5 Smart Tips to Help Your Students Rock the AP Spanish Exam

The test is coming.

Will you be ready?

I’m referring, of course, to the AP Spanish Language and Culture exam—the moment all your students have been waiting for. All of the hard work that you and your pupils have done culminates in this moment.

It can feel like you’ll never be ready and that there’s never enough time. Relax…this is a normal and completely understandable feeling.

Ask any AP Spanish teacher and they’ll tell you that they’ve been there as well. Fortunately, there are a few things that you can do to help you breathe easier leading up to the exam. With the following 5 smart and stress-free tips, you can walk confidently into your classroom knowing that your students will be up to speed.

You’ll all be more than ready for the big test.

5 Smart Tips for Stress-free AP Spanish Exam Preparation

#1. Make the CollegeBoard AP Website Your Home Away from Home

Know thy enemy. It’s the first rule of war. Make no mistake, the AP Spanish exam is a war.

Okay, maybe it’s not that dramatic…but you need to know what to expect all the same.

That’s why, prior to starting the new school year, the very first thing that you need to do is go to the official CollegeBoard AP Spanish Language and Culture Exam site. Bookmark it. Forget Facebook and Instagram—this is going to be the site where you log too many hours from now until test time.

Here’s what you’ll get from the site:

  • The Exam Format. This is possibly the most important thing to learn. If you know exactly what the test will look like, then you can be sure that your students are prepared. After all, nothing throws off even the most prepared student like an exam day curveball.
  • Assessment Rubrics. How will the test be scored? It’s important that you’re familiar with the rubric for each free response section so that you can prioritize accordingly. This way, your students will know what’s expected of them and there are no surprises when the grades are released.
  • Sample Planning Guides. That’s right, the AP has anticipated your every need. They have planning and preparation guides that can walk you through the entire year before the exam. These guides take all the guesswork out of design instruction. They even offer sample activities and formative assessments for each of the 6 major themes covered on the AP exam.
  • The AP Spanish Language Teacher Community. Feel like you’re all alone? Not anymore. You have access to hundreds of other teachers that are in the same boat as you. You can share tips and tricks, vent your frustrations or just check with your peers to make sure that you’re on the right track.
  • Sample Questions And Student Responses. Nothing is more helpful than seeing actual data from the tests. These sample questions are based on real questions and responses, so you can show your students the types of questions they should anticipate. They’ll also get to see how previous students handled them, for better or worse.

The AP Exam might seem like an unconquerable enemy right now. However, the more time you spend on the CollegeBoard AP Spanish Language and Culture site, the sooner you’ll realize that you have all the tools you need to help your students land that coveted 5.

#2. Don’t Try to Reinvent the Wheel

You’re not the first teacher to prepare students for this test. Your students aren’t the first ones to endure it.

Other teachers have come before you, and they’ve left a trail of AP Spanish Resources that you can use to get your students to where you want them to be.

From communicating with other teachers through ListServs such as FLTeach to using social media sites like Pinterest, you’ll discover countless tried-and-true strategies and authentic Spanish language resources that’ll get your students prepared on time.

With so many resources out there at your disposal, you’d be crazy not to use them.

Teacher-created materials aren’t the only resources that you have to help your students conquer the AP Exam. The number of test preparation textbooks and workbooks available is mind-numbing.

Many of these test prep books model the format of the exam and cover each of the 6 themes. They’re also a great starting point in the never-ending quest to find additional resources, such as news articles and podcasts in Spanish, that’ll help to further enrich your lessons.

With so many test preparation books available, it may be tough to choose the right one. The best thing that you can do, though, is to give each of them a try.

I’ve personally had great success using “Triángulo aprobado” from Wayside Publishing, but that isn’t the only option. No matter which book (or selection of books) you choose, you’ll add pre-created activities to your repertoire that are designed to prepare your students for the big exam.

Think about it. These activities will help you cut down on your prep time and be a more effective teacher. Your students will know exactly what to expect when they rip open their exam come May. What more could you ask for?

#3. Take Advantage of What Social Media Has to Offer

I know, I know—I said you’d be abandoning social media for the AP site. That may have been a bit hyperbolic, in retrospect.

You can use Facebook, Twitter and the like to find other teachers and classes that are preparing for the test. You can then exchange ideas, compare progress and, most importantly, arrange class-to-class Skype sessions with classes in Spanish-speaking countries.

Not only will the use of these social technologies to teach Spanish help to expedite the learning process, it’ll also give your students better insight into Latin American and Iberian cultures. That kind of opportunity will pay serious dividends on the cultural comparison component of the AP exam.

There are other social media sites besides Facebook and Twitter, however—and you’re going to learn to love Pinterest.

If you’ve never used Pinterest before, it’s time to start! It’s a free website that’s used for sharing pictures, projects and other media. Just go to Pinterest, register for your free account and take a look around.

The great thing about Pinterest is that there’s already a wealth of information about the AP test on there. You can find charts, graphs and unit plans covering each of the 6 themes. Take a peek at all of the instructional and test prep ideas created and used by thousands of AP teachers across the country!

#4. Mix Homework with Pleasure: Make Watching TV a Nightly Requirement

It can be hard to convince your students to study instead of watching TV. So instead of fighting a losing battle, why not put TV to work for you?

You can tell your students that they can watch all the TV they can handle—provided it’s in Spanish, of course. Require them to stick to authentic sources, with a heavy focus on watching the news in Spanish. After all, at least one of the audio selections they’ll hear on the AP exam will likely come from a news-style program. Making use of subtitles is encouraged, as they help promote understanding by allowing the students to identify new words as they read while listening.

That being said, what do you do if your students are like countless others in that they have decided to cut cable? Why, send them to the internet, of course!

Both Univision and Telemundo have websites that offer full-length clips of some of their top shows.

If your students have streaming services like Netflix or Hulu Plus, there’s a wide variety of authentic Spanish programs to choose from on both service platforms.

FluentU is another excellent option.

FluentU takes authentic videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language lessons.

Every video is accompanied by subtitles in English and Spanish, which can be toggled on and off at will.

If a student is struggling to understand what’s going on, they can simply hover over the subtitled words for on-screen definitions and usage examples. They can also enjoy FluentU learn mode features like running vocabulary lists and multimedia flashcards.

By watching videos from FluentU, students learn vocabulary more quickly and improve their pronunciation by hearing newly-learned words in real-world context.

Watching TV should no longer be considered a distraction. Whether students are watching shows like Univision’s “El Gordo y la Flaca” and “Primer Impacto” or real-world videos from FluentU, they’ll gain exposure to the world outside their neighborhood. Moreover, TV viewing will pay enormous dividends on both the listening multiple choice section and the free response sections of the AP Spanish Language Exam.

#5. Perfect Practice Makes Perfect

It’s not enough to prepare endlessly. You have to prepare the right way.

Starting from the first day of class, your students should be exposed to the AP Spanish Language and Culture Exam format and style. They should become familiar with this so that there are no surprises on test day. Model the exam in your lessons so that navigating the layout becomes second nature to your kids.

Give your students practice AP exams throughout the year. They’ll quickly learn what’s expected of them, which will help them to realize that they shouldn’t be intimidated.

Of course, this means that you have to be prepared. You should be completely familiar with the test style and format, so that you can incorporate similarly formatted activities in your lessons. Don’t wait until the beginning of the school year to get started. Your work begins well before day one in August or September.

You’ll Be Ready

If you follow these 5 smart and simple tips, you—and your students—will be totally prepared for the big day.

Practicing and preparing little by little makes the process feel effortless.

In fact, they’ll be so well-versed in the exam, they might not even see what the big deal was when they breeze through the real thing.

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