How to study for Art History I (ARTH 100)

How to study for Art History I (ARTH 100)


Studying for Art History in college can be a dull one, and scoring an A for the examination could be a challenge for some.  In this article, we share

  1. Resources to make your study a less painful one,
  2. Study tips for art history in general, and
  3. Past class materials used Doctor Jonathan A. Farris Ph. D. ‘s ARTH 100 class

The textbook you most are likely to use would be Gardner’s Art through the Ages.



Cengage provides a book companion for Gardner’s Art through the Ages. It has a study guide for each chapter comprising a brief summary, key vocabularies and note-taking templates. A glossary list is also available.

Link: Art through the Ages book companion 14th edition


Quizlet is an online learning tool that lets you and study anything through creating your own flashcards. It would assist you to memorise the dozens of names, dates and other details of artworks for your tests or examinations.

Check out the one I created for my finals: ARTH 100 – Final Examination

This resource is good for:

  • Flashcards for Memorisation
  • Memory Matching Game
  • Self Testing Quizzes

Crash course

John Green guides us through world history with the use of fun graphics and humour. It helps a lot to watch the relevant episodes prior to your classes, not only do you have an introduction to the period of time , you have context for for the era. While there is no real focus on the “art” portion of art history, the videos provide important and engaging historical context.

Link: Crash Course World History

This resource is good for

  • Focuses on history more than art
  • Educational Videos
  • Engaging Graphics

Khan Academy

If you are new to art history, Khan academy is a great place to start learning. It provides concise writings, relevant visuals and videos that covers from prehistoric to contemporary art. It also has a page called ART 1010 which has short series of fun and funny animations that introduce the history of Western art. Khan Academy provides both general overview videos, as well as in-depth analysis on specific pieces from different periods.


Khan Academy Art History

  • More in depth
  • focuses on individual pieces
  • Educational Videos
  • Self Testing quizzes
  • Informational Essays

Khan Academy ART 1010

  • Fun Animation videos
  • More general overview

Envato Tuts

Released not too long ago, Envato has created a series of art history learning guides specifically aimed at beginners! It is similar to what Khan Academy has done but less of a read.

Link: Envato Art History

General Study tips

Take notes in class (preferably through writing)

Note-taking is a no-brainer when learning in a class, though with the advancement of technology many have switched to typing on a laptop. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that but I do want to highlight how writing with a pen helps to commit what you are learning to memory*. Personally, I write notes and even draw visuals and mind-maps (keeps me awake in class)

*See Lifehacker article on  Why You Learn More Effectively by Writing Than by Typing


This is the part where people cringe and dread, the memorization of the numerous artworks’ name, date of creation, location, artist and culture. You are most likely required to cram at least 30 artworks for your examination. I highly recommend creating a set of flashcards on Quizlet over creating a hardcopy one because I am sure everyone would take more than one art history class  over their course of studies in art school. A digital set of flashcards would your life hassle-free. Furthermore, a mobile app is available for you to study on the go!

I recommend you to use Quizlet daily to memorise a couple of artworks when you commute to school or before bed. However, you cannot solely rely on Quizlet. You need to see if you can put in down on paper after memorizing in your head. This would reinforce your memory retention and ensure that you got everything covered. Pace yourself. Try making the flashcard deck early, and practice 15-20 minutes a day, rather than two days before, and spending hours trying to cram in dates.

Reviewing the chapters

Revision of the styles from different time periods may seem pointless when the sections are the exam are fairly narrow, but it comes in handy more than you’d think. Understanding the general styles, methods, materials, etc used by different cultures it’ll make memorizing information about your slides easier as well as writing a well-informed essay for the end of the exam.

In this post, you already have plenty of resources you can go to to find information on these chapters (you could also read the textbook or look through your notes from class). Instead of going through them separately to review, try making review sheets on A4 paper. Use one side (or two if needed) for one chapter. Only include the most vital information so that it isn’t too much to learn! You can use this paper when you look through each resource so that you can write down anything new from one resource that you might not have found in another.

Repetition, repetition repetition

Unless you are an art history buff, you have to study like a mere mortal and it comes down to repetitions. If you want to score a good grade, you have to put in time and effort to memorising and writing. Remember not to procrastinate and cram, and just add small doses of studying to your daily study routine.

Different Study Types

If you find that you’re really struggling with absorbing content, try switching up the way you study. There are several different learning types:

  1. Visual (spatial):You prefer using pictures, images, and spatial understanding.
  2. Aural (auditory-musical): You prefer using sound and music.
  3. Verbal (linguistic): You prefer using words, both in speech and writing.
  4. Physical (kinesthetic): You prefer using your body, hands and sense of touch.
  5. Logical (mathematical): You prefer using logic, reasoning and systems.
  6. Social (interpersonal): You prefer to learn in groups or with other people.
  7. Solitary (intrapersonal): You prefer to work alone and use self-study.”

Check them out at:

Hopefully with the different materials curated on this page, you can try them all out and see what works for you.

More studying tips

Desmond – Personally, I produce all study materials needed such as the artworks’ details on Quizlet and extract all information pertaining to artworks identification a week before the exam. I will memorize and write down everything I prepared over the remaining days.

Michaela – I start studying one week before as well, and would recommend that to everyone (even earlier if you have time!). I usually start studying what is hardest for me or what will take the longest. Hence I usually memorize slides ahead of time (this gives a lot of time for revision) and make notes on the chapters (that I can then spend the rest of the week re-writing and revising).

Past materials used for Doctor Farris class

Finally, for the SCAD students taking ARTH 100 (Survey of Western Art I), below are samples of the class materials and notes which you may use.

  • Here is a sample of the slides identification my class created – PDF
  • Here is a sample of how you should write for the significance of an object- Word Doc
  • Here is a glossary list I compiled from Cengage for your perusal – Word Doc


This article is written by Desmond Du, Isla Myles and Michaela Kuschel, students of SCAD Hong Kong. These writings are based on the ARTH 100 class we taken in Fall 2016.

Desmond Du

Desmond Du is a Singaporean pursuing a B.F.A in Motion Media Design at SCAD Savannah. He enjoys sharing knowledge with everyone and helping people to do their best in whatever work they are doing. He is also looking for content creators to collaborate with or share their content on

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