The AP Spanish Exam: 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 plenty of great resources to help you practice for the AP Spanish exam.

You can even review strategies teachers might use to help students prepare and implement them yourself.


Why Take the AP Spanish Language Exam?

First, we’ll start by getting you pumped up. Take a look at these motivating reasons to take the AP Spanish exam seriously, and that energy will propel you through your studies.

The primary reason many students take the AP Spanish exam is to earn college credits. Yup. The AP Spanish test is a great way to earn credit for learning you did in high school. This is terrific because it can save you the time and money required to take courses in college. The AP Spanish test costs about $100, but if you pass, earning college credits can save you thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours.

But if college credit isn’t appealing enough, the AP Spanish test is also a good way to prove your proficiency. Earning a passing score shows that you have some skills. You can use this to your advantage in the job market.

You can also use signing up for the AP exam to motivate yourself towards fluency. If you aren’t already fluent, the test is a great motivator to make the leap into fluency. After all, you’ll need to study for the test. That test date will be a clear deadline for when your Spanish needs to be in tip-top shape.

The College Board offers helpful materials like an in-depth course and exam description and a guide with examples from previous tests.

How Long Does the AP Spanish Exam Take?

Total Exam Length

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

Multiple Choice

You’ll have 95 minutes to complete a total of 65 questions divided between print and audio texts.

Print Multiple Choice

You’ll have 40 minutes to complete 30 questions, so you have just over a minute for each question (on average).

Print/Audio and Audio Multiple Choice

You’ll have 55 minutes to complete 35 questions, so you have just over a minute and a half for each question.

Free Response

You’ll have 85 minutes to complete 4 free response sections divided between writing and speaking.

Interpersonal Writing

You’ll have 15 minutes to write an email response.

Presentational Writing

You’ll have 55 minutes to craft a persuasive essay.

Interpersonal Speaking

You’ll have 20 seconds per speaking prompt, for a total of 5 prompts.

Presentational Speaking

You’ll have 6 minutes to prepare and deliver a presentation.

What’s on the AP Spanish Language 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 email replying to an example email. Don’t forget to include a greeting, closing, answers to questions posed 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 an important way to show off your vocabulary, so don’t lean too heavily on similar phrases.

Presentational Writing

You’ll be presented with a topic and materials and be asked to write a persuasive essay based on this material. You’ll have some time to review the print and audio material before you begin writing, and you’re welcome to (and definitely should) take notes on this material.

You’ll need to present both sides of the argument but also express 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.

When reviewing the provided materials, read them carefully to interpret their arguments. Try to incorporate information from all of the sources within your final product.

Also, don’t forget to use all you’ve learned about writing essays in your English class. Be sure to craft an introduction and conclusion, organize your ideas in clear paragraphs and aim to support one clear thesis statement. If you’re unfamiliar with this style of writing, Purdue’s Online Writing Lab has a helpful guide.

And, as always, try to use a wide variety of words and phrases. This section is a great opportunity to show off some of your more advanced vocabulary and conjugations.

Interpersonal Speaking

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

Try to treat it like a real conversation. Go into as much depth as possible on the designated topic rather than leaning on simple, common conversational phrases that less-proficient Spanish speakers would also know. Better still, try to work in some idiomatic expressions to illustrate the depth and breadth of your knowledge.

To prepare for this section, it’s ideal that you practice real-life conversations with another person. Follow the same format as the exam would and have a partner (preferably a native speaker) check your responses and give you pointers as needed.

But you can also prepare with digital resources designed for self-study, such as FluentU, which 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.

Remember: the trick is to show your maximum ability.

And if you mess up, don’t hesitate to correct yourself as long as it clarifies your meaning.

Presentational Speaking

This section is short but intense. You 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 the 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.

Again, if you make any mistakes, you can correct yourself, but make sure that your correction is clear.


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

It’s important to remember 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. Therefore, studying vocabulary related to these themes will help provide you with words you might need on the exam.

Science and Technology

  • Science and Ethics
  • Healthcare/Medicine
  • Innovations
  • Access to Technology
  • Effects of Technology
  • Natural Phenomena

Global Challenges

  • Philosophy/Religion
  • Economy
  • Environment
  • Population
  • Social Conscience
  • Social Welfare

Contemporary Life

  • Entertainment
  • Lifestyles
  • Travel/Leisure
  • Volunteerism
  • Education/Careers
  • Relationships
  • Social Customs/Values

Families and Communities

  • Family Structure
  • Customs/Values
  • Education
  • Social Networking
  • Global Citizenship
  • Human Geography

Personal and Public Identities

  • Personal Beliefs
  • Personal Interests
  • Self-Image
  • National/Ethnic Identities
  • Alienation/Assimilation
  • Heroes/Historical Figures

Beauty and Aesthetics

  • Defining Beauty
  • Defining Creativity
  • Architecture
  • Visual/Performing Arts
  • Language/Literature
  • Fashion/Design


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 test and earn college credit!

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