who are pressed for time when it comes to studying or those looking for a quick and relevant review. This book contains a full content review, testing strategies, a list of key terms, and one full-length practice test.We don't recommend you use this book for in-depth content/artwork review due to its minimal discussion of artwork in the image set. It is best for review right before the exam and/or to supplement more specific classroom learning.
  3. The Insider's Guide to AP Art History takes a different approach to review than the other prep books listed. It includes longer, more detailed, paragraph style review for each chapter as opposed to bullet points and key subjects. This book has 80 multiple choice questions and a glossary of key terms and artworks. A unique feature of this particular prep book is its in-depth essays for each work of art in the image set. This book would be most helpful early on and throughout the course because of its mass amount of information.
  4. The Annotated Mona Lisa is not published specifically for AP Art History, but it proves to be valuable because of its amazing overview of art history in general, which makes it a huge help in understanding broader concepts. It explains more than 300 works of art and covers 25,000 years of art history in 5 sections. This book is best for students looking for more art history knowledge in areas covered in the AP curriculum and beyond.

โœ” Additional Resources

Here are a few more AP Art History Resources if textbooks and prep books aren't your style.
  1. Fiveable
    Fiveable offers live streams (and their replays), study guides, trivia games, videos, and slide decks for AP Art History students. Beyond the content, Fiveable also offers a community platform where students can ask questions and receive feedback from AP Art History teachers and other students.
  2. The College Board has published all past essay prompts along with their scoring guidelines and reader commentary. By using these prompts, you will not only be able to practice your writing skills, but also compare your work with the released student samples to see how it compares to those who earned a perfect score.
  3. Beyond free textbooks, Smarthistory also offers a whole library of guided learning courses and a list of explanations for all 250 required works aimed to supplement AP Art History. There are also options that aren't AP-specific but will definitely be useful in preparing for the exam. Material is broken down by geographical regions and time periods for easy navigation. Smarthistory also has a YouTube channel with videos about various concepts and skills in APAH from analysis to explanation!
  4. Although Tumblr may be an unconventional place to find APAH help, this page is an incredible resource. It includes general review, artwork taken from Gardner's Art through the Ages, and trivia/essays from past exams. The posts are organized by chapter and include images along with thorough explanations and analysis! \
  5. This website is basically a hub for AP Art History! Its information is broken up by time periods/geographic region and it includes examples and information for important works in each section. The site also includes timelines and maps!

Overall

That's a wrap! All of the resources in this comprehensive list will prove to be a major help in the long run-up to the exam in May. With these resources, you will have all the tools you need to succeed in your year of AP Art History! Keep in mind, text/prep books should not be your only mode of studying. They are incredible tools to help grow your understanding, but cannot replace essential course learning. Happy studying!
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