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AP Art History Exam Guide

6 min readapril 29, 2021


AP Art History 🖼

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AP Art History Exam Guide

Format of the 2021 AP Art History Exam

The AP Art History Exam is made up of two sections: 

Section 1: Multiple Choice (MCQ)

80 questions ➡️60 minutes ➡️50% of the exam score

Section 2: Free Response (FRQ)

6 questions (2 long & 4 short) ➡️120 minutes ➡️50% of the Exam score 
Important Information about the 2021 exams:
  • There will be paper and online administrations, (your school will decide which one you take)
  • Online Exam: No going back on MCQ questions
  • Online Exam: No Identifying of artworks on FRQ questions

The AP Art History Exam assesses content from the following skills learned throughout the course. Every question, whether it be multiple choice or free response, will use one of these art historical thinking skills.

The exam assesses content from 8 art history skills
Skill 1: Visual Analysis
Skill 2: Contextual Analysis
Skill 3: Comparison of Works of Art
Skill 4: Artistic Traditions
Skill 5: Visual Analysis of Unknown Works
Skill 6: Attribution of Unknown Works
Skill 7: Art Historical Interpretations
Skill 8: Argumentation

The College Board has given us a basic breakdown of how much of each content area will be covered on the exam 📊:

Content Areas
Content Quantity & Exam Weighing
Unit 1: Global Prehistory
30,000-500BCE
11 artworks 4%
Unit 2: Ancient Mediterranean
3500 BCE-300 CE
36 artworks
15 %
Unit 3: Early Europe and Colonial America
200-1750 CE
51 artworks
21%
Unit 4: Later Europe and Americas
1750-1980 CE
54 artworks
21%
Unit 5: Indigenous Americas
1000BCE-1980 CE
14 artworks
6 %
Unit 6: Africa
1100-1980 CE
14 artworks
6%
Unit 7: West and Central Asia
500BCE-1980 CE
11 artworks
4 %
Unit 8: South, East, and Southeast Asia
300 BCE-1980 CE
21 artworks
8%
Unit 9: The Pacific
700-1980 CE
11 artworks
4%
Unit 10: Global Contemporary
27 artworks
11%

Section 1: Multiple Choice Questions 🤓 

80 questions ➡️60 minutes ➡️50% of the exam score
NOTE: If you’re taking the online exam, you will NOT be able to go back on the MCQ questions!
  • Some questions will be grouped in sets (3-6 questions) and are based on color images.
  • Some questions are individual questions, some may have a color image, some will have no images. 
  • Some questions will include images outside the 250 set.
Questions
Examples
All of these questions can be found in the AP Art History Course and Exam Description. AP Central®
About 40 questions are grouped in sets (3-6 questions) and are based on color images.
 
https://firebasestorage.googleapis.com/v0/b/fiveable-92889.appspot.com/o/images%2F-veCka2cKUM9N.png?alt=media&token=ca75fccb-0782-4460-aa4d-21d7e0c4bc45
About 40 questions are individual questions, some may have a color image, some will have no images. 
 
https://firebasestorage.googleapis.com/v0/b/fiveable-92889.appspot.com/o/images%2F-5Cfv4VfAbnt6.png?alt=media&token=4bf0a684-d19a-42ad-b4e9-0c69a64d5e15
There will also be questions that include images outside the 250. These are usually attribution or visual analysis type questions
 
https://firebasestorage.googleapis.com/v0/b/fiveable-92889.appspot.com/o/images%2F-PuCJqQjOI5UT.png?alt=media&token=05762228-a3cb-49e0-9311-eae4258d1a06
https://firebasestorage.googleapis.com/v0/b/fiveable-92889.appspot.com/o/images%2F-5PLSSEWE0GgC.png?alt=media&token=cc35819c-6388-4fd9-bab2-b330bfd55a1d
 
 
 
 

 Section 2: Free Response Questions 🤓 

Questions
Examples
All of these questions can be found in the AP Art History Course and Exam Description. AP Central®
CLICK HERE to view example essays from the APAH CED 
Q1: Long Essay: Comparison
  • Suggested Time: 35 min
  • 8 task points
This essay is assessing your ability to compare two works of art. College Board will provide you with the first work, then you select the second work. Here’s a simple breakdown of how to respond to this essay: 
  • Identify, with 2 correct identifiers, your selected work.
  • Describe the visual and contextual elements of both works.
  • Explain how they’re similar or how they’re different.
  • Develop a Claim: A sentence that explains the meaning of why they’re similar or different. 
  • Support the claim using visual and/or contextual evidence.
Q2: Long Essay: Visual/Contextual Analysis
  • Suggested Time: 25 min
  • 6 task points
This essay is assessing your ability to visually and contextually analyze a work of art. Here’s a simple breakdown of how to respond to this essay: 
  • Identify the artwork with 2 correct identifiers.
  • Develop a Claim (like a thesis) that responds to the prompt.
  • Support the claim using visual and/or contextual evidence.
Q3: Short Essay: Visual Analysis
  • Suggested Time: 15 min
  • 5 task points
This essay is assessing your ability to visually analyze a work of art that is outside the 250. 
  • Describe the visual elements of the work.
  • Explain artistic decisions that helped shape the work.
  • Explain how or why this work is traditional to a style or practice. 
Q4: Short Essay: Contextual Analysis
  • Suggested Time: 15 min
  • 5 task points
This essay is assessing your ability to contextually analyze a work of art.
  • Describe the contextual (sometimes also visual) elements of the work.
  • Explain how context influenced artistic decisions. 
  • Explain how you can interpret the work based on your visual or contextual analysis.
Q5:Short Essay: Attribution 
  • Suggested Time: 15 min
  • 5 task points
This essay is assessing your ability to attribute a work outside the 250.
  • Attribute to a specific artist, culture, or art style.
  • Justify with visual evidence.
  • Analyze the visual, and/or contextual elements.
Q6: Short Essay: Continuity and Change
  • Suggested Time: 15 min
  • 5 task points
This essay is assessing your ability to analyze a work from the 250 set and the artistic tradition, style, and/or practice.
  • Describe the visual or contextual elements.
  • Explain how or why this work shows continuity (traditional) or change (untraditional) within a style or practice.
  • Analyze the meaning of an interpretation of the work.
Questions 1, 3, 4, 5, and 6 will include images of works of art.
 

Pre-work: set up your study environment

Before we begin reviewing 250 artworks, take some time to get organized. 
 

📚 Organize your study materials.

 
Get your notebook, digital notebook, textbook, prep books, flash cards, or whatever other materials you have. Create a space where you can concentrate and have the least distractions. Start reviewing material that was first taught in the fall semester. Review the big ideas for each content area first, then review the specific artworks, less familiar to you. 
 
Art history is a lot of notetaking, so start by reviewing the notes you’ve taken all year long, watching some videos over works less familiar, and spending time also looking closely at the works. Remember, visual analysis is going to show up on the test, and this is an area students struggle in. 
 
Some additional advice would be to create REVIEW notes either on paper or digitally to help keep track of what artworks you’ve reviewed. 
 

📅 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 you stay focused!
 

🤝 Get support from your peers. 

 
There are thousands of students all over the world who are preparing for their AP exams just like you! Join our Discord channel to chat, ask questions, and meet other students who are also studying for the spring exams. You can even build study groups and review material together!

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Browse Study Guides By Unit
🗿Unit 1: Global Prehistory, 30,000–500 bce
🏛Unit 2: Ancient Mediterranean, 3500 bce–300 ce
⛪️Unit 3: Early Europe and Colonial Americas, 200–1750 ce
⚔️Unit 4: Later Europe and Americas, 1750–1980 ce
🌽Unit 5: Indigenous Americas, 1000 bce–1980 ce
⚱️Unit 6: Africa, 1100–1980 ce
🕌Unit 7: West and Central Asia, 500 bce–1980 ce
🛕Unit 8: South, East, and Southeast Asia, 300 bce–1980 ce
🐚Unit 9: The Pacific, 700–1980 ce
🏢Unit 10: Global Contemporary, 1980 ce to Present
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