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3 Tips for the AP Art History Exam

As an Art History student and someone who took the AP Exam only a few months ago, I wanted to share my most genuine tips for the dreaded exam. With that being said, here are 3 tips that I wish I had known before taking the AP Art History Exam.

Tip #1 - You don't need to memorize everything

One of the hardest things about studying for the AP Exam is that technically you are supposed to know all of the identifying information for each work. But, what if I told you there was a way to do well on the exam without memorizing anything at all.

As the AP Exam was approaching, I was under the impression that I would have to memorize the location, date, material, and culture/artist for all 250 works in the curriculum. As an aside, the curriculum has 250 works, but in reality, it is a lot more because some of the works can have multiple photos. For example, the Acropolis is considered one work, but contains the Parthenon, Temple of Athena Nike, and more. Ultimately, I realized that trying to memorize everything was completely insane and would result in my brain exploding from holding too much information. As a result, I did not memorize a single thing for the AP Exam.

Yes, I know that sounds crazy but hear me out. In my opinion, the best way to study is to understand the importance of each work, with that the memorization will come naturally. By this I mean that if you really understand a work, then you will be able to recognize where it is located, the material, etc. For example, I know that the reason the Vietnam War Memorial is so special is because it is nothing like the other monuments in Washington DC. The classic monuments are white, while the Vietnam War Memorial is made of black granite. Just by understanding the significance of the Vietnam War Memorial, I have figured out the location and material.

Tip #2 - Answer every FRQ no matter what

This is honestly a pretty popular tip, but trust me, it is life saving. The FRQ section is the most dreaded part of the entire exam. At least with the multiple choice, you have the comfort of knowing that one of the answers is correct. But, with the FRQ section you have no cushion whatsoever.

When I took the AP Exam this year, I remember turning the page to the next FRQ and completely panicking. It was a work that I had barely studied. I remember hoping the night before that it would not show up on the exam, but unfortunately, that was not the case. I freaked out for a couple of seconds, but then took a breath and reread the question. After that, I realized that the question was just based off of a picture and that I didn't even have to know any additional information about the work.

The lesson is to answer every question even if you don't know the work because you can still receive points. Sometimes, the answer is right in front of you in a picture or some other form.

Tip #3 - Pay attention to every work, even the ones that seem insignificant

When I was studying for the AP Exam, I made the mistake of shrugging off the works that seemed insignificant. I did not study the Maize Cobs because I figured it was so simple and the same goes for Hunters in the Snow. They seemed so insignificant compared to the Colosseum, Taj Mahal, or the Dome of the Rock. However, I made a huge mistake. The AP can and will ask multiple choice questions about any work in the curriculum, even the ones that seem so insignificant and simple.

I encourage you to study these works even if it is just for 2-5 minutes because it can really make all the difference. And remember a MCQ question about the Maize Cobs is worth just as much as a question about Machu Picchu.


Hopefully these tips are helpful and good luck on the AP Exam!

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