5 Best AP Art History Prep Books (2020)
Art history is the study of works of art in their historical and stylistic contexts. When you take AP Art History, you’ll not only study the evolution of art over the centuries, but learn about significant artists, artistic movements, and styles.
The AP Art History exam tests your knowledge of art history and your ability to think critically about what you learned. It is not enough to just study works of art. You have to learn how to apply that knowledge to the AP exam — and these books can show you how.
Compare: The Best Books to Prepare for the AP Art History Test
Table of Contents
- AP Art History Prep Book Reviews
- Frequently Asked Questions
AP Art History Prep Book Reviews
We recommend these five books to ace your AP Art History exam.
1. Barron’s AP Art History Prep Book with Online Tests
Barron’s is a master at creating high-quality AP prep books, and their art history edition will teach you everything you need to get a five.
Publisher: Barron’s Educational Series
Number of Pages: 648
Our Final Grade: A
The book includes pertinent AP Art History material, flash cards, full-length AP Art History practice exams, and more online content to help familiarize you with art history.
Each practice test includes detailed explanations at the end to justify which answers are correct. You’ll find test-taking tips throughout the book to prepare you for the exam.
The author is a professor of art history. You can pick up this book with confidence and study with accurate and up-to-date material. The material also facilitates understanding and learning.
There are not many flaws to this comprehensive book other than the pictures are in black and white. That helps keep costs down but reduces how well you can really understand a piece of art.
- Thoroughly condenses and explains art history
- Includes two full-length practice AP Art History exams
- Has flashcards and test prep at the end of every chapter
- Black and white photos make it difficult to understand the art presented fully
2. AP Art History Crash Course
This crash course in AP Art History is best for those who want to get as much information in as little time as possible.
Publisher: Research & Education Association
Number of Pages: 256
Our Final Grade: A-
If you’re strapped for time, this crash course is for you. It covers the essential material you need to ace the AP exam. There are test-prep questions too, as the AP exam tends to test knowledge in particular ways.
The AP Art History crash course will be good for people who need to get good at AP Art History fast or just want a targeted study companion for the AP class they’re in.
- Includes targeted study — all the essentials to pass the test
- Has one practice exam
- Provides test-taking tips from expert test strategists
- Doesn’t include pictures of art — you have to look them up on their website
3. The Insider’s Complete Guide AP Art History
The author of this book is an AP instructor, and the book will teach you about art history and how to use that knowledge to succeed on the AP Art History exam.
Publisher: Larry Prep LLC
Number of Pages: 196
Our Final Grade: B+
Rather than disconnected images of art, the author of this book tells art history like a story. It’s more effective at keeping your interest as you study.
This book has over 250 works of art that the AP exam will test you on. It will give you comprehensive overviews of why the art is important in addition to how the pieces fit into their respective cultural narratives.
There’s even a relevant glossary in the back filled with all the key items you’ll need to know. In short, this book provides the essential information needed to help you succeed on the AP exam, though it doesn’t have a full-length practice exam.
- Uses a novel approach to explain art history facts in an interesting way
- Plenty of practice questions
- No practice test
4. The Annotated Mona Lisa: A Crash Course in Art History from Prehistoric to the Present
It’s a thorough crash course on art history, though it doesn’t focus on the AP exam.
Publisher: Andrews McMeel Publishing
Number of Pages: 232
Our Final Grade: B
This is another crash course art history textbook. It will give you essential information about art, artists, time periods, and significant events to better understand art history.
However, this book isn’t an AP exam prep book. There won’t be test-taking tips, practice questions, or mock exams to take. This would be another good refresher book that could help you pass an art history exam, but perhaps not ace the AP Art History exam.
- Great visuals — pictures, charts, and timelines
- Simply covers 25,000 years of art history in just five sections
- Comprehensive and easy to read
- Doesn’t include AP exam test-taking tips or practice exams
5. Art History, Combined Volume
Learn about the best pieces of art, their cultural contexts, and more in this student-friendly text.
Number of Pages: 1198
Our Final Grade: B-
As with The Annotated Mona Lisa, this is another comprehensive textbook that helps you learn about art history. But again, the authors didn’t create this book specifically for the AP exam.
However, this book could help you better prepare for the essay portion of the AP Art History exam, as it provides the much needed context about works of art and discusses connections between certain movements or artists.
- Helps with free response questions
- Easy to understand
- Not tailored to AP exam
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some additional considerations for preparing for the AP Art History exam.
What Should I Know About the Free-Response Portion of the Test?
Two of the questions will take about 30 minutes to answer, and four will take 15 minutes. The questions tend to ask for the same thing, but the wording differs.
One question will ask you to compare and contrast two pieces of artwork. Prioritize preparing for this section of the exam, as this will be one of the longer questions.
The second 30-minute question asks you to analyze an artwork’s visual and contextual components. You should know the title, country of origin, and what the art says about the culture’s history.
One of the shorter questions will ask you to scrutinize a text visually. You’ll be asked to connect what you see to its cultural and historical context.
Another question will ask you to explain the artistic decisions that went into a piece and the cultural context it was made in.
The fifth question may ask how different artists influenced a work of art, a culture’s religious ideals, or focus on other topics. You may have to attribute an artwork to an artist or movement and justify your answer.
Finally, you may be asked how and why a style, aesthetic, practice, or tradition changed through time.
Where Can I Find Previous Versions of the AP Art History Exam?
The College Board will occasionally release sample questions from previous AP Art History exams. They may sometimes release full exams if they’re old enough.
Keep an eye on the College Board site to see if they release more materials before taking your exam. They might give you extra exam prep for free.
We recommend Barron’s Art History Prep Book to prepare for the AP Art History exam. This prep book does a great job of helping you review important concepts and prepares you for analyzing works of art.