AP Art History Score Calculator – 2024

January 17, 2024

AP art history score calculator

One of the commonalities that exist among human civilizations is our creation and appreciation of art. From ancient cave paintings to Michelangelo’s frescoes to Banksy’s street murals, artistic expression spans global history and cultures. The study of art history helps students learn how to evaluate art through various historical and cultural lenses, allowing them to see connections between different artistic movements and traditions. For this reason, when deciding how many AP courses to take, many students may elect to take AP Art History to enhance their understanding of visual culture, from paintings and sculptures to architecture and ceramics. Just like any AP class, it is important to invest time in preparing for your AP Art History exam to improve your performance. One way to do so is to learn how you will be scored using our AP Art History score calculator.

By using our AP Art History score calculator, you’ll gain a stronger understanding of the composition of the AP Art History exam, which will help you determine your strengths and areas of improvement in anticipation of exam day.

AP Art History Score Calculator

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What content is tested on the AP Art History exam?

Before we dive into scoring, let’s cover the basics: what’s actually on the AP Art History exam. On the exam, students have three hours to answer 80 multiple choice questions and 6 AP Art free response questions. Each section is worth 50% of your score. College Board recommends allocating one hour of exam time to complete the multiple choice questions, leaving approximately two hours to respond to the free response questions.

Unlike other AP art courses, students in Art History will not need to submit an AP Art Portfolio. AP Art Portfolios are, however, required for AP 2-D and 3-D Art and Design, as well as AP Drawing. Additional information about portfolio requirements for these classes are available from College Board. Instead, the AP Art History exam tests students on eight different skills:

  1. Visual Analysis: Students must be able to identify artwork, describe their composition, and explain how the artist’s decisions impact the work. 15-19% of multiple choice questions test this skill, while free response questions 1 and 2 require students to identify works of art. Several free response questions will also require test takers to describe and analyze artwork.
  2. Contextual Analysis: The exam will also assess students’ ability to analyze a work’s contextual elements and make connections between a work’s context and visual elements. 28-32% of the multiple choice questions measure this skill, as do several free response questions.

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  1. Comparison of Works of Art: 11-13% of multiple choice questions will evaluate how well students can compare (i.e. consider the similarities and differences between) multiple works of art. Free response question 1 also assesses this skill.
  2. Artistic Traditions: Beyond individual works, students must be able to analyze the relationships between different pieces and artistic traditions. 20-25% of multiple choice questions and free response question 6 will assess students in this area.
  3. Visual Analysis of Unknown Works: While the AP Art History exam will provide an image set for students to use and analyze, the test will also evaluate students’ ability to analyze works that are not provided on the exam. 6-8% of multiple choice questions will assess this skill, as will free response question 3.
  4. Attribution of Unknown Works: Similar to Skill 5, Skill 6 assesses students’ ability to identify (i.e. attribute) works of art that are not included in the exam’s image set. Free response question 5 and 6-8% of multiple choice questions test this skill.
  5. Art Historical Interpretations: 6-8% of multiple choice questions also test students on their ability to analyze historical interpretations of artwork. 1-2 free response questions will also assess this skill.
  6. Argumentation: Finally, free response questions 1 and 2 will ask students to practice their skills in argumentation by articulating and supporting their analyses of artistic works. No multiple choice questions formally test this skill.

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When preparing for the multiple choice portion of the exam, students should be mindful that the ten units covered in AP Art History are not equally represented. College Board provides an approximation, showing how the units are differently weighted in the exam’s multiple choice section:

AP Art History Unit Approximate Exam Weighting
Unit 1: Global Prehistory, 30,000–500 BCE ~4%
Unit 2: Ancient Mediterranean, 3500 BCE – 300 CE ~15%
Unit 3: Early Europe and Colonial Americas, 200 – 1750 CE ~21%
Unit 4: Later Europe and Americas, 1750–1980 CE ~21%
Unit 5: Indigenous Americas, 1000 BCE – 1980 CE ~6%
Unit 6: Africa, 1100 – 1980 CE ~6%
Unit 7: West and Central Asia, 500 BCE – 1980 CE ~4%
Unit 8: South, East, and Southeast Asia, 300 BCE – 1980 CE ~8%
Unit 9: The Pacific, 700 – 1980 CE ~4%
Unit 10: Global Contemporary, 1980 CE to Present  ~11%

Using the AP Art History score calculator and understanding the exam’s structure can help you identify where your weaknesses are so that you can study more efficiently.

What can I expect from the AP Art free response questions?

Most students are likely familiar with the structure of multiple choice questions. However, free response questions can be nerve wracking given their more open-ended and subjective nature. Fortunately, College Board offers lots of information about the focus and weight of the AP Art History free response questions:

Question 1: Long Essay—Comparison

This essay is worth 8 points, and College Board recommends that students spend approximately 35 minutes crafting their response. This question will assess your ability to compare two works. One piece will be required and provided, while students can select the second from a list of options provided. Students’ responses will be evaluated based on their ability to provide two accurate identifiers (i.e. the title, artist, culture of origin, date of creation, or materials) for the selected work of art and describe the works’ visual and contextual elements. They will also need to explain how the similarities or differences between the works convey meaning, providing evidence to support their response.

Question 2: Long Essay—Visual/Contextual Analysis

This essay is worth up to six points, and College Board recommends students allocate 25 minutes to write their response. Here, students will analyze a work of art’s visual and contextual features. Students will have a list of images to choose from. However, they may also select another work from the content area identified in the question. Students’ scores will be determined by the accuracy of their description and their development of a defensible and well-supported claim about the piece.

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Question 3: Short Essay—Visual Analysis

Once students complete the two longer essay questions, they will be able to focus on four short essays. Each short essay is worth 5 points and should, according to College Board, take about 15 minutes to complete. Question 3 will provide students with an image and evaluate their ability to describe and analyze its visual elements. Students will also need to explain how the artwork reflects an artistic tradition or style.

Question 4: Short Essay—Contextual Analysis

In their fourth free response question, students will describe and analyze a piece’s contextual elements. Applying this knowledge, test takers must explain how the work’s context informed the artist’s form, style, and content. Students will also explain how historical interpretations of the piece are connected to its form, function, reception, etc.

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Question 5: Short Essay—Attribution

Question five asks students to attribute a provided image to a specific artist, culture, or artistic movement. To receive full credit, students must correctly attribute the piece and provide a thorough explanation using visual evidence.

Question 6: Short Essay—Continuity and Change

For the final free response question, students analyze the relationships between a work and a related artistic style or tradition. In addition to their ability to describe the work, students will be evaluated on how well they can explain how the piece demonstrates continuity with or a departure from an artistic tradition. They will then use this knowledge to analyze the significance of historical interpretations of the work.

Given the high number of multiple choice questions and the small number of AP Art free response questions, students may have a difficult time imagining how these questions are weighed. For that reason, we recommend experimenting with the AP Art History score calculator. By playing around with this tool, you can observe how your performance on different sections of the exam may impact your score.

Is AP Art History hard?

Now that you know more about the AP Art History exam’s composition you might be wondering: how difficult is it? The question is simple enough, but the answer is a bit more complicated. AP Art History is not among the hardest or easiest AP courses in terms of exam performance. For that reason, one might consider AP Art History to be of moderate difficulty. However, difficulty is relative and subjective. Some students may find AP Art History class easy but feel that the exam is challenging (or vice versa). While students will need to learn about and memorize information about artistic movements and concepts, much of the AP Art History exam tests students’ skills in analysis, critical thinking, and argumentation. For this reason, students who gravitate towards writing-oriented disciplines may find the AP Art History exam more intuitive than others.

What is the average AP Art History score?

We can glean additional insight about the difficulty of AP Art History from students’ past performance on the exam. As a reminder, AP exams are scored on a scale of 1-5, with 5 being the highest score. Many U.S. colleges will grant credit or advanced placement to students who earn a score of 3 or above. With that context in mind, let’s look at a breakdown of students’ scores in 2023:

AP Art History Exam Score 5 4 3 2 1 3+
% Students Earning 13.0% 23.0% 28.0% 24.0% 12.0% 64.0%

Here we can see that the majority of students do well on the AP Art History exam. 64% earn a score of 3 or higher, and the average score is a 3. While this information might give the appearance that the AP Art History exam is easy, it’s important to note that a fairly small segment of students (13%) earn a top score of 5.

How to get a 5 on AP Art History?

Now that we’ve seen the breakdown of students’ scores, you might be wondering how you can be among the 13% and earn a 5 on your AP Art History exam. In experimenting with the AP Art History score calculator, you’ll see that earning a five will generally require students to earn top marks in both the multiple choice and free response sections. However, ultimately, there isn’t an easy answer to this question. To earn a 5, you will need to study based on your strengths and weaknesses. It may also be helpful to examine previous students’ performance, noting common pitfalls that affected students’ scores.

Most commonly, students tend to struggle with the free response questions. This pattern makes sense given that the free response questions require students to not just memorize information about artists, but apply that knowledge, using higher order thinking to analyze artwork and draw meaningful conclusions. Given that the six free response questions determine 50% of your score, improving your confidence and proficiency with these questions can make a significant impact on your performance. To improve your responses, consider reviewing past free response questions to familiarize yourself with their language and composition. As you practice, consult College Board’s Scoring Guidelines (see page 346) to understand the criteria that will dictate your score.

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Past AP Art History students have also struggled with questions testing their proficiency with Skill 3: Comparison. Again, this trend makes sense: comparing two works is harder than simply recalling information or analyzing a work in isolation. Instead, students must put works in conversation with one another, using their own understanding of the pieces to draw meaningful connections. In light of this pattern, consider investing more time on questions where you can practice comparative thinking and analysis.

While it’s helpful to understand what previous students have struggled with, it’s more important to know your unique strengths and weaknesses. Doing so will ensure your exam preparation is tailored to your needs. This is where our AP Art History score calculator can be especially helpful. Try taking a practice test. When finished, estimate your score using our AP Art History score calculator. Then ask yourself: where are my weak points? Do you need to practice free response questions more? Or, did you struggle with multiple choice questions? Also reflect on your own observations while taking the test: did you feel unsure about particular subjects or time periods? If so, brush up on those units. Noting these patterns can help you determine what topics warrant more attention, which will help you maximize your test score.

Final Thoughts

While earning a 5 on the AP Art History exam is difficult, it isn’t impossible. Using our AP Art History score calculator can help you understand the composition and weight of the exam’s sections and develop a personalized study plan. Regardless of whether you earn a five, using these tools will help you perform your best and, most importantly, meaningfully engage with the fascinating world of art history.

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Additional Resources

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