How to prepare for the AP® Spanish Language exam?

5 Tips to a 5 on the AP® Spanish Language & Culture Exam

The question every AP ® Spanish student is asking is how to get a 5 on the AP® Spanish exam. There are several strategies and practices you should consider as you prepare to take, not only the AP® Spanish Language & Culture Exam, but also the course itself. These tips will help position you for success as exam time approaches in May. Like any new endeavor you take on, your commitment to practice and using the language will directly relate to your performance on the AP® Spanish exam. As I tell my own students: “Rafael Nadal didn’t win multiple tennis championships by watching tennis on TV! At some point, you’ve just got to pick up the racquet and start hitting the tennis ball around the court.”

#1 – Read and listen to authentic sources in the target language.

This is a sine qua non when learning a second language. Since the print and audio texts on the exam are sourced from Spanish-language media, TV, blogs, podcasts, newspapers and magazines, you should spend a considerable part of your prep time digging into these authentic sources. Some of my favorite sources are: Radio Naciones Unidas,, Radio Caracol and

#2 – Practice interpersonal speaking and writing with a native or heritage speaker.

There is no substitute for using the language in an informal setting that reinforces your speaking skills, control of language structures and vocabulary usage. Using social media, gaming, FaceTime, texting and face-to-face conversations will not only give you confidence as you speak but also improve your fluency and accuracy with the language. Invite a Hispanic friend (or make a new one!) out for coffee/lunch. The hour you spend practicing Spanish is the equivalent of several days of class time.

If you have the chance, take advantage of the summer break to prepare for the AP® Spanish exam in a hispanic country. Centro MundoLengua’s Pre-AP® Spanish Language program is a great option.

#3 – Keep a journal in Spanish.

Whether you choose to journal in a notebook or digitally, keeping a journal in Spanish will help you with your writing skills. It will also help you getting your thoughts down on paper when it comes time to write the argumentative essay. Practice taking a stand on a particular issue and backing it up with evidence from sources you read, listen to or view.

#4 – Study up on culture.

Whether it’s watching the news in Spanish, reading an online newspaper or watching YouTube videos, there is a wealth of information you can use on the AP® Spanish exam. Even your textbook is not a bad place to start. Choose cultural readings and podcasts in Spanish about topics that interest you! It can prove to be very useful in the cultural comparison. Think about how you might compare what you learn about the Spanish-speaking world with your own community.  Many students lack cultural knowledge, especially details, about places where Spanish in spoken. Explore your interests (sports, arts, the environment, music, history, technology, religion, geography, etc.)! But, do it in Spanish!

#5 –Practice timed tasks.  

Using a stopwatch on your phone, time yourself when doing a multiple- choice reading exercise. Can you read and answer the items in 10-12 minutes? When you’re writing the formal email, limit yourself to exactly 15 minutes. Can you write a cohesive argumentative essay in 40 minutes? Can you speak in Spanish, making a cultural comparison, with 4 minutes to plan and 2 minutes to speak? Do not waste time reading the instructions on the exam; you should be very familiar with these before going in. Do use, however, the advanced organizer. This can hint as to the content and source of the test material.

Now, you know how to prepare for the AP® Spanish Language exam. Preparing for the AP® Spanish Language and Culture exam is a must to pass the exam. If you follow these tips, we are sure you will be fine!

Would you like to prepare for AP® Spanish Language course and exam in Spain during the summer break? Centro MundoLengua offers 2 well-recognized programs. Click the links below for more information!

About the author:

Ken Stewart (BA International Studies and Spanish UNC-Chapel Hill; MA Spanish NC State University) is an ACTFL National Foreign Language Teacher of Year.

He currently teaches Advanced Spanish Writing at Duke University in North Carolina. A National Board Certified high school Spanish teacher, he has taught middle grades through college. Ken is a recent member of the ACTFL Board of Directors, the SCOLT Board, and the Executive Council of the AATSP. He was the recipient of ACTFL’s Florence Steiner Award for Leadership in Foreign Language Education K-12. He has served on the AP® Spanish Language and Culture Test Development Committee, as a question leader at the AP® Reading, and has been a national consultant for over 25 years. Ken has conducted over 200 workshops and summer institutes throughout the US as well as in Europe, the Middle East, Asia and Latin America. Ken works as a freelance world language consultant and keynote speaker.

Pre-AP® is a registered trademark of the College Board, which was not involved in the development and delivery of this professional development. College Board, AP®, Advanced Placement®, Advanced Placement Program®, AP® Vertical Teams, Pre-AP® and the acorn logo are registered trademarks of the College Board. Used with permission.

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