Course Tour—AP Art History

The Basics

AP Art History looks at history from a unique angle: what do works of art throughout the centuries tell us about the peoples and cultures of the world? While building visual description skills and engaging in comparative analysis, this course also complements the analytical skills learned in AP Lang. and AP Lit. and the historical understanding gained in AP World, European, and United States History courses (you do not have to take these other courses to succeed in AP Art History). 

Through AP Art History, you explore the world of art, where each new artwork tells a unique story. This course provides a wide survey spanning from Global Prehistoric art, like Stonehenge, to contemporary art, like Ai Weiwei’s Sunflower Seeds, illustrating how our understanding and definition of art have changed over time.

The Exam

  • The Multiple Choice section is comprised of 80 Questions (1 hour) [50% of score]

  •  The Free Response section features 6 questions (2 hours) [50% of score]

    • Comparison (Long Essay Question)

    • Visual & Contextual Analysis (Long Essay Question)

    • Visual Analysis (Short Essay Question)

    • Contextual Analysis (Short Essay Question)

    • Attribution (Short Essay Question)

    • Continuity & Change (Short Essay Question)

This optional exam is taken at the end of the year. In 2021, 3 testing dates will be available in May and June with options for traditional paper testing or digital exams.

For 2021 AP Art History testing, the digital version of the test will contain the typical multiple choice and free response question sections with slight differences within the identification requirements.

The Statistics*

  • In 2019, 24,476 students took the AP Art History course exam. 

  • The mean score was a 2.99, with 63.1% of test takers passing with a score of 3 or above. (2019)

  • 11.9% scored a 5. (2019)

  • In 2020, during the unprecedented online FRQ AP exam, the passing rate rose to 68.7%, and 15.8% of test takers scored a 5.

Typically, the statistics do show a higher rate of 5s on the AP exam than the average AP exam. When compared to other humanities courses, like AP English Language & Composition or the  AP history courses, the average passing rate of AP Art History is higher (though it is lower than AP Psych), signaling that the AP exam may offer less difficulty to the average test taker. The level of difficulty of the course itself is primarily dependent upon the instructor, and AP Art History does require high levels of memorization.

*All statistics are sourced from College Board 2019 & 2020 score distributions. 2020 featured unprecedented two-question online exams.

Additional Course Facts

  • Most students took it in 12th grade, but 11th is also sometimes an option.

  • Coursework is mostly focused on becoming familiar with the image set and aesthetics of certain cultures and periods.

  • Since this course features a 250 image set, if you are skilled at memorization, then this course should be relatively straightforward. 

  • Some colleges will accept a passing AP score as college credit, which can decrease college costs.

Should you take this?

AP Art History is a perfect course for students who are curious about art or history, who like visiting museums, who wonder about the stories behind the different artworks. Developing your visual analysis skills can be useful if you plan on going into a wide variety of fields, including marketing, business, or design. You also don’t have to be capable of creating art to take this course. If nothing else, AP Art History gives you a chance to dive into diverse cultures and impress others with your art trivia. 

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