My Experience with AP Studio Art

Last year, my senior year, I took AP Studio Art: Drawing. It was definitely my favorite class that I took all of high school. It was a very small class, with only four people, including me. Our teacher was very nice and well-versed in the subject, and gave us (almost) complete freedom. We were allowed to listen to music and have our phones out during class. We created pieces across different mediums like oil paints, acrylic paints, cardboard, pastels, sketches, linoleum block prints, wax (we got to use a blowtorch!), colored pencils, and multimedia combinations of all the materials previously mentioned. The AP Studio Art: Drawing portfolio consists for three sections. Focus (also known as Concentration), Breadth, and Quality. For the Focus section, the artist must choose a topic and create 12 pieces based on that subject. For the Breadth section of the portfolio, the artist must show that they are well-versed in a variety of fields. The artist must showcase their versatility and submit pieces with good examples of shading, mark making, and perspective, just to name a few. For the last section, Quality, the artist must send five of their favorite pieces to the AP Review Board. This is different from the former categories not only because of the smaller number of pieces, but in that the Focus and Breadth sections must be submitted online, while Quality must be physically mailed to the AP Review Board.

As much as I loved taking AP Studio Art: Drawing, the portfolio examination was poorly executed. The class was amazing and my art improved ridiculous amounts, but the portfolios are graded through a very unjust system. Each portfolio gets sent to one singular reviewer. The review is supposedly a teacher who has taught the subject before, and is looking for signs of mark making, improvement, interesting ideas that aren’t cliche, shading, and quality. This all sounds good and well on paper, but sometimes, like I believe in my case, the reviewer can be biased. At this point, the exam is a game of luck, as your grade can vary depending on who picks up the responsibility to grade your portfolio of work. If you end up with a grader who dislikes your work, even if you obviously have talent, you could be heavily deducted. I felt very positive and proud of myself for my work, and was very confident in my abilities. My teacher and I agreed that I would at least make a 3 on the exam, although my work was worthy of a 4. However, I had bad luck and whoever graded my work found me worthy of a 1. The lowest grade possible. Not even a 2. A 1. The graders are also not allowed to leave any feedback, so I will never find out why I scored so low on the portfolio exam.

To prevent unfair and unjust scores, I think the College Board should change the grading system for the portfolio reviews. Instead of assigning one reviewer to a portfolio, there should be a panel of at least two, but preferably 3 graders. Each grader gives the portfolio a score of 1-5, and the scores are divided by the number of scorers, calculating the average of the three scores. My AP Exam score crushed my confidence and temporarily made me want to quit art, and the system must be changed in order to give hardworking artists fair and just scores.