Read an Excerpt
Excelling on the AP Art History Exam
About This Book and TestWare® CD-ROM with Full-Color Art Browser
This book, along with the companion TestWare® software, provides a thorough review for the Advanced Placement Art History Examination and is intended to make test preparation as easy and effective as possible. Cited throughout the book are art images that can be found on the accompanying CD-ROM. The image numbers in the book’s review section correspond to those on the CD for simultaneous reference as you study. The practice tests, for which images are also presented on the CD in color, feature detailed answer explanations, giving you the context you need to excel on the AP Art History Exam.
The two full-length practice exams are included in two formats: in printed format in this book and in TestWare® format on the enclosed CD. We strongly recommend that you begin your preparation with the TestWare® practice exams. The software provides the added benefits of automatic, accurate scoring and enforced time conditions. To best utilize your study time, follow our Study Schedule, which you will find in the front of this book. The schedule is based on a six-week program, but if necessary can be condensed to three weeks by collapsing each two-week period into one week.
SSD accommodations for students with disabilities
Many students qualify for extra time to take the AP exams, and our TestWare® can be adapted to accommodate your time extension. This allows you to practice under the same extended-time accommodations that you will receive on the actual test day.
To customize your TestWare® to suit the most common extensions, visit our website at: www.rea.com/ssd.
About the Advanced Placement Program
The Advanced Placement Program is designed to provide high school students with the opportunity to pursue college-level studies. The program consists of two components: a course and an exam. Students are expected to gain college-level skills and acquire college-level knowledge of art history through the AP course. When they complete the course, students take the AP Art History exam. Test results are used to grant course credit and/or determine placement level in the subject when students enter college.
The AP Art History exam, along with the other AP exams, is administered each May at participating schools and multi-school centers throughout the world.
About the Exam
The AP Art History exam is 3 hours long and contains 115 multiple-choice questions, 6 short essay questions, and 2 long essay questions. The questions are designed to provide a comprehensive evaluation of your knowledge of art history.
Content of the Exam
The following table shows the key content areas and the percentage of questions typically asked in each area:
I. Ancient Through Medieval 30%
A. Greece and Rome 10–15%
B. Early Christian, Byzantine, Early Medieval 5–10%
C. Romanesque 3–7%
D. Gothic 7–10%
II. Renaissance to Present 50%
A. 14th through 16th Centuries 12–17%
B. 17th and 18th Centuries 10–15%
C. 19th Century 10–15%
D. 20th and 21st Centuries 10–15%
III. Beyond the European Artistic Traditions 20%
Africa (including Egypt), the Americas, Asia, Near East, Oceania, and Global Islamic Traditions
As you can see, the course is both comprehensive and flexible—comprehensive because it covers many topics and flexible because it gives teachers a great deal of freedom to choose what to teach. This freedom encourages teachers to be creative, but it can also pose problems for students preparing for the AP exam. For example, a number of questions about twentieth-century German Expressionists and American Abstract Expressionists appeared on a recent administration of the exam. In contrast, an administration of the exam a few years later contained no questions on either style.
The course’s broad scope—combined with the fact that different topics are emphasized each year—means that both teachers and students must make choices. It is impossible for art history teachers to cover everything because the course is too vast. It is also impossible for students to study everything. This book will help you decide which topics to study in depth and which topics to briefly review. Each chapter contains an introduction explaining why the topic is important and how it has been tested in the past.
Take another look at the course content outline. It distinguishes between topics within the European tradition and topics beyond the European artistic tradition. Topics beyond the European artistic tradition include art from the Americas, Asia, Africa, and Oceania. Although these topics could easily generate their own course, very few questions are devoted to them. Instead, most such questions are devoted to the ancient Near East, ancient Egypt, and the global Islamic tradition.
Format of the Exam
The AP Art History exam includes various types of questions. The best way to familiarize you with the test format is to walk you through it from beginning to end.
Part A: Image-Based Multiple-Choice Questions
In the first section of the AP Art History exam, you will answer sets of multiple-choice questions based on images that will be found in a printed insert that accompanies your exam. The images will be related. For example, a recent exam began with images of cathedrals in Florence and Siena. The churches were built at about the same time and have many similarities and differences. Questions relating to the images will focus on issues such as functions of works of art, patronage, period styles, chronology, and technique.
Five sets of these image-based multiple-choice questions will be presented. Each set contains from six to nine questions, each with four answer choices. You are allotted 20 minutes to answer all of the questions in this part. You are advised to spend four minutes on each set of questions and the proctor will announce when each four-minute interval has passed. You are free to proceed from one set of questions to the next in this part.
Part B: Multiple-Choice Questions
After you complete the image-based multiple-choice questions, your proctor will ask you to turn to Part B in your test booklet. Part B contains about 75 to 77 multiple-choice questions, each with four answer choices. About half of the questions refer to pictures of specific works of art, which are illustrated in the test booklet. A specific picture can be accompanied by one to four questions. The remaining multiple-choice questions will test your knowledge of artists and artistic styles. The questions are not arranged in chronological order.
You will have 1 hour to complete the 115 multiple-choice questions in Section I, Parts A and B. This section of the exam will be followed by a brief break.
Section II: Free-Response Questions
Long Essay Questions (Part A)
After the break, you will have one hour to write two long essays. These essays comprise about 25% of your exam score. The first long essay question will require that you incorporate at least one example of art beyond the European tradition. Note that citing examples of prehistoric art is not appropriate for these essays.
It is recommended that you spend 30 minutes on each essay, but you may move freely between the two questions. Your proctor will announce when the 30-minute interval has elapsed.
Short Essay Questions
This part of the exam, which is 60 minutes long, consists of six short essay questions. Each question is based on one or two images, and one question will include a primary source quotation. The short essay questions ask you to discuss specific works of art selected from at least seven periods in art history. A recent exam included short questions on an early Christian mosaic, a Greek sculpture, and a department store in Chicago designed by Louis Sullivan.
Strategic Reviewing for the Exam
You should begin your review about three weeks before the exam. Here are some important dos and don’ts.
1. DO read and study this book.
If you are reading this book, you have already taken your first and most important step. Read and study it! Each chapter is carefully designed to review the artists, styles, and works of art you need to know. The two practice exams will give you a chance to test your knowledge and evaluate your progress. Use the tests and the answer guides to determine your strengths and weaknesses. Then refine your strengths and address your weaknesses.
2. DO go to AP Central.
The College Board maintains a comprehensive Web site called AP Central at http://apcentral.collegeboard.org/. The site contains a wealth of information about each AP exam, including a booklet titled “Art History Course Description,” which is the authoritative guide to the course and to the types of questions found on the exam. The information related to the AP Art History exam includes essay questions, sample essays, and all the slide-based multiple-choice questions since 1999. You should examine a number of the sample essays and multiple-choice questions.
3. DO NOT skip twentieth-century art.
Your art history teacher may not reach the twentieth century, because covering everything is a challenge. Do not skip it when you prepare for the AP Art History exam. Between 10 and 15 percent of your test will be devoted to this topic, including a number of multiple-choice questions and at least one short essay question. In addition, using twentieth-century examples on your long essays can be very useful. The test writers know that teachers typically do not have enough time to cover this topic in depth. As a result, questions tend to focus on very specific information. This is especially true of the topics since 1950.
4. DO study the ancient Near East and ancient Egypt.
Art works from the ancient Near East and ancient Egypt are categorized as art beyond the European tradition, and the two topics usually account for multiple-choice and short essay questions worth about 20 points, or 10 percent of your total test score. In addition, you can use examples from either the ancient Near East or ancient Egypt for the long essay question requiring at least one example of art beyond the European tradition. That example is worth another 12.5 points.
5. DO NOT spend too much time on African, Asian, pre-Columbian, and Oceanic art.
Although these topics are important, interesting, and exciting to study, the reality is that the AP Art History exam contains few questions on them.
6. DO study female artists.
Even though the AP Art History Committee has a wide range of topics, artists, and artistic styles to cover, in recent years emphasis has been placed on the important role and contributions of female artists. Carefully study and review Chapter 33 in this book, which provides a review of key female artists.
7. DO build a coalition of points.
Your goal is not to score a perfect 200. You do not need 200 points to score a 5. You need 135 points to score a 5 and 102 points to score a 4. Set a score of 4 or 5 as your goal. With the help of this book, you can do it!
The key to scoring a 5 or a 4 is to build a winning coalition of points. Your coalition should begin with the ancient Near East and ancient Egypt. These two topics can be worth between 20 and 30 of the points you need to reach a 102, the minimum needed for a 4. The next topics in your coalition depend on you. You need another 80 to 90 points. What are your favorite artistic styles and eras? For example, a combination of Greece and Rome, Gothic art, the Renaissance, and the twentieth century will usually be worth between 80 and 90 points.
Another successful strategy is based on the proportions of the exam devoted to various art media. According to the course description booklet, 40 percent to 50 percent of the test questions will be devoted to painting and drawing, 25 percent to architecture, 25 percent to sculpture, and 5 percent to 10 percent to other media. Painting is a vast topic that includes a huge number of artists and works of art, but sculpture is very compact.
You might consider a strategy of focusing on great sculptors and the works they created. Successfully implemented, this strategy would be worth as much as 50 points. Keep in mind that you do not have to be an expert on every topic to achieve a high score. The best strategy is to have a good general feel for each period and then concentrate on building a winning coalition of the artists and styles of art you enjoy studying.
Strategic Thinking During the Exam
The AP Art History exam is long and challenging. Here are key dos and don’ts to keep in mind as you are taking the exam:
1. DO guess on the multiple-choice questions.
Remember, there is no penalty for incorrect answers. Try to make an educated guess on every multiple-choice question. You might just guess the correct answer!
2. DO remember that readers score each short essay on a 4-point scale.
Each short essay question typically begins with a question asking you to identify and date an artist, an architect, or a work of art. This part of the question is worth 1 of the 4 points. For example, one of the short essay questions on a recent exam asked students to identify the architect of the Carson, Pirie, Scott Building in Chicago. Stating that the architect was Louis Sullivan was worth 1 point. Students were then asked, “How did the innovations in this building lead to the development of the modern skyscraper?”
Although the question did not ask for three innovations, that was implied: the question was worth 4 points and students earned 1 point by naming the architect, so discussing three innovations in the short essay earned students the full 4 points.
3. DO carefully examine the pictures and describe what you see.
Many short essay questions ask you to discuss characteristics of a specific work. For example, a recent short essay asked students to discuss the characteristics that revealed the classical sources of the Christ as Good Shepherd mosaic from the early Christian period. By carefully examining the slide, students saw that Christ was waring a gold and purple robe. Because the Roman emperors wore purple, the color showed that Christ was a regal figure. Describing this feature was worth 1 point. If you are not sure what to answer, always begin by describing what you see.
4. DO write a brief outline before beginning your long essays.
Always think before you begin your long essays. Take a few minutes to brainstorm possible examples to use. If you have a mental block, try reviewing key works of art from your favorite artistic style or period. Remember, the questions are always broad and can be answered with a large number of examples. Take your time and you will soon find an example you can write about.
Contacting the AP Program
For more information on the AP Art History exam, contact the College Board at:
P.O. Box 6671
Princeton, NJ 08541-6671
Phone: (609) 771-7300 or (888) 225-5427
Fax: (609) 530-0482