One of the most challenging courses I've encountered in school is AP Art History. Learning about the early civilizations' artworks is fascinating. Still, when you need to dig deeper on what makes the Roman and Etruscan culture stand out or how the ancient empires' artistic culture influenced religion and history, that's a different story.
Whether you're taking art history in school or at home, it's important to have a plan of action. Start with your review materials by going through our list of the best AP Art History books below.
3 Best AP Art History Books in 2022
1 - Barron's 4th Edition - Best AP Art History Book (Editor's Choice)
Based on our research, Barron's AP Art History book and exam guide is one of the best AP Art History books as it includes an updated and comprehensive AP Art History review.
It is designed to provide innovative study criteria for all significant artist movements.
We like that it includes two full-length practice tests with answer explanations to gauge your progress along the way.
Barron's AP Art History review book also includes a diagnostic test that you can take before you start your review to determine your knowledge level for each image set.
For further practice, you'll find additional multiple-choice questions and essays.
- Comprehensive AP Art History review book
- Content is well-organized
- Includes a diagnostic test and two full-length practice tests
- Some printing mistakes
2 - The Insider's Complete Guide – Best AP Art History Book Review
The Insider’s Complete Guide is considered to be among the best AP Art History textbooks for cracking your AP Art history exam as it includes a clear art history framework and detailed explanation of the concepts.
Most students find the ample list of required works of art history helpful.
Unlike other books that only provide limited information, this AP Art History review book goes beyond the European tradition to give you a clear and concise global contemporary review of each work and image set.
We like how the narratives properly explain each artwork's content, context, and functions.
You'll also find 80 multiple-choice questions and a glossary that contains concise definitions with examples.
- Informative discussion of artworks
- Contains images and illustrations
- Includes multiple-choice questions
- Includes practice tests
- Well-structured content
- Not for last-minute studying
3 - AP Art History Book - Best AP Art History Book
The AP Art History book by Frank Chmiel is included in our list of the best AP Art History textbooks as it gives you realistic review, practice, and results.
The review book is completely designed as per the new College Board AP exam preparation and contains 400 full-colored Art Masterpiece illustrations on CD.
The book contains a diagnostic test and two full-length practice tests complete with colorful images to enhance your learning experience.
Each practice test in the review book includes detailed answer explanations so you can chart your progress for each image set. You'll also find targeted drills, test-taking tips, and other expert advices as you prepare for the exam.
- Includes targeted practice drills
- Contains 400 full-color illustrations on CD
- Affordable price
- Lacks content on 20th-century art
- Not a crash course review book
What You Need To Know
College Board AP Art History Exam Information, Date and Time
The College Board AP Art History exam is 3 hours long and divided into 2 sections - multiple-choice type questions and a free-response section.
Section 1: In this multiple-choice section, 80 questions are given. You have 1 hour to complete this section, which is further divided into two parts.
- Part A: 8 sets of questions are given, which is based on colored images
- Part B: 35 individual multiple choice type questions are given
Section 2: It is a free-response section that includes a total of 6 questions. You have 2 hours to complete this section.
In each advanced placement section, you can score 50 percent for a total of 100 percent in your AP exam.
If you're interested in finding out how much do AP tests cost, click on this link.
What Skills Will Be Tested On The AP Art History Exam?
This skill will be tested heavily on the exam. The AP Art History exam will cover a set of approximately 250 works of art that you should be able to identify visually in each image set. When looking at a work of art, you should identify it by providing the title, artist, origin, style, period or date, and the materials used.
You should also be able to describe the visual elements in a work of art. This might include the form, style, technique, and overall content the artist was trying to portray. You will be expected to interpret how all of these visual elements were used to create the work of art.
This skill will be tested even more heavily than the previous one, so we recommend learning the techniques thoroughly before sitting for the AP Art History course exam. You should be able to describe the contextual elements of a work of art from a certain time. This might include concepts such as function, context, physical context, subject matter, and audience reception.
You must be able to explain how the function and purpose of a work of art shape its overall creation. Since nothing is created in a vacuum, you need to be able to explain how the artist’s contextual concepts shape his or her artistic expression. You have to identify the context of works of art and how it shapes the materials used. It would help if you also understood how the contextual elements of artwork shape its reception to the audience.
Comparison of Works of Art
This section of the exam will test your basic understanding of how to compare two works of art. You should be able to differentiate between their periods, materials, and contextual elements.
You should be able to recognize their differences and similarities and convey your interpretations through writing. You must be able to understand both of their meanings and how the audience might differ in their interpretations.
This is another skill that is found more often than other categories on the AP Art History course exam. You will be expected to explain how a work of art might show continuity within an artistic tradition. You must know how to identify when it deviates from the current artistic tradition as well. Once you identify these continuations or deviations, you should know how to explain why this happens and if it influenced the artistic tradition as a whole.
You must understand how an artistic tradition might have influenced other artists within that culture or across cultures. Since many of the earlier art forms were studied by later artists, it is important to understand what influenced them and why.
Visual Analysis of Unknown Works
This section will test your skills beyond the image set within the AP Art History prep course and exam. You should be able to look at a piece of art and understand the visual elements within that piece even though you have never seen it before. You should know how to look at visual elements of artwork and identify the form, style, tradition, and region.
Attribution of Unknown Works
You will be expected to identify and analyze the image set you have studied in your AP Art History prep course, but the exam will test your knowledge beyond just that one set. You should be able to identify the visual and contextual elements of unknown works of art. You should be able to attribute them to a specific period, artistic tradition, artist, movement, and culture.
Art Historical Interpretations
This skill set will test your ability to critically think about historical interpretations of different pieces of art. You should be able to understand the prominent interpretations and evaluate them according to what you see in a work of art. The AP Art History exam will test your knowledge of leading variations and how well you understand those interpretations in terms of form, style, content, and materials used.
As with every AP exam, you will be expected to present arguments logically and cohesively. On the AP Art History exam, you will have to answer 6 free-response questions, which will make up 50% of your exam score. You should be able to articulate a defensible idea or interpretation about a work of art. You will have to use specific evidence and justify your claims using that evidence.
On the free-response questions, you will be tested on your ability to explain a variable using relevant connections to historical, artistic interpretations. You should also be able to analyze your claim by providing alternative views.
What Content Will Be Tested On The AP Art History Exam?
Since most of the core concepts and periods covered on the AP Art History exam will feature the same general topics, we will briefly discuss the periods that will be tested. AP Art History students will be expected to know the techniques, materials used, and theories from each period and region to get the best AP score or even score a 5.
This section covers the time from 30,000 to 500 BCE. It comprises approximately 4% of the AP Art History exam.
This section will study cultural influences on prehistoric art and the materials used during this period.
Global prehistory will cover artwork before the written record. The primary areas of concern will be the Paleolithic, Mesolithic, and Neolithic eras.
This section of the exam will cover about 15%. It focuses on the years between 3500 BCE and 300 CE.
It covers areas within the ancient Mediterranean regions and artistic traditions from dynastic Egypt, Etruscan, Greek, and Roman cultures.
This section will also cover the Near East region, including modern-day Syria, Palestine, and Turkey.
Early Europe and Colonial America
This part of the exam will test your knowledge of the years between 200 and 1750 CE. It covers approximately 21% of the exam, so you should study this section quite a bit. This artistic period will cover the Medieval and Baroque traditions of early Europe. It will also cover the Renaissance period, which will be a major part of your exam.
Later Europe and the Americas
This section of the exam will cover the period between 1750 to 1980 CE. It will be weighted at about 21% of the AP Art History exam. This section of the exam will cover the Enlightenment, responsible for rapid change in scientific inquiry and empirical evidence. The surge in Romanticism created a paradigm for making new art.
This section will test your knowledge of the years between 1000 BCE and 1980 CE. It accounts for approximately 6% of the AP Art History exam.
It will cover Native North American and Ancient American artistic traditions. You will also be tested on Mesoamerica, Central, and Andean South American artistic culture as well. This includes Mayan, Incan, and Aztecan art.
This part of the test will cover the period between 1100 and 1980 CE. It will make up about 6% of the exam. You will be expected to identify and analyze ancient African art in regions near the Congo River Basin and Africa's sub-Saharan region.
West and Central Asia
This part of the exam will be centered around the years 500 BCE to 1980 CE. It makes up about 4% of the AP exam. You will be expected to understand the ancient artistic traditions that involved Hellenistic sculpture and Buddhist influences.
South, East, and Southeast Asia
You will be tested in these regions between the years 300 BCE and 1980 CE. It makes up about 8% of your exam.
You should have a thorough understanding of the artistic traditions of China, Japan, and Khmer Cambodia.
This part of the AP Art History exam will cover the years between 700 and 1980 CE. It makes up a small portion of the exam at about 4%. You will be tested on the artistic traditions of the ancient people of the Pacific. This includes ancient Papuan-speaking people, Polynesia, Micronesia, and Hawaii.
This topic will cover the years between 1980 CE and the present day. It makes up about 11% of the AP Art History exam.
It will test your knowledge of modern-day art and the influence of ancient art forms and traditions. It will cover art from a global paradigm for AP Art History students to understand how materials, tools, and themes have traversed cultures.
Read More: How to Study for Your AP Test
Is the AP Art History exam hard?
Yes. The AP Art History exam is a difficult exam to score a 5 since only about 12% of students pass with the highest score. However, 63% of students pass with a 3 or higher, which earns them college credit.
Will every core concept and artistic era be covered on the exam?
Yes. Each core concept, region, and artistic era will be covered on the exam. Some core topics will show up on the exam more than others. We recommend you come up with a well-rounded study plan to ensure you understand every section and eventually score a 5.
And The Best AP Art History Book Is...
Based on our in-depth research, we think that Barron's AP Art History Book – 4th Edition is the best AP Art History book as it provides the most comprehensive discussion.
We like how the content is well-organized, making it easy to follow and understand. This review book also includes full-length practice tests so you can gauge your progress along the way.
The diagnostic test is also useful in determining your knowledge level before starting your review. This makes it easier to pinpoint what areas you need to focus on.
Our #1 Recommendation
Barron's 4th Edition - Best AP Art History Book
- Comprehensive AP Art History review book
- Content is well-organized
- Includes a diagnostic test and two full-length practice tests
About the author