The AP Spanish Exam 2023: Your Complete Starter Guide

A three-hour long exam focused solely on Spanish? Sounds like a handful!

Luckily, studying for the exam and knowing what to expect can take the edge off the nerves and ensure you do your best. There are also plenty of great resources to help you practice for the exam.

Here’s everything you need to know about what’s included in the AP Spanish Language and Culture exam.


Why Take the AP Spanish Exam?

First, to get yourself energized and ready to study, take a look at these motivating reasons to take the AP Spanish exam seriously:

The 2023 AP Spanish Exam

This year’s AP Spanish Language and Culture exam takes place on Wednesday, May 10 at 8 a.m. local time.

You’ll have 3 hours total to complete the whole test (including the multiple choice and free response sections):

Section I: Multiple Choice and Multiple Choice with Audio

Interpretive Communication (IA)40 minutesAnswer 30 questions23%
Interpretive Communication (IB)55 minutesAnswer 35 questions27%

Section II: Free Response Written and Free Response Spoken

Interpersonal Writing (IIA)15 minutesRead and reply to an email12.5%
Presentational Writing (IIA)55 minutesWrite an argumentative essay12.5%
Interpersonal Speaking (IIB)20 seconds per responseSimulated conversation (5 exchanges)12.5%
Presentational Speaking (IIB)6 minutes2 minute presentation12.5%

What’s on the Exam?

Multiple Choice


For the print component of the multiple choice portion of the exam, you’ll read brief passages and answer multiple choice questions based on these passages.

Print and Audio

There will be two texts that use both audio and print. You’ll review both the print and the audio and then answer multiple choice questions on them.

You can take notes during the listening passages, so this should help you keep track of the material.


Audio passages will be played twice. Each time you listen to a passage, you’ll have some time to answer the accompanying multiple choice questions.

Remember to take notes so that you remember what the passages cover!

Free Response

Interpersonal Writing

In this section, you’ll write a brief reply to an example email. Don’t forget to include a greeting, closing, answers to its questions and follow-up questions of your own.

Be sure to brush up on usted (formal “you”) since this email is expected to be formal. Learn how to write your formal Spanish emails here!

Using varied language is also an important way to show off your knowledge of vocabulary, so don’t lean too heavily on similar phrases.

Presentational Writing

This section presents you with a topic and materials and asks you to write a persuasive essay based on them. You’ll have some time to review the print and audio material before you begin writing, and you’re welcome to take notes (which you definitely should).

You’ll need to present both sides of the argument while also expressing your own perspective using the materials provided to support your ideas. Obviously, your Spanish writing matters here, but so do your comprehension and writing skills in general.

Try to incorporate information from all the sources within your final product. Don’t forget to use everything you’ve learned about writing essays in your English class. If you’re unfamiliar with this style of writing, Purdue’s Online Writing Lab has a helpful guide.

For specific Spanish phrases you can use and more AP free response writing advice, see this post: 

Interpersonal Speaking

This section simulates a conversation. You’ll receive a brief outline of the conversation that you can use as a reference to keep track of what’s happening and what your conversational goals are. Then, you’ll hear a brief passage and give a brief response. Since this is a conversation, it’s appropriate to use tú (informal “you”).

Go into as much detail as possible on the designated topic rather than leaning on simple, common conversational phrases that less-proficient Spanish speakers would also know. You can prepare by practicing a conversation with another person, or with digital resources designed for self-study, such as FluentU.

FluentU uses authentic videos to teach spoken and written Spanish language in context. The program’s video library spans multiple topics and its expert-crafted dictionary includes slang and colloquialisms, so you can learn both formal and informal conversational phrases.

Presentational Speaking

This section is short but intense. You’ll have four minutes to read material and prepare a presentation followed by two minutes to deliver your presentation. The section focuses on the general topic of cultural comparison, but its precise focus varies between exams.

Here, it’s important to think on your feet. You won’t have a lot of time to prepare, so being able to think about the topic in Spanish rather than translating will save you valuable time.

Not only should you illustrate your command of the Spanish language, you should also show some knowledge of culture. If you make any mistakes, you can always correct yourself, but make sure that your correction is clear.

AP Spanish Themes

The AP Spanish exam employs various “themes” to conceptualize the content it will include.

It’s important to note that you won’t be quizzed on these topics. However, the content of the test itself is based on these themes, so some familiarity with them is helpful. Studying vocabulary related to these themes will help provide you with words you may need on the exam.

Science and Technology: Science and Ethics, Healthcare and Medicine, Access to and Effects of Technology

Global Challenges: Philosophy/Religion, Economic Changes, Environment, Social Conscience and Welfare

Contemporary Life: Entertainment, Travel and Leisure, Education/Careers, Social Customs and Values

Families and Communities: Family Structure, Customs and Values, Education, Social Networking

Personal and Public Identities: Personal Beliefs and Interests, National and Ethnic Identities, Heroes/Historical Figures

Beauty and Aesthetics: Defining Beauty and Creativity, Fashion/Design/Architecture, Visual and Performing Arts, Language and Literature


Now that you know more about the exam, it doesn’t seem so intimidating, does it?

Just remember that the exam changes periodically, so it’s important to check the College Board website.

With a little preparation, you’ll be ready to pass the AP Spanish exam and earn college credit!

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