The AP Art History exam is this Thursday and you are wrapping up your confident-filled, several weeks long review of the content of our course. You smile as you lean back in your desk chair, putting your feet up on your desk, with visions of 5’s in your mind.
At least, that is what we teachers are hoping. The reality may be far from that – but it really shouldn’t be. Getting a 5 may not be as hard as you think, provided you keep things in perspective and think strategically.
First of all, note the format. There are two sections – Section I is multiple choice while Section II contains the free response questions. There are 115 multiple choice questions on Section I; all of which you have to answer in 60 minutes for 40% of your total points. In Section II there are 8 essays in total, 2 long essays (30 minutes each) and 6 short essays (10 minutes each) for 60% of your total points.
Although the actual scoring range isn’t published, you can get an idea for what it will take to score a 5 on the exam when looking over the 2004 scoring ranges. For example, in 2004 there were a total of 200 points you could score on the exam. If you scored 135 or more, you would hit in the 5 range – that is only 67.5%. If you scored between 102 and 134 points, you would receive a 4.
Scoring a 5 or a 4 is not impossible. Again, to get a 5 you only have to get two thirds of the questions correct. A 4 requires only just over half of the questions right (51%).
So don’t despair. When doing the multiple choice, answer the questions you know right away first then come back to the others you are unsure of. This will give you the ability to ‘bank’ your time later for the tougher questions. You are not going to be penalized for incorrect answers; you only accrue points for the questions you get right. This means you should answer all of the multiple choice questions. When answering those you are unsure of, narrow it down and make an educated guess. Eliminate the “distractors” to help increase your chances.
When writing your essays, remember that the short essays are scored on a 4 point scale – if it is an attribution question, you will need to identify the period or the artist, of course. Yet, that will be good for only 1 point – it can make you eligible for the 4-3 range, if no proper identification is made you can score as high as a 2. This helps you think strategically; if you know the artist, you now can get into a 3-4 but if you don’t, you will have to really have a strong analysis of the work in order to get a 2. Remember that you should analyze the visual characteristics as it relates to the question; merely name-dropping won’t get you a high score. In this regard, try to build upon three major features to help increase your score (identification plus three major features, after all, does potentially equal 4 points!).
One last piece of advice, know the composition of the AP exam. Spending all night studying over the Minoan and Aegean images is not advised – because they are basically not on the exam. In fact, here is a breakdown of the content of the course on the exam:
Ancient Through Medieval (30%)
- Greece and Rome 10-15%
- Early Christian, Byzantine, and Early Medieval 5-10%
- Romanesque 3-7%
- Gothic 7-10%
Beyond Europe (20%)
- Africa (including Egypt), Americas, Asia (India, Japan, China), Near East, Oceania, Islam 20%
Renaissance to Present (50%)
- 14th-16th Centuries 12-17%
- 17th-18th Centuries 10-15%
- 19th Century 10-15%
- 20th-21st Century 10-15%
So make sure you are strongest where the bulk of the questions will be. Know your weak points and study up on them accordingly. Make sure you are well-versed in a tradition outside the European tradition because one of the long essays will ask that you compare a non-European example to a European example. If you do all of these things, and think strategically (and not emotionally!), you will be a shining, confident, example of what an AP Art History student can be on the day of the exam!