Tips for AP Spanish Language and Culture

Tips for AP Spanish Language and Culture

If you’re thinking about taking the AP Spanish Language and Culture exam this year, ¡excelente! You’ve come to the right place. The key is to start to study early and to practice often, and we can help!

Exam Date:

Wednesday May 10, 8 AM Local

Exam Format:

Section 1: Multiple Choice

1A Reading Comprehension

  • 30 questions in 40 minutes
  • 23% of score
  • This section presents 4 sets of authentic print sources (advertisements, literary texts, articles, and letters) with written questions.

1B Reading and Listening Comprehension

  • 35 questions in 55 minutes
  • 27% of score
  • This section includes a variety of authentic audio sources, including conversations, audio reports, interviews, instructions, and presentations. You will have time to read a preview of each selection and skim the questions before listening to the audio. All audio texts will be played twice. You may take notes while listening to the audio tracks (notes will not be graded).

Section II: Free Response

IIA Writing

  • 2 questions in 70 minutes
  • 25% of score
  • Interpersonal Writing (15 minutes): Read and reply to an email message.
  • Presentational Writing (55 minutes total: 15 minutes to review materials plus 40 minutes to write): Write an argumentative essay based on 3 sources, including an article, a graph, and a related audio source (played twice), that present different viewpoints on a topic.

IIB Speaking and Listening

  • 2 questions in 18 minutes
  • 25% of score
  • Interpersonal Speaking: Participate in 5 exchanges in a simulated conversation (20 seconds for each response). For this conversation, you will be provided with a preview of the conversation, including an outline of each exchange.
  • Presentational Speaking: Deliver a 2-minute presentation in response to a prompt in which you compare a cultural feature of a Spanish-speaking community with which you are familiar to your own community or another community. You will have 4 minutes to plan your response.


Common Questions and Concerns:

Is it true that only native Spanish speakers can earn a 5 on this exam? Not at all. Native speakers and non-native speakers alike can and do achieve a 5 on this exam each year, and fluency in Spanish alone does not guarantee a score of 5. However, since the exam tests reading, writing, listening, and speaking proficiency in Spanish, it’s important to have experience with all those skills, as well as the specific tasks required on the test. If you are using all four of these skills successfully in your Spanish class, you should be well-prepared for this test with a bit of practice. If you think that one or more of those proficiencies could be improved, now is the time to sharpen your skills (see tips below).

Do I have to be in an AP Spanish Language and Culture class to take this exam? In short, no. Generally, students should have at least four years of Spanish study before attempting the AP Spanish Language and Culture exam. While it is helpful to be in an AP Spanish class that will introduce you to the exam sections and practice them throughout the year, it’s not necessary to do well on the test. However, you should be comfortable with reading articles, giving presentations, listening to authentic audio recordings, and writing essays in Spanish if you want to achieve a 4 or a 5 on the test.


Tips to help you to prepare for the AP Spanish Language and Culture test:

Plan your study time. Students should begin reviewing for the AP Spanish Language and Culture test six to eight weeks before the exam. You should make an outline of your study plan and practice each free response question type at least twice. You can find examples of past free response question prompts and graded student samples on the exam page here.

Start reviewing your grammar. You should feel very comfortable with advanced grammar such as the subjunctive (present and past tenses), conditional statements (si clauses), past-tense descriptions (preterit versus imperfect), and commands. If your Spanish class does not include a lot of grammar review, pick up a review book like this one to start some independent study.

Read outside of class. Build your reading practice by finding articles in Spanish and writing about them. For example, you could set a goal to read three articles from Spanish news sites such as  CNN en Español each week. After you read, see if you can write down the main idea of the article as a complete sentence. Then, write three complete sentences summarizing details that you learned from the article.

Build your vocabulary. As you read, keep a list of unknown words. Use this list to create a flashcard stack or a Quizlet to review as you go.

Practice writing. If you’re not writing essays in Spanish class, it’s essential to practice on your own. A good place to start is to review past essay topics on the AP Spanish Language and Culture website. Begin by focusing on paragraphs with strong topic sentences. Focus on transition phrases between sentences and try to vary your vocabulary. Practice checking your writing for agreement (masculine/feminine, singular/plural) and spelling.

Speak Spanish as much as possible. If you’re used to speaking English in your Spanish class, now is the time to be brave and speak up en español. Outside of class, try some of the speaking prompts from past exams on the AP Spanish Language and Culture website. Record yourself as you practice, note your mistakes, and repeat the process. Remember, practice makes perfect!

Work with a tutor. If you’d like additional tips and practice, contact Marks Education to work with one of our great tutors to prepare for the test. For most students, we recommend about six weeks of preparation before the AP Spanish Language and Culture test to have sufficient time to cover all the exam components and help students to feel their most confident on test day.

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