Students in the MA program are required to take the comprehensive exam.  During this exam, 25 slides are shown and students must identify each slide as fully as possible and indicate their knowledge of the historical significance.  The exam includes works in various media—painting, sculpture, architecture, prints, and photography—and Non-Western art as well as Western art.  Its purpose is to determine whether the student has sufficiently wide knowledge of art history to comprehend, contribute to and benefit from advanced courses.  We therefore urge that it be taken as soon after matriculation as possible, and the exam must be passed by the time of the mid-program evaluation (15 credits).

The next Comprehensive Exam will be offered on January 17, 2024, at 7pm. 

Current students may sign up for the exam here:
MA Comprehensive Exam RSVP

Format of the Comprehensive Exam

You will be shown 25 slides.  You should identify the works as follows:

  • Artist or architect (or Unknown creator where appropriate)
  • Title or subject of image, or name of building
  • Geographic origin of work if it is relevant
  • Art-historical period, movement or culture (use conventional terms, i.e., Classical Greek; Aztec; Impressionist)
  • Date
  • Location, if the work is in-situ

You should then briefly discuss the work to illuminate its historical significance.  You can consider such issues as the prevalence, function, and meaningfulness of the work within its culture; the kind and degree of impact this work made upon other artists; or other important issues.  Try to be as precise as possible. You have four minutes to answer each question. Answers must be typed in a Word document. Please bring a laptop.   

Guide to Studying for the Comprehensive Exam

Most students set aside time to prepare for this examination.  We recommend a thorough study of standard survey textbooks.  For Hunter’s own undergraduate “Introduction to the History of Art”, we require Gardner’s Art Through the Ages, 12th Edition.

Other recommended surveys:

Janson, H.W.  History of Art 3rd Edition Rev.  Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall, 1986

Honour, Hugh and John Feming The Visual Arts: A History Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall c. 1983

Elsen, Albert Purposes of Art: An Introduction to the History and Appreciation of Art 4th Edition New York: Holt Rinehart and Winston

Stokstad, Marilyn, and Michael Watt Cothren. Art History. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson, 2018.

To facilitate your study, a list of monuments has been prepared from which the exam selections will be taken. This list can be viewed on ArtStor by following the instructions below.  The ARTstor images are not complemented with analysis and explanation, only basic information is given; therefore, you will still need to read one of the recommended survey books.

Remote access to HC Libraries’ e-resources requires a NetID login (this applies to all non-campus use regardless of distance):

The following video explains the full process to access the comprehensive exam’s image study groups and how to export them into PowerPoint should you so choose:


Grading Rationale

Passing grade is 80%.

There are 25 questions, each worth 4 points:

ID counts 2; essay counts 2; each item in ID counts 0.5.