Emily Xie
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Academic Blog

Academic Blog

AP Art History

If anyone out there is thinking about self-studying the AP Art History test, I have a word of advice: unless you love art and you are good at memorizing names and dates, don't take it. However, if you have decided that either you are good at memorizing names and dates or that you just won't heed my advice, I have some helpful studying tools.

First of all, I would buy the Barron's AP Art History review book, it has a wide variety of different works and will help you score as many points as you can while learning as little as possible. I would also suggest doing some other research or work on the side for Art History if you are serious about getting a good score. It's not an easy test, and you really have to know your stuff (which is more than what's covered in the Barron's book).

One key thing you should take away from studying Art History is less the actual memorization (which is very important) but an ability to look at a work of art and determine the period that it is from, its artist, and its meaning. If you are planning on doing well without memorizing everything, you should make sure you know what distinguishes each period from the next and what makes each artist unique from the next.

For those who actually want to learn the pieces and get acquainted with them and actually analyze them, you should also buy the REA AP Art History review book. It comes with a CD with all the works referenced in full color. Personally, I liked using both of them. I read through the REA book first and learned about the history behind each piece and carefully looked at them, then I read the Barrons book and reviewed information in the REA book and learned about pieces from around the world (which you will need knowledge of for the free response questions). With those two books and a good enough memory, I'm sure you'll get a 5.

I also purchased the REA Crash Course AP Art History book, I didn't think it was terribly helpful, but if you're late getting started it can be. There's a lot of images that accompany it, but if you don't already know anything, it's not helpful. So either way, I used it as a review guide right before the test, but I don't feel like it gave me very much extra information that I didn't already learn from cramming the Barron's book. So, in my honest opinion, I wouldn't buy it for this test.

Quick tip: If you really really hate art, and can't get into the textbook style of the Art History review books, the Annotated Mona Lisa is definitely the book for you. It's a really quick read and gives you a quick run through of all the art movements and major artists without boring you to death. I read it before I even picked up an AP review book and I thought it was fascinating.

Otherwise, feel free to comment if you have any questions on AP Art History!