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Advanced Placement  series.
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AP (Advanced Placement) Art History is a course offered in high school through the Advanced Placement Program that gives college level material at the high school level. This class is operated by College Board. College Board administers a test near the end of the course to assess how much the student has learned in Art History, and depending on the score received, colleges generally accept a passing score as credit for an equivalent class at their institution.


The course

The Art History AP course, under the direction of College Board is designed to allow students to examine major forms of artistic expression relevant to a variety of cultures evident in wide variety of periods from present times into the past. In this course, students acquire an ability to examine works of art critically, with intelligence and sensitivity, and to articulate their thoughts and experiences. The main focus is on European Art, but the course does deal with African, Hindu, South and East Asian, and Islamic Art. Pre-Historic art has now been removed from the curriculum. Students may choose to complement the course with review textbooks.


The ETS's framework for the exam is as follows:

Ancient through Medieval: 30%

  • Greece and Rome (10-15%)
  • Early Christian, Byzantine, Early Medieval (5-10%)
  • Romanesque (3-7%)
  • Gothic (7-10%)

Renaissance to Present: 50%

  • Fourteenth Through Sixteenth Centuries (12-17%)
  • Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries (10-15%)
  • Nineteenth Century (10-15%)
  • Twentieth Century (10-15%)

Beyond European Tradition: 20%

  • Africa (excluding Egypt); the Americas; Asia; Near East, Oceania, and global Islamic tradition

The exam

The AP Art History exam is exactly three hours long. It consists of 115 multiple-choice questions (4 answer choices), seven short essays, and two long essays. Part A of the multiple-choice section includes four sets of slide-based questions that will present either a single image or two images of different works of art. Part B of the multiple choice section contains 85 questions, some of which do not pertain to any specific image, and involve the basic recalling of facts. Other questions, though, refer to black and white images within the test booklet. Overall, the multiple-choice section of the exam takes one hour to complete.

The seven short essays involve responding to an image or images (projected on a screen) and/or a quotation (printed in the test booklet). Students must demonstrate their knowledge of trends in art history, identifying key characteristics of the works of different periods and cultures. This portion of the exam also takes one hour, with either five or ten minutes allotted for each short essay question.

Each of the two long essays require that a student be able to cite two examples of works of art that exemplify certain themes in art history. Students are also expected to recall works from beyond the European tradition for at least one of the essays. The two essays take 30 minutes each. One is written following the exam's 115 multiple-choice questions but before the seven short essays. The other comes during the exam's final segment, after the seven short essays.


The multiple-choice section of the exam accounts for 40% of a student's score. The free-response is worth 60%. Each correctly answered multiple-choice question is worth one point. A wrong answer subtracts 1/3 of a point from the raw score. Omitted questions do not affect the raw score. For the free-response section, the seven short answers are worth 35% of the total grade, and each is graded on a scale of 0 to 4. Finally, the two long essays are each graded on a scale of 0 to 9, totaling 25% of the grade.

While the criteria varies from year to year, receiving a "5" from the ETS usually entails earning around 70% of the total points on the test, or having a raw score of 140.

Grade distribution

In the 2009 administration, 20,619 students took the exam from schools. The mean score was a 2.74.

The grade distribution for 2009 was:[1]

Score Percent
5 9.2%
4 22.9%
3 24.9%
2 19.1%
1 24.0%


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