What’s the anatomy of art school entrance exams?

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Art is an open platform for any expression – it’s a multitude that doesn’t pursue one monolithic quality ideal only. Consequently, it’s not possible to be “better” or “the best” in art. Although the art market offers rankings, art per se does not – how could someone compare (and objectively rank) the diversity of human expression?

Yet art schools try to do exactly that when choosing who gets through the admission procedure. Understand that the art’s open value dynamics make it impossible to select someone according to objective quality criteria. At the same time, the decision making process isn’t usually random: a jury looks at the submitted work, and tries to understand what might fit them, and who might be a valuable candidate for a multi-year long collaboration. How do they do this? If candidates can’t aim to create the “objectively best art” in order to get accepted by art school, what can you ever do to increase your chances of getting in? How can you beat a system (the admission test) whose core values (art) don’t allow for a ranking?


Consider the following general approach:

  1. Increasingly foster processes to create works that align with your vision and competencies, while at the same time 
  2. Improving your understanding of the environments you apply to: what schools, staff and classes might understand and appreciate your attitude and work. Use this to
  3. Create a portfolio that matches these two conditions in the best way currently possible to you; a portfolio that enables the jury to understand why your work is the right fit for them.

While the first point shows the importance of self-expression and authenticity, the other two highlight the importance of understanding and accommodating to the art school you apply to. While you can exclusively focus on your work, your chances can be increased by also focusing on the institution you apply for: their mission, curriculum, and various staff individual’s ideas about art.

At the same time, your chances of acceptance are often lowered tremendously if you

  • Apply at a place that doesn’t focus or understand your style of work, or
  • Don’t manage to create the most concise version of the work possible to you at the moment, or
  • Don’t manage to properly (re)present your work to the jury.

Consider reading “How do I get into art school?” for specific strategies to implement this approach.

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