AP Spanish: An Effective Guide to Preparing for the Language and Culture Examination
The AP Spanish Language and Culture Examination approaches.
But don’t worry if you’re feeling stressed!
There are plenty of great resources for AP Spanish practice out there, and also some great hacks you can use to save yourself time, stress and energy.
In this guide, I’ll show you some simple and effective ways to prepare for the AP Spanish Language and Culture Examination, so that you have a higher chance of getting the score you want!
- 10 Easy Ways to Prepare for the AP Spanish Language and Culture Examination
- 1. Know what to expect.
- 2. Listen to Spanish-language Music
- 3. Watch Spanish-language Television
- 4. Watch Spanish-language Movies
- 5. Read Spanish-language Books
- 6. Keep a Spanish-language Diary
- 7. Use online practice tests.
- 8. Record Yourself Speaking Spanish
- 9. Tutor Another Spanish Student
- 10. Correspond with Someone in Spanish
- Resources for the AP Spanish Literature and Culture Test
- And One More Thing…
10 Easy Ways to Prepare for the AP Spanish Language and Culture Examination
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. Listen to Spanish-language Music
Listening with a focus on grammar structures will help reinforce grammar rules in your mind.
Try to memorize any song that has examples of rules you struggle to grasp. If you need to remember the rule, you can think back to the song lyrics and easily remember an example to use as a model while you take the AP Spanish exam.
Remembering a song will also help you remember vocabulary. When you’re under the pressure of the AP exam, you might even forget words you’d usually know to use. If you remember a song in which they’re sung, though, that’s much easier to remember—just think of the tune, and you’ll have the word you need in no time.
Shakira’s music is particularly helpful for studying for the AP Spanish exam. She uses more advanced vocabulary and grammar structures than many singers. Plus, her tunes are very catchy, and that will make them easier to recall during the AP exam.
3. Watch Spanish-language Television
Watching Spanish-language TV shows will help you see conversations in context, which will in turn help prepare you for the interpersonal speaking portion of the exam. This portion focuses on conversation.
While it may seem obvious, learning conversational rules and exchanges in a foreign language doesn’t always come naturally, so pay attention to how the characters exchange ideas and take turns speaking.
There are lots of great drama series to help you prepare for the AP Spanish exam. Entertaining, drama-filled telenovelas are another helpful tool if you like something fast-paced.
Try to focus on Latin American TV shows, since Latin American Spanish is more commonly used on the exam.
For example, “Yo soy Betty, la fea” (“I’m Betty, the Ugly”) is a particularly good option. This Colombian show is funny and entertaining, but also has relatively neutral Colombian accents. It follows the adventures of a young woman who’s unattractive by conventional standards, but still seeks career success in the fashion industry. The American show “Ugly Betty” is based on “Yo soy Betty, la fea,” so it may seem familiar.
4. Watch Spanish-language Movies
Like watching Spanish-language TV shows, watching Spanish-language movies will provide you with conversational language and grammar rules in context.
The main difference between movies and TV shows is length. A Spanish-language movie is longer than any episode of a TV show, so you can really get in the zone. While this will be harder to squeeze into your schedule, it also offers a more immersive Spanish experience. This immersion can help you think in Spanish, which will save you valuable time trying to conjure up words during the AP Spanish exam.
When it comes to Spanish-language movies to help you practice for the AP exam, there are a number of exceptional movie options you can go for, but again, try to focus on movies from Latin America.
For a resource that covers all three of these points, use FluentU. This language learning program uses music videos, clips from movies and TV shows and more native Spanish videos to teach Spanish.
FluentU takes authentic videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.
5. Read Spanish-language Books
Reading Spanish-language books will help prepare you for the reading portion of the exam.
Since you can’t guess the precise nature of the reading excerpts that will be used on the exam, reading a wide variety of material will help prepare you for anything you might encounter.
Reading Spanish-language books is particularly helpful for practicing looking for context clues. No matter how much you study, invariably there will be a word on the test that you don’t know. Similarly, when you read a Spanish-language book, there will be words you don’t know.
There are plenty of options for books for advanced Spanish students. You might also try focusing on the classics.
“Don Quijote” is a particularly good option. Plus, it’s in the public domain, so you can also read it for free. “Don Quijote” follows the adventures of a blundering but well-intentioned nobleman and his squire.
6. Keep a Spanish-language Diary
Keeping a Spanish-language diary will help you practice writing, which will prepare you for the writing portion of the exam.
Writing regularly like this will help you notice any holes in your vocabulary. Over time, you’ll naturally try to fill in these gaps or develop alternate means to communicate your ideas. Being able to communicate concepts in words you know (even if they aren’t the ideal words) is a helpful skill for the AP exam, since you won’t always know all the words you need. The more practice you have with this, the easier it will be.
Additionally, the more often you write in Spanish the more confident you’ll be, and being more confident generally increases your writing speed. This will allow you to write more quickly on the exam, and this will ultimately give you more time to think about what you’ve written and to review your work.
7. 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.
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.
8. Record Yourself Speaking Spanish
Record yourself talking about anything in Spanish and then listen to the recording.
What sounded good? Where did you stumble or sound less confident?
Go back and work on any areas that could use some improvement. Over time, your speech will get better and better.
Recording yourself speaking Spanish will make you more comfortable not only speaking Spanish but also recording what you say—both great results, since you’ll need to do both on the speaking section of the AP exam.
9. Tutor Another Spanish Student
On the surface, tutoring another student may seem like it would only be beneficial for that student. Guess again!
Preparing to teach a topic actually helps you learn that topic better than ever.
Going over grammar rules with another student will help you cement them in your mind. You’ll never be better at Spanish than you’ll be once you’ve gone over grammar rules again and again with someone, and once you’ve had to answer questions and consider all the little details.
By the time the AP test rolls around, you’ll have a firm grasp on any rules you previously struggled with. Plus, you’ll look all altruistic, which is a definite side-benefit.
10. Correspond with Someone in Spanish
Online language exchange is a tremendously beneficial way to improve your writing.
Find someone online or correspond with a Spanish-speaking friend. Try to find an advanced or native speaker, since you’ll want someone who models good Spanish skills—you wouldn’t want to pick up any bad habits before the exam!
Corresponding with someone in Spanish regularly will improve your reading and writing, which will help prepare you for the exam in general.
You’ll get used to all the words you need to interact with someone in writing. What’s more, experience writing emails and letters will be particularly helpful for the interpersonal writing portion of the exam, which requires that you reply to a business email.
Resources for the AP Spanish Literature and Culture Test
Here are some key resources out there that can help demystify this test for you a bit:
- CollegeBoard.org — The College Board is actually the group that runs the AP program, so it makes sense to check with them for help. On their website, you’ll find detailed course and exam guides for Spanish Literature and Culture, including expected learning outcomes, skills you’ll need for the test and even sample questions from past years.
- “Azulejo” — With such a range of reading to finish ahead of test-time, wouldn’t it be great if the works were compiled into one anthology? Well, guess what? “Azulejo” (the name means “tile,” like those used in a mosaic) includes all the works from the reading list with the added bonus of exercises and supplementary information to help you learn and think critically about what you’re reading.
- FluentU — Need to improve your Spanish listening skills? FluentU lets you practice by watching Spanish-language videos with interactive learning tools. FluentU also lets you study up on cultural subjects. You can listen to poetry by Julio Cortázar or learn about the life of Rubén Darío—all while getting the language practice you need.
So with these easy hacks, you’ll feel well-prepared for the AP Spanish exam.
Pretty great, right?
Now it’s time to get started!
And One More Thing…
If you've made it this far that means you probably enjoy learning Spanish with engaging material and will then love FluentU.
Other sites use scripted content. FluentU uses a natural approach that helps you ease into the Spanish language and culture over time. You’ll learn Spanish as it’s actually spoken by real people.
FluentU has a wide variety of videos, as you can see here:
FluentU brings native videos within reach with interactive transcripts. You can tap on any word to look it up instantly. Every definition has examples that have been written to help you understand how the word is used. If you see an interesting word you don’t know, you can add it to a vocab list.
Review a complete interactive transcript under the Dialogue tab, and find words and phrases listed under Vocab.
Learn all the vocabulary in any video with FluentU’s robust learning engine. Swipe left or right to see more examples of the word you’re on.
The best part is that FluentU keeps track of the vocabulary that you’re learning, and gives you extra practice with difficult words. It'll even remind you when it’s time to review what you’ve learned. Every learner has a truly personalized experience, even if they’re learning with the same video.
Start using the FluentU website on your computer or tablet or, better yet, download the FluentU app from the iTunes or Google Play store. All annual subscriptions now on sale!