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Essay Rubric For Ap Art History

Average AP Art History Score

Wondering what the average AP Art History score is? If you’re currently taking AP Art History or considering adding the course, you may be eager to know how well students typically score on the exam. Or perhaps you’re trying to understand your score after taking the exam and would like to know how your score compares to other AP Art History students.

Whatever the case, each AP course is different and provides unique challenges when it comes to the exams. A greater understanding of the course and exam style can provide you with some context when analyzing your score or help you prepare to succeed. To give some background, the AP Art History course was redesigned prior to the 2015-2016 school year, completely changing the curriculum and expectations in order to be more culturally, geographically and gender inclusive. The new course has been well-received in the classroom and on the exam.

This article will share the average AP Art History score and other details about student performance on the exam. We’ll help you analyze what each score means, explain the setup of the exam and how it is graded, and finally direct you in how best to prepare for this exam.

What’s the Average Score on the AP Art History Exam?

In order to understand the average AP Art History score, you must see the distribution of scores earned by students in years past. Below you can see how students have done on the AP Art History exam over the last five years.

Final Score20122013201420152016
512.4%11.9%12.1%10.1%11.1%
422.4%21.5%20.4%20.5%22.6%
325.2%27.5%27.2%27.1%27.7%
218.7%19.1%18.7%20.4%27.6%
121.3%20.0%21.5%21.9%11.0%
Pass percentage (score of 3 or higher)60.0%60.9%59.7%57.7%61.4%
Number of exam takers22,65022,72323,21323,47925,523

Taking into account that the newly designed course and exam went into effect starting in 2016, the data is a bit difficult to analyze in terms of trends. That being said, there are some changes between 2015 and 2016 that clearly show the implementation of the new course. The good news is that for those looking to take the exam this year or next year, it appears that students are scoring better on the new exam than the legacy exams. You can see this in the nearly 4 percentage point increase in the pass percentage from 2015 to 2016.

It’s also interesting to see that the percentage of students who received the lowest score possible, a 1, was nearly halved in 2016 when compared to previous years. This makes for a more normal distribution, where the bulk of students score a 3, and fewer score 2s and 4s and the fewest score 1s and 5s. The statistics for this course’s exam follows this pattern closely, although the percentages for scoring a 2 and a 3 were nearly identical this past year. While the majority of students passed the exam with a 3 or higher, the numbers show that it is quite difficult to earn the highest score of a 5. When running a statistical analysis, the average AP Art History score in 2016 was 2.95, which is very close to a solid 3, corresponding to the normal distribution expected on a well-designed exam.

Numbers and the average AP Art History score can tell you a lot about the exam, but there are more factors at play. A more in depth analysis of the course and exam is necessary to assess the difficulty of the exam. From how well your personal strengths line up with the skills used in the course to your interest level in the content, all of these factors may affect how hard the exam will feel to you.

What’s a Good Score on the AP Art History Exam?

All AP exams are scored on a 5-point scale. There are a few different ways to look at the scores and what they mean. Depending on your aims and goals, you’ll want to judge your score based on a variety of factors. You may compare your score to the CollegeBoard’s definition of what each score means. Or, you may want to simply compare yourself to other students who took the exam. If you’re counting on getting a college credit or trying to get accepted to an exclusive college, you may look at it a different way.

The CollegeBoard’s definitions of the exam scores are based on whether or not the performance of the student merits a “recommendation” or shows that the student is “qualified”. In short, a score of a 1 is defined as “no recommendation” meaning that no college would accept a request for credit. A score of a 2 is defined as “possibly qualified” meaning that unless special circumstances exist, most colleges won’t accept this score for college credit. A score of a 3 means you’re “qualified” and many colleges accept this score for credit. Students who get a 3 or above are considered to have passed the course and exam. Scores of 4 or 5 are more widely accepted by colleges and are impressive on your application.

Other students look at the scores on an A, B, C scale and consider a 5 to be an “A”, a 4 to be a “B”, and so on. This way of looking at it is purely for self-analysis and doesn’t necessarily reflect how your score may be viewed by other students, teachers or colleges.

To compare yourself to other students who took the AP Art History exam, take a look at the percentages of students who received each score. If you get a 3, for example, you’ve achieved the average AP Art History score. A score of a 3 means you performed better than about 40% of the other test takers. If you score better than the average AP Art History score of 3, then it’s safe to say you earned a better score than the majority of other test takers. Earning a 5, on the other hand, means you made the top 11% of the test takers, which is a very impressive achievement!

When it comes to getting college credits, most schools accept a score of a 3 or higher for some credit. Credits are typically awarded as history or art credits. It is very wise to investigate specific policies for schools you are applying to beforehand, as some schools don’t award credits for certain AP courses at all, no matter what your score. Others may require that you score a 4 or 5 to award credits. College policies may also exempt you from taking a few art history courses in addition to providing credit, such is the case as at Georgetown. Finally, be sure to double check requirements for specific majors, as the expectations for an art history major’s exam scores may be stricter than for a liberal arts major focusing on another area.

Finally, your college application will certainly look more attractive if you receive a 4 or 5 on the exam. The average AP Art History score of a 3 is also respectable. While most schools don’t discriminate against applicants for receiving a poor AP score, you may want to ensure you have other attractive elements in your application that will help you stand out. Multiple high AP scores can lead to an AP Scholar award which is very impressive for your application. By earning high scores on AP exams, you prove that you can handle the rigors of college-level coursework, making you an attractive candidate.

How is the AP Art History Exam Graded?

The AP Art History exam structure is simple and straightforward. There are two sections, one multiple-choice and one free-response. Here’s the breakdown:

Section I:

  • Multiple Choice – 80 Questions – 1 hour – worth 50% of overall score
  • Part A: Approximately 8 sets of 3 to 6 questions. Each set of questions is based on a color image.
  • Part B: Approximately 35 multiple-choice questions

Section II:

  • Free-Response – 6 Questions – 2 hours – worth 50% of overall score
  • Part A: Two 30-minute essay questions
  • Part B: Four 15-minute essay questions

These essay questions often use images of works of art as part of the prompt.

The multiple-choice questions section is graded by a computer because the questions can easily be marked as right or wrong. The free response questions are graded by human readers. From this grading, a raw score is obtained. The raw scores are combined through statistical processes into one single composite score from 1 through 5. You won’t be penalized for getting a multiple-choice question wrong on any AP test. The statistical processes used for creating composite scores ensure that the same level of achievement is scored as a 3, for example, from year to year.

The free-response questions are more complex, which is why AP readers must score the exams. AP readers or graders go through a training process to learn how to objectively score the essay questions. These questions are scored using rubrics to help guide the graders and to make the process fair for all students. Part A questions (longer, 30 minute questions) are awarded a score between 1-7 points and the part B questions (shorter, 15 minute questions) are awarded 1-5 points.

A typical rubric for a free-response question breaks down the question into specific tasks, and awards points for each task. For example, a 7-point question may be divided into 5 tasks, 3 tasks with a value of 1 point and 2 with a value of 2 points.

One commonly required task is that students identify a work of art that fits within certain parameters. Identifying the work means that students list two accurate identifiers such as the title, artist, culture of origin, materials or date of creation. Another common task is to compare two works of art. In addition to identifying these works of art, you’ll also need to provide an excellent analysis that’s expressed clearly.

To gain an even greater understanding of how free answer questions are graded, you can study the rubrics used for test questions in the past. Detailed rubrics for previous AP Art History exam free response questions are provided by the CollegeBoard for your reference and to assist you while studying. Understanding how AP-readers look at each response is key for helping you achieve a score above and beyond average AP Art History score.

What’s the Best Way to Prepare for the AP Art History Exam?

In order to do well on the exam, you must spend time preparing. To ensure that your energies are being spent in the most productive way, we’ve put together some resources to help you while you study.

One of the best ways to prepare for the exam is to practice answering questions similar to those on the exam. AP Art History exam practice questions will help you feel comfortable with the types of questions you’ll be seeing. Check out our AP Art History questions page where you will find questions conveniently listed by topic so that you can test your knowledge systematically. In addition, our helpful article, How to Study for AP Art History, will show you the steps to follow to study effectively.

You may also want to review a helpful document produced by the CollegeBoard that discusses student performance in 2016 on the Art History exam. Here, you can see a Chief Reader’s analysis of the most commonly made mistakes in the free response questions. This will be an invaluable resource for you as you study. You will gain insight into how you will be scored and learn how to interpret the exam questions in order to ensure that you answer them fully.

With proper preparation, you can expect to exceed the average AP Art History score attained by other students. An exceptional score of a 4 or 5 will not only help you open doors and gain credits in college, but is also representative of your knowledge and skills learned. These skills and knowledge will certainly benefit you in your academic and professional life in the future.

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As you probably already know by this point in your high school career, Advanced Placement (AP) courses and exams are administered each year under the oversight of the College Board.

The Art History AP exam is one of the least common exams taken among self-studiers and enrolled students alike. In 2015, only about 23,000 of the 4.4 million students taking AP exams took the Art History AP exam. If you are interested in taking the Art History AP exam, whether you have taken the class or are planning to self-study, read on for a breakdown of the test and CollegeVine’s advice for how you can prepare for it.

About the Exam

The Art History AP course teaches students the nature of art, its uses, meanings, and production, and societal responses to art throughout history. It seeks to immerse students in rich artistic traditions across cultures dating from prehistory to the present, while fostering an in-depth understanding and appreciation of the history of art. In this class you can expect to learn “visual, contextual, and comparative analysis applied to a variety of art forms, understanding of individual works and connections between processes and products throughout history.” Although there are no official prerequisites for the coursework, students who have excelled in the humanities, such as literature or history, or in studio art classes, will find that these experiences enrich their perspective as they undertake the studying of art history. 

The Art History AP course was redesigned for the 2015-2016 school year. Though much of the course content remains the same, it is now presented alongside clear learning objectives for the exam. The scope was also narrowed to focus more on conceptual understanding, critical thinking, and analysis skills, with less emphasis placed on knowledge of specific artworks. The course does still require that students become familiar with a set of specific artwork, but this set shrunk from over 500 pieces on the previous curriculum to 250 included on the course redesign. The exam format has also been changed. It now includes fewer multiple-choice questions and the six 10-minute short answers have been reformatted to four 15-minute short answers. The two 30-minute essays remain the same.

The Art History AP exam is one of the longer AP exams, clocking in at three hours. It is comprised of two sections. The first section lasts one hour, is made up of 80 multiple-choice questions, and accounts for 50% of your total score. Of these 80 questions, there are approximately 35 individual questions while the rest are grouped into eight sets with each set based on a different color image. The second section is the free-response section, which lasts for two hours, includes six questions, and accounts for the remaining 50% of your total score. This section is divided into two 30-minute essays, and four 15-minute essays. which often include images of art as stimuli for the given prompt.

The Art History AP exam is a tough one to master, though many students pass it with average scores. In 2016, 61.7% of students who took the Art History AP received a score of 3 or higher. Of these, only 11.1% of students received the top score of 5, with another 22.6% scoring a 4. Almost one-third of all test-takers received a score of 3, contributing greatly to the exam’s pass rate. Almost another third of students received a score of 2, while 11% of test-takers scored a 1 on the exam.

Keep in mind, credit and advanced standing based on AP scores varies widely from school to school. Though a score of 3 is typically considered passing, it is not always enough to receive credit. Regulations regarding which APs qualify for course credits or advanced placement at specific colleges and universities can be found here. 

A full course description that can help to guide your studying and understanding of the knowledge required for the exam can be found in the College Board course description.

Read on for tips for preparing for the exam.

Step 1: Assess Your Skills

It’s important to start your studying off with a good understanding of your existing knowledge. To learn more about the importance of formative assessments and how you can use one to get your studying off on the right foot, check out the CollegeVine article What Is a Formative Assessment and Why Should I Use One to Study?

Take a practice test to assess your initial knowledge of the material. Although the College Board Art History AP website provides a number of sample test questions and exam tips, it does not provide a complete sample test. Because the exam was so recently redesigned, it is difficult to find updated practice tests. Your best bet is to use those provided in one of the many commercial study guides. Alternatively, you can find an older version of test questions from the College Board’s 2011 exam or image-based questions from the 2013 exam to get a general idea of the test’s structure and content.

Step 2: Study the material

The content and curriculum of the Art History AP course are based on three sets of big ideas and essential questions. These overarching concepts are intended to encourage critical thinking, analysis, and appreciation of art throughout time and place, and to foster your understanding of the field of art history. The big ideas and their associated essential questions are:

  • Big Idea 1: Artists manipulate materials and ideas to create an aesthetic object, act, or event.Essential Question: What is art and how is it made?
  • Big Idea 2: Art making is shaped by tradition and change. Essential Question: Why and how does art change?
  • Big Idea 3: Interpretations of art are variable. Essential Question: How do we describe our thinking about art?

To guide your studying and the teacher’s instruction of the AP Art History course, the College Board also provides 12 learning objectives, each with a statement that explains how students can demonstrate their mastery. In addition to these learning objectives, you will also need to be familiar with the official AP Art History image set which contains “250 works of art categorized by geographic and chronological designations, beginning with works from global prehistory and ending with global contemporary works.” These works and a description of the 12 learning objectives can be found in the College Board AP Art History Course Description.

Given how recently it was redesigned, there are not many updated study resources for the Art History AP exam. The College Board does, however, refer students to Khan Academy’s comprehensive AP Art History Study Guide. This website has a wealth of free material for effectively and efficiently learning what you’ll need to know for the exam. The College Board also provides on the AP Art History teacher site a series of useful videos that give an overview of curricular framework, exam format, and writing tips.

For a more specific idea of where to focus your studying, you should consider using an updated commercial study guide. Because the AP Art History course was so recently redesigned and remains one of the less popular courses amongst students, there are not yet many choices of updated commercial study guides. The AP® Art History Crash Course Book and Barron’s AP Art History, 3rd Edition are two options. Of these, Barron’s is regarded as the stronger option for long-term studying of the material, while the Crash Course, as the name indicates, is often regarded as a better option for quick test practice and review.

There are also a number of free study resources available online. Many AP teachers have posted complete study guides, review sheets, and test questions. Be careful when accessing these, as many will be from previous versions of the exam.

Finally, another new, fun way to study is to use one of the recently developed apps for AP exams. These range in price from $0.99 to $4.99, but they provide a fun and easy way to quiz yourself. Make sure you read reviews before choosing one – their quality varies widely.

Step 3: Practice Multiple Choice Questions

Once you have your theory down, test it out by practicing multiple-choice questions. You can find these in most study guides or through online searches. You could also try taking the multiple-choice section of another practice exam.

The College Board Course Description includes many practice multiple choice questions along with explanations of their answers. There are additional questions available in commercial study guides. As you go through these, try to keep track of which areas are still tripping you up, and go back over this theory again. Focus on understanding what each question is asking and keep a running list of any vocabulary that is still unfamiliar.

Step 4: Practice Free Response Questions

All free-response questions on the AP Art History exam include either images of works of art (from the required course content, except in the case of attribution questions) or a list of works from the required course content to prompt student responses. For questions that ask you to identify a piece of work, you should try to include all available identifiers including title or designation, name of the artist and/or culture of origin, date of creation, and materials. You should be able to provide at least two correct identifiers, but you will not be penalized for any additional identifiers that are incorrect. There are two types of free response questions on the exam.

Two questions are long essays for which you will have 30 minutes each. The long essay questions solicit a multi-focused perspective in the response and allow you to explore topics in depth. These questions are designed to give you the opportunity to demonstrate deep understanding of the course material through persuasive, evidence-based theses and arguments. On these questions, you also have the choice to include in your response works of art that are outside of the required course content.

Four questions are short essays for which you will have 15 minutes each. The short essay questions are more limited in scope and are designed to elicit a focused response exploring specific works of art, along with art historical concepts and relationships.

On the free response section of the AP Art History exam a distinct emphasis is placed on the strength of writing. To be successful, you will need to use clear, appropriate, and descriptive language. Your ideas should be organized logically with coherent evidence to support your assertions. You will need to make fact-based inferences and closely align your writing with the prompt’s directives.

As you complete the free response questions, make sure to keep an eye on the time. Though you will be reminded of time remaining by the exam proctor, you will not be forced to move on to another question. Make sure you stay on track to address each section of every question. No points can be awarded for answers left completely blank when time runs out.

For examples of the scoring rubric used on this section, make sure to read the sample exam questions and scoring guidelines provided in the Course Description. Also be sure to read the authentic student responses with scoring explanations from the 2016 exam.

Step 5: Take another practice test

As you did at the very beginning of your studying, take a practice test to evaluate your progress. You should see a steady progression of knowledge, and it’s likely that you will see patterns identifying which areas have improved the most and which areas still need improvement.

If you have time, repeat each of the steps above to incrementally increase your score.

Step 6: Exam day specifics

In 2017, the Art History AP Exam will be administered on Tuesday, May 2 at 12 PM.

For complete registration instructions, check out CollegeVine’s How to Register for AP Exams (Even If You Didn’t Take the Class).

For information about what to bring to the exam, see CollegeVine’s What Should I Bring to My AP Exam (And What Should I Definitely Leave at Home)?

If you feel like you still need more help or you are not sure that you can do it on your own, look no further. For personalized AP tutoring, check out the CollegeVine Academic Tutoring Program, where students who are intimately familiar with the exam can help you ace it too, just like they did.

For more about APs, check out these CollegeVine posts

Kate Sundquist

Senior Blogger at CollegeVine

Kate Koch-Sundquist is a graduate of Pomona College where she studied sociology, psychology, and writing before going on to receive an M.Ed. from Lesley University. After a few forays into living abroad and afloat (sometimes at the same time), she now makes her home north of Boston where she works as a content writer and, with her husband, raises two young sons who both inspire her and challenge her on a daily basis.

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