7 Surefooted Steps for Surviving AP Spanish Prep

The phrase “AP Spanish” strikes mixed emotions: Apprehension. Nervousness. Complete confusion.

But with a little preparation, when you hear “AP Spanish,” you will feel excitement.

You need to practice your speaking. You need to practice your listening. You need to practice your reading. You need to practice your writing.

Man… AP tests are comprehensive! But they also happen to be totally worth it.


Why Take the AP Spanish Exam?

The exact benefits vary by college, so you might want to check with the admissions office at your college of choice to see what you can expect to get out of your AP tests. However, in my experience, there are a number of major benefits.

The AP Spanish test can help you earn college credits. Obviously, earning college credits is the biggest selling point. The total amount of credits varies between universities, but to give you an idea, I milked my AP Spanish test score for a whopping 22 college credits. That means I was able to skip first through third year college-level courses.

But how does earning credits ahead of time help, you ask?

Well, first of all, it can help you register early. At my school, upperclassmen registered before others. Since my credits put me ahead of other students who began college at the same time I did, I was able to get most of the classes I wanted without any trouble—which is a huge deal, since even required classes can fill up quickly. If you can register early, you are more likely to be able to get the classes you need to complete college in a timely fashion. Additionally, you are more likely to snag a nice schedule so you might not have to get up early, stay up late, leave your bed on Fridays, etc.

You will be able to sign up for classes at the right Spanish level for you, instead of repeating lessons you have already mastered. Not to mention, there is a chance that you can bypass the classes about the Spanish language and jump headfirst into fascinating classes where you are taught about topics like history and literature in Spanish. How is that for immersion?

Additionally, if you get enough credits from completing the AP test, you may be able to get a Spanish minor without taking many classes. A highly desirable minor with few additional classes? Yes, please!

Furthermore, if you do well on the test, it can save you money. AP tests run about $100. College courses are usually at least a few hundred dollars per credit. Multiply that by however many credits you receive from the test and, well, you get the picture. While it can feel like you are betting on yourself, it is a bet that will pay off if you are prepared.

7 Steps to Get into AP Spanish Prep Mode

1. Know what to expect.


Whenever you go into a test, the element of uncertainty can throw you for a loop. Eliminating uncertainty will enable you to focus on your Spanish rather than the logistics of the test itself.


Lucky for you, The College Board describes the exam thoroughly online. Be sure to read this thoroughly and investigate any doubts further on the site.

In short, it is a three-hour exam that consists of multiple choice and free response sections that will test your reading, writing, speaking and listening skills.

2. Study what has been on the exam in the past.


What is on the exam often has some overlap. While the exact questions are unlikely to be identical, reviewing what has been on the exam in the past will give you a basic idea of what sorts of questions you need to be prepared for.


Look at what has been on the exam in the past. Review the samples, scoring breakdowns, audio examples, etc. Once you see what sorts of things are on the exam, adjust what you are studying to reflect this. You can even use the examples themselves as study materials.

3. Use online practice tests.


It seems like a no-brainer, but far too many future AP exam takers rely on what is provided in class, and dig no deeper. Online practice tests will allow you to become incredibly familiar with the layout, content, instructions and expectations of the exam.

They will help reinforce the content you have been studying, and they will also help you practice taking tests in general—which is a skill in itself.


When you take online tests, pay attention to what areas you are struggling with and direct your studying to address these issues.

Be sure to take a complete practice exam at least once or twice before taking the actual AP exam. Sit yourself down, time yourself precisely for each section and only take the amount of allotted break time that the actual exam would allow you to take. This will help you feel ready when the big test day comes.

There are several good options for practice tests:

Varsity Tutors offers a wide array of practice tests at varying difficulty levels. Start with easy tests and work your way towards the harder ones. Share them on social media and challenge your friends to make studying fun and social.

Barron’s offers a practice or timed mode for its test. As you get closer to the exam, try using the timed test. This will give you a feel for how much time you will actually have to complete tasks.

4. Think in Spanish.


Not only does thinking in Spanish increase your fluency, it will help you tremendously on the AP exam. It is important to remember that the AP test is timed. If you can think in Spanish rather than needing to translate to and from English in your head, you can save valuable time which you can instead use to focus on quality responses.


Whenever you have some downtime, try to think in Spanish. It can be about virtually any topic. Think about what is on television, think about something funny your friend said earlier, think about your average day and your usual routine. The key is just getting comfortable thinking in Spanish.

Another way to practice thinking in Spanish is to translate anything you hear in English into Spanish in your head. Imagine how you would explain a subject in math class to a friend who only speaks Spanish. Or imagine how you would recount a hilarious story about something that just happened.

Some programs can help with this process. For example, FluentU, has dual-language subtitles on all of its authentic Spanish videos, so you could try disabling the Spanish captions and trying to mentally translate them into Spanish. Then, enable them again and see how your version compares.

Not only will this help you practice your language skills, it will also help keep you focused during any class that you find less than engrossing. As an added bonus, you will end up paying closer attention in other classes as well.

5. Narrate everyday activities in Spanish.


The AP exam contains a speaking portion. It can be intimidating, especially since there is not much time to plan ahead. The more often you speak Spanish, the more smoothly you will speak during this section.


Whenever it is not socially awkward to do so, just narrate what you are doing or thinking aloud in Spanish. Not only will this improve your speech itself, it will prepare you to think on your feet during the speaking section.

6. Take notes for other classes in Spanish.


This will help you practice writing in Spanish quickly. Since the AP test is timed, there is not always much time to think ahead. If you are used to writing in Spanish, the exam will not seem so challenging.

Plus, taking notes in Spanish has the added bonus of preventing anyone who doesn’t read Spanish from reading your notes. It is like a not-so-secret spy code.


Simply jot down the points you would normally write in English in Spanish.

This is a good option for your easier courses or courses where your instructor speaks slowly. If the class is quite challenging, don’t take notes in Spanish (you don’t want to mess up your other learning), but when class isn’t too hard, it is a convenient way to study the material and practice Spanish simultaneously.

7. Practice reading in Spanish without translating to English.


As I may have mentioned (okay, I mentioned it a lot, but it is important) the AP test is timed. If you have to read a text in Spanish, then translate it to English, then read your answer options in Spanish, then translate them to English, it is tremendously time consuming and you might not have time to answer all the questions on the exam.

If you are able to understand the questions and answers in Spanish without translating, you will save valuable time.


Practice, practice, practice. Be sure to focus on not translating. If you catch yourself translating, try again.

If you are accustomed to translating in your head, not translating will take some time and focus. But over time, you will find that your speed and comprehension will improve tremendously.


So as you prepare for your AP Spanish Language and Culture Exam, study hard and prepare to succeed!

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