AP Spanish Language and Culture

Advanced Placement Spanish Language and Culture (often referred to as AP Spanish Language and Culture, AP Spanish Language, AP Spanish V or simply AP Spanish) is a course and examination offered by the College Board in the United States education system as part of the Advanced Placement Program.[1]

The course

This course is primarily a comprehensive review of all previous knowledge pertaining to the Spanish language. This class builds upon the skills developed within introductory and intermediate Spanish classes by applying each skill to a specific, contemporary context (health, education, careers, literature, history, family, relationships, and environment being common themes). Thus, the students strive to refine their skills in writing, reading, speaking, and understanding spoken Spanish. Students concentrate on developing proficiency in such skills specifically in preparation for the AP Spanish Language examination. In addition, this course will emphasize mastery of linguistic competencies at a very high level of proficiency.

Despite the best attempts by the College Board the AP Spanish Language curriculum is very fluid. Individual teachers can choose to present as much or as little information as possible. Because teachers inherently have different methods of pedagogy, issues arise that pertain to the necessity of a standardized Spanish curriculum for the exam. Because the Spanish language is so eclectic and can be tested in a plethora of manners, a more solidified curriculum covering specific vocabulary, verb forms and usages, expressions, and other facets of the language may be required in the future.

While some students may be concerned about their ability to demonstrate proficiency in an assessment that native speakers of Spanish also take, only the scores of students who study Spanish as a second language are factored when creating the distribution curve of scores 1-5. Native speakers or heritage language speakers of Spanish are then compared to non-native distribution and assigned a score accordingly.

The exam

As of May 2017, the exam is divided into seven sections. Section one contains sections of reading comprehension, in which students read four different passages and then answer multiple-choice questions about them. This section is 40 minutes.

Section two contains readings with audio accompaniment, and asks students multiple-choice questions to compare and contrast the two as well as synthesize each one individually. Section three contains audio presentations of approximately three minutes and has multiple-choice questions. The two sections combined are allotted 55 minutes.

In section four, students respond to a formal e-mail with a short response and ask questions to the author. This section is 15 minutes.

In section five, a formal writing component takes the shape of a document-based question. Students must use two sources as well as listen to a recording to give a written answer to the question.

Section six is an informal speaking section, where students are expected to interact to a recorded dialogue, during which they have 20 seconds to answer each section. Section seven asks students to give a formal oral presentation with a cultural comparison document and have four minutes to prepare and two minutes to record.

The test is approximately three and 1/2 hours in length.

Note: As of 2017, all audio responses must be digitally submitted online as an mp3 file. CD players are no longer accepted.

Section Item Type Number of Questions and % Weight of Final Score Time
Section I Multiple Choice 50% 95 minutes
Part A: Reading Section Print Texts 30 questions 25% 40 minutes
Part B: Reading and Listening Section Print and Audio Texts 35 questions 25% 55 minutes
Section II Free Response 50% 90 minutes
Part A: Writing Formal Writing: Email Response 1 prompt (12.5%)
15 minutes
25% 70 minutes
Formal Writing: Persuasive Essay

1 prompt (12.5%)
55 minutes
Part B: Speaking Informal Speaking
(Simulated Conversation)
5-6 response prompts (12.5%)
20 seconds to respond to each
25% 18 minutes
Formal Oral Presentation
(Cultural Comparison)
1 prompt (12.5%)
4 minutes to prepare, 2 minutes to respond


Grade distribution

Both tables range from 2014 and beyond, since that is the last time the AP Spanish course and exam were changed.

The table below is the grade distribution combining both the native speakers and Standard Group:

Score 2014[4] 2015[5] 2016[6] 2017[7] 2018[8]
5 24.1% 27.4% 27.8% 19.5% 23.2%
4 35.1% 35.1% 34.7% 34.8% 35.0%
3 30.1% 27.5% 26.9% 34.2% 30.1%
2 9.2% 8.7% 9.2% 10% 10.4%
1 1.5% 1.2% 1.4% 1.5% 1.3%
% of 3 or Higher 89.3% 90.1% 89.4% 88.5%
Mean 3.71 3.79 3.78 3.61
Number of Students 135,341 144,561 155,258 168,307

The table below is the grade distribution from the Standard Group:

Score 2014[4] 2015[5] 2016[6] 2017[7] 2018
5 18.5% 19.1% 19.4% 15.9%
4 33,2% 32.9% 32.2% 31.9%
3 32.9% 33.3% 32.4% 35.9%
2 12.6% 12.5% 13.7% 13.6%
1 2.8% 2.3% 2.2% 2.7%
% of 3 or Higher 84.6% 85.2% 84% 83.7%
Mean 3.52 3.54 3.53 3.45
Number of Students 41,627 47,188 50,753 54,839


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