AP classes are college-level courses offered by high schools in various subjects, including Spanish! AP stands for Advanced Placement, meaning students who take these classes can earn college credits by taking exams at the end of the year. AP classes are designed to challenge students who have already achieved a high level of proficiency in that subject and to help develop their critical thinking, communication, and academic skills.
The AP Spanish classes are no exception. But, if you only have space in your schedule for one AP Spanish class, which one should you take? In this blog, we will compare and contrast these two classes to help you decide which one is right for you. Along the way, we’ll also give you some tips on how to prepare for the exams.
What are the AP Spanish Classes?
The AP Spanish classes are college-level courses offered by high schools in the United States and other countries. They are designed to challenge students who have already achieved a high level of proficiency in Spanish and to help them develop their critical thinking, communication, and cultural awareness.
The AP Spanish Literature and Culture class focuses on analyzing and interpreting literary texts from different genres, periods, and regions of the Spanish-speaking world. The class covers eight units:
Unit 1: La época medieval (The Medieval Period)
Unit 2: El siglo XVI (The 16th Century)
Unit 3: El siglo XVII (The 17th Century)
Unit 4: La literatura romántica, realista y naturalista (Romanticism, Realism, and Naturalism)
Unit 5: La Generación del 98 y el Modernismo (The Generation of ’98 and Modernism)
Unit 6: Teatro y poesía del siglo XX (20th Century Theater and Poetry)
Unit 7: El Boom latinoamericano (The Latin-American Boom)
Unit 8: Escritores contemporáneos de Estados Unidos, y España (Contemporary Writers of the United States and Spain.)
The class also exposes students to various artistic, historical, and social contexts that influenced the production and reception of literature.
The AP Spanish Language and Culture class focuses on developing and integrating the four language skills: listening, speaking, reading, and writing. This exam has precise guidelines that specify what you’ll need to know, do, and understand to score a three or higher on the exam. This class has six units:
Unit 1: Families in Different Societies
Unit 2: The Influence of Language and Culture on Identity
Unit 3: Influences of Beauty and Art
Unit 4: How Science and Technology Affect Our Lives
Unit 5: Factors That Impact the Quality of Life
Unit 6: Environmental, Political, and Societal Changes
The class also exposes students to various cultural products, practices, and perspectives of the Spanish-speaking world.
Both classes require students to take an exam, usually in May, consisting of multiple-choice and free-response sections. The exams assess students’ ability to demonstrate their understanding of the course content, as well as their language proficiency and intercultural competence.
You can always delve further into the material for both courses by downloading and reading the course syllabi that the College Board, the organization that runs the AP exams, creates to help teachers. Page 18 of this document provides an overview of AP Spanish Literature and Culture, while this document is a guide for AP Spanish Language and Culture.
These syllabi can also help you prepare for a class if you decide to get some studying in over the summer. If you’re really motivated, the documents include the required texts for the AP Spanish Literature class and suggested readings for AP Spanish Language. While your teacher may not assign the exact same texts for your particular class, the practice will definitely help you prepare for the class!
Who Should Take AP Spanish Literature and Culture?
AP Spanish Literature and Culture is a challenging but rewarding course that can help you improve your language skills and cultural knowledge while exposing you to a rich and diverse literary tradition. However, it’s not for everyone. Here are some factors to consider before enrolling in AP Spanish Literature and Culture:
Your Spanish Proficiency
The College Board recommends that students who take AP Spanish Literature and Culture have a high level of proficiency in Spanish across all modes of communication. Typically, this means students are in their fourth year of high-school-level study or have equivalent experience. If you’re a native or heritage speaker, this may be enough without taking additional classes. However, whether you are a native Spanish speaker or not, you should be able to understand complex texts written in different varieties of Spanish, express your ideas clearly and accurately in written and spoken Spanish, and use appropriate grammar and vocabulary.
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AP Spanish Literature and Culture is not just a language course; it’s a literature course. You should be interested in reading, analyzing, discussing, and writing about different types of literary works from different periods and regions. You should also be willing to learn about the historical, cultural, social, political, and artistic contexts that shaped the literature. If you enjoy reading stories, poems, plays, and essays that explore themes such as identity, love, death, power, justice, freedom, and beauty, then you might enjoy this course.
Your Academic and Career Goals
AP Spanish Literature and Culture can help you prepare for college-level courses in Spanish or other humanities disciplines by building critical reading and literary analysis skills. It can also help you demonstrate your academic achievement and potential to colleges by earning a high score on the AP exam. Additionally, it can help you fulfill some college requirements or earn some college credit depending on your score and the policies of the college you attend.
However, taking AP Spanish Literature and Culture is one of many classes you can take to build critical communication skills. This class is most useful if you plan to major or minor in Spanish, Latin American studies, or another related field. Example careers might include:
- Tourism: Tour guides who speak Spanish can cater to the needs of travelers from Spanish-speaking countries or regions. Alternatively, they can also give tours in Spanish-speaking countries to people who speak other languages, particularly if they’re familiar with that country’s culture and artistic works. Similarly, you could work as a travel agent, hotel manager, flight attendant, or cruise ship staff member.
- Lawyer: While there are many types of lawyers, several might benefit from studying Spanish literature and culture. For example, public interest lawyers bring lawsuits to get positive results for large groups of people. Historically, these types of lawyers have been very influential in changing public policy, such as when working with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) to form the case for Brown v. Board of Education.
- Sociologist: If you’re interested in helping people improve their lives, you might want to consider becoming a sociologist. You’ll study people and behavior, enabling you to examine various societal problems, from why people don’t recycle to the causes of social injustices. Understanding the history of a people’s culture is essential, and AP Spanish Literature and Culture can start teaching you about Spanish culture.
Who Should Take AP Spanish Language and Culture?
If you’re primarily interested in improving your Spanish, then AP Spanish Language and Culture is the class for you. The more technical of the two classes, the goal is to prepare students to take college-level Spanish courses, whether that means taking Spanish-based humanities classes in the US or studying abroad in a Spanish-speaking country. As such, if you’re considering taking the class, you should consider the following:
Your Spanish Proficiency
AP Spanish Language and Culture is taught in Spanish, and students are equally encouraged to converse entirely in Spanish. Typically, this means students are high school seniors or have equivalent experience, such as being a native or heritage speaker. You’ll need to understand written, audio, audiovisual, and visual Spanish to excel in this class, so if you don’t have extensive experience with Spanish, this probably isn’t the right course for you.
If you’re taking AP Spanish Language and Culture just to help with your college applications, it’s probably not the right course for you. It takes a lot of work to prepare for the class, and APs are best reserved for areas you are passionate about. This fact is doubly true if you’re a native or heritage speaker; colleges aren’t very impressed if you get a five on AP Spanish Language and Culture if you speak Spanish at home.
Your Academic and Career Goals
AP Spanish Language and Culture is best if you have clear academic or career goals aligning with the class. Like AP Spanish Literature, this class is most useful if you plan to major or minor in Spanish, Latin American studies, or another related field. Example careers might include:
- Teaching: Teachers of Spanish as a second or foreign language can work in various settings, such as schools, colleges, language institutes, online platforms, or private tutoring. They can also teach other subjects in bilingual or immersion programs that use Spanish as a medium of instruction. Taking AP Spanish Language is a great way to prepare to teach after university.
- Translation: Translators convert written texts from one language to another while preserving the meaning and style of the original. They can work in different fields and genres, such as literature, business, law, medicine, or technology. Having outstanding written skills is crucial for this type of work, and AP Spanish Language will set you up for success.
- Interpretation: Interpreters relay spoken or signed messages from one language to another in real time. They can work in different settings and modes, such as conferences, courts, or hospitals. Having a natural and nuanced understanding of the language is key to this job, so the focus on the language and culture in this class is essential.
How Hard Is the AP Exam?
The difficulty of the AP Spanish exams depends on several factors, such as the student’s level of proficiency in Spanish, their familiarity with the course content and format, their test-taking skills and strategies, and their preparation time and resources. However, based on the data from previous years, we can get a general idea of how hard the exams are by looking at the pass rates and score distributions.
How Hard is AP Spanish Literature and Culture?
The AP Spanish Literature and Culture exam is a three-hour test that assesses your ability to interpret and analyze literary texts in Spanish. The exam consists of two sections: multiple-choice and free-response. The multiple-choice section has 65 questions, accounting for 50% of your score. The free-response section counts for 50% of your score and has the following four tasks:
- Text Explanation: You will read an excerpt from a required text and write a commentary explaining the text’s meaning, purpose, and effect.
- Text and Art Comparison: You will read an excerpt from a required text and view a work of art related to the same theme. You will write an essay comparing and contrasting the text and the artwork.
- Analysis of a Single Text: You will read an excerpt from a non-required text and analyze the text using one of the literary terms provided.
- Text Comparison: You will read two excerpts from non-required texts related to the same theme. You will write an essay comparing and contrasting the texts.
The AP Spanish Literature and Culture exam is considered one of the hardest AP exams because of the high level of language proficiency and literary knowledge required to do well. According to the College Board, in 2022, only 8.1% of students who took the exam scored a 5, making it the second hardest exam to score a five on that year. However, 64.3% of students scored a 3 or above: an overall pass rate that is slightly higher than average.
How Hard is AP Spanish Language and Culture?
Similar to AP Spanish Literature, the AP Spanish Language exam is also a three-hour exam divided into two sections: multiple-choice and free-response. The first half of the multiple-choice section is without audio, takes 40 minutes, and is worth 23% of your grade. The second half includes audio, takes 55 minutes, and is worth 27% of your grade.
The free-response section is divided into written and spoken sections, each worth 25% of your grade. The written portion is longer, taking an hour and ten minutes, while the spoken portion takes only 18 minutes. The tasks are as follows:
- Interpersonal Writing: You’ll be asked to write an email, responding to one you’ve received in the question prompt.
- Presentational Writing: This takes up the majority of the writing section, as you’ll be asked to write an argumentative essay based on three sources. Two sources are usually written in the form of an article, table, graph, chart, or infographic. The last one is usually a related audio source, which is played twice.
- Interpersonal Speaking: Students engage in five mock conversations. They are given 20 seconds to respond to each question, which they are allowed to see in advance.
- Presentational Speaking: The prompt will give students a cultural feature of a Spanish-speaking community. You’ll have to deliver a 2-minute presentation comparing it to your community or another community you’re familiar with.
In contrast to AP Spanish Literature, 23.6% of students who took AP Spanish Language and Culture in 2022 scored a 5. Unsurprisingly, the exam also has an 81.8% pass rate. However, it’s important to note that these statistics include both native and non-native speakers of Spanish. You’ll likely find the exam easy to pass if you’re a native speaker but a bit more challenging if you aren’t.
You can see the full score breakdown below:
|AP Span Lit
|AP Span Lang
Don’t let these statistics discourage you from taking either exam. With proper preparation and practice, you can improve your chances of getting a good score.
How to Study for an AP Spanish Exam
Studying for an AP Spanish exam requires a lot of dedication, practice, and feedback. Here are some tips on how to study effectively and efficiently:
- Review the course and exam descriptions: The College Board provides detailed information on what each AP Spanish class covers and the breakdown of each unit. Reviewing these documents can help you understand the course’s objectives, themes, units, and texts. When creating your study plan, focus on the topics the College Board emphasizes on the exam to maximize your study time.
- Use a textbook or other study materials: A textbook or other study materials can help you review the content and skills of the course and exam, particularly if you start to study the topic over the summer. In particular, we recommend Abriendo paso: Lectura y gramática for AP Spanish Literature and Culture, along with, of course, the required reading list for the course. If you’re taking AP Spanish Language and Culture, Triángulo Aprobado is a solid choice.
- Practice your language skills: To succeed on an AP Spanish exam, you need to demonstrate a high level of proficiency in at least reading and writing. You’ll also need to demonstrate speaking and listening skills for the AP Spanish Language Exam. For either class, you should read books in Spanish to prepare, but you should also consider listening to podcasts or watching videos in Spanish, particularly if you’re taking AP Spanish Language and Culture.
- Take practice tests: If you read this blog regularly, you’ll know that we always recommend taking practice tests, and there are good reasons why! Practice tests can help you familiarize yourself with the exam’s format, timing, and difficulty. It can also help you identify your strengths and weaknesses and improve your test-taking skills and strategies. For the AP Spanish exams, you can find practice questions on the College Board website, through textbooks, and even online question banks.
Both AP Spanish Literature and Culture and AP Spanish Language and Culture allow students fluent in Spanish to further improve their language skills. The former focuses on textual analysis, introducing more dialects of Spanish and exposing students to the history of Spanish-speaking cultures worldwide. The latter focuses more on the grammar and structure of Spanish, as evidenced by the speaking and listening components on the exam.
Suppose you’re a US-based student interested in applying to international schools and notice that they still list a requirement for a Spanish SAT Subject test. In that case, an AP Spanish score of a 4 or 5 is usually accepted as a substitute since the Spanish SAT Subject tests are no longer offered.
We hope this blog has given you some useful information and insights on the AP Spanish classes and exams. If you are interested in learning more about other AP classes, you can check out our other blogs. We also have one comparing AP English Literature and Composition with AP English Language!
We wish you all the best in your AP Spanish journey! ¡Buena suerte!