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The Ultimate Guide to the AP Spanish Literature Exam

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The AP Spanish Literature and Culture exam is an excellent opportunity to show off your critical reading, writing, and analytical skills in another language while earning college credit in the process. 

But conquering the course material is only the beginning. You need to learn everything there is to know about the exam to boost your chances of earning a passing score (and college credit) to boot!

In this guide, we’ll go over everything you need to know to start prepping for the AP Spanish Literature and Culture exam, including: 

  • The structure and format of the AP Spanish Lit exam
  • The core themes and skills you’ll be tested on
  • The types of questions that appear on the exam and how to answer them (with real AP student sample responses!)
  • How the AP Spanish Lit exam is scored, with official scoring rubrics
  • Four crucial tips for prepping for the AP Spanish Lit exam

There’s a lot to cover, so let’s get started!

 

 

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Exam Overview: How Is the AP Spanish Lit Exam Structured?

The AP Spanish Literature and Culture exam tests your understanding of Spanish language skills and literature written in Spanish, including short stories, novels, essays, plays, and poetry. 

Like most AP exams, the test lasts for a total of three hours. You’ll have to answer 65 multiple choice questions and four free-response questions to complete the test. 

The AP Spanish Lit exam is divided into two sections. Section I of the exam consists of 65 multiple-choice questions and lasts for one hour and 20 minutes (80 minutes total). The multiple-choice section is further divided into two parts: Part 1A, and Part 1B. Both Part A and Part B of Section I are totally multiple choice, but they test you on different skills. As a whole, Section I counts for 50% of your total exam score

Section II of the exam tests your critical reading and analytical writing skills through four free response questions. Section II lasts for 1 hour and 40 minutes (100 minutes) and counts for 50% of your total exam score. Each free response question asks you to write either a short answer or longer essay in response to a specific text or set of texts (called “stimulus” on the exam). 

To help you visualize the breakdown, here’s the AP Spanish Lit exam structure in table format: 

Section
Question Type
# of Questions
Time
% of Score
1A
Multiple-choice
15
20 minutes
10% 
1B
Multiple-choice
50
60 minutes
40% 
2
Free-response (short answer and essay)
4
1 hour, 40 minutes
50%

Source: The College Board

But is AP Spanish Literature hard? If you want to get an idea of how difficult the exam is and learn how to get a 5 on AP Spanish Literature, keep reading: we’ll break down the course content, skills, and themes (temas de AP Spanish Literature) that you need to understand for the AP Spanish Lit exam next!

 

Course Themes, Skills, and Units

AP Spanish Lit is focused around six core themes, or temas de AP Spanish Literature. These course themes are designed to help you develop the skills you need to fully understand Spanish literature and culture…and ace the AP Spanish Lit exam!

Exploring these themes and applying them to the texts on the AP Spanish Literature reading list will equip you with the critical thinking and analytical skills you need to succeed on the AP Spanish Literature exam. The six themes and skills that you’ll master during the course are: 

Temas de AP Spanish Literature
AP Spanish Literature: Course Skills
Las sociedades en contacto (Societies in Contact)
Analysis: Analyze and/or interpret literary texts and audio sources in the target language
La construcción del genero (The Construction of Gender)
Cultural context and connections: Make connections between a literary text and a non-literary text or an aspect of culture
El tiempo y el espacio (Time and Space)
Comparing texts and art: Compare a how a theme is developed in a text and in a work of art
Las relaciones interpersonales (Interpersonal Relationships) 
Argumentation: Develop an effective argument when writing a literary analysis
La dualidad del ser (The Duality of Being)
Language and conventions: Use accurate language for literary analysis, and apply appropriate conventions of written language
La creación literaria (Literary Creation)
Literary discussions and presentations: Engage in discussions about literary texts in the target language

 

The AP Spanish Lit themes and skills are typically taught through eight units of study. Understanding these units of study will help you get a big picture view of what the course covers, and how different course topics are connected. Content from each course unit will appear on the exam, so it’s important to familiarize yourself with them as early as you can! 

The eight units of study in AP Spanish Literature are

Unit 1: La época medieval (The Medieval Period)
Unit 2: El siglo XVI (the sixteenth century)
Unit 3: El siglo XVII (the seventeenth century)
Unit 4: La literatura romántica, realista, y naturalista (romantic, realist, and naturalist literature)
Unit 5: La generación del 98 y el Modernismo (the Generation of 1898 and modernism)
Unit 6: Teatro y poesía del siglo XX (theater and poetry of the twentieth century)
Unit 7: El boom latinoamericano (the Latin American boom)
Unit 8: Escritores contemporáneos de Estados Unidos y España (contemporary writers of the U.S. and Spain)

 

Now that you have a good sense of what’s on the AP Spanish Literature exam, let’s take a closer look at each section of the exam and the types of questions that appear in each one. 

 

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Spanish AP Literature Exam Section I: Multiple-Choice

The first section of the exam tests you in two main areas: your interpretive listening skills, and your reading analysis skills

To test you on these skills, Section I is broken down into two parts: Part A and Part B. Part A will test your interpretive listening skills, and Part B will test your reading analysis skills. Both parts of Section I use authentic Spanish language texts presented in different formats to assess your skills. 

While Parts A and B of Section I test you using texts in different formats (audio vs. print/written), both parts include question types that assess you on these three skills: 

  • At least 75% of multiple-choice questions assess your ability to analyze and interpret literary and audio texts in Spanish.
  • Around 10% of multiple-choice questions assess your ability to make connections between a literary text and a non-literary text or an aspect of Spanish culture.
  • Around 10% of the multiple-choice questions assess your ability to compare literary texts in Spanish.

Since Part A and Part B are a bit different (though both are multiple-choice!), let’s break them down a bit further next. 

 

Section I Part A: Multiple-Choice Interpretive Listening

Part A of Section I asks you to demonstrate your ability to accurately interpret a variety of Spanish language audio texts. This part of Section I consists of 15 total questions that are presented in sets of either four or seven multiple-choice questions. Each set of questions comes with an audio text in either the format of an interview, a poem, and a discussion or lecture on literary topics. 

Here’s a clearer breakdown of the structure of Part A of Section I: 

Part 
# of Questions
Stimulus (text) type
Skills Tested
Part A
4
Interview
Analysis
Part A
4
Poem
Analysis
Part A
7
Discussion or lecture on literary topics
Analysis
Cultural context and connections

Source: The College Board

Since Part A is a bit of an outlier when it comes to the testing format, it’s important to understand how this part of the exam will be administered ahead of time. Let’s look at a real interpretive listening question to get a better sense of how this part of the exam works next.

 

Sample Multiple-Choice Question: Interpretive Listening

To help you get a better sense of what Section I Part A will be like, let’s take a look at a real interpretive listening question from the 2021 AP Spanish Lit exam

In the picture below, you’ll see a set of written directions (which appear in Spanish on the real exam!), a written transcript of a poem entitled “La guitarra,” and one multiple choice question. However, on the real exam, you’ll only get to listen to the text provided–you won’t be given a printed copy of it! 

When this portion of the exam begins, you’ll listen to the provided text once, then have one minute to take notes and view the exam questions for this portion of the test. After that, you’ll listen to the provided text a second time, then have one minute to answer the provided set of questions (ranging from four to seven questions in total). You’ll be able to use the notes you took for reference as you answer the questions! 

You can read the directions, Spanish language poem, and set of four questions for our example interpretive listening task here: 

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Source: The College Board

And here's the question set: 

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The four questions in the set above ask about the events that occur in the poem, as well as the poem’s imagery, tone, and writing style. We’ll break down the correct answers for each question here: 

Question #
Correct Answer
Skills Tested
1
B
Do you understand the core events of the poem? 
Are you comprehending key details in the poem? (In this case, who or what transmits the sound of the guitar.)
2
A
Can you identify and describe literary elements, voices, and stylistic features in the poem? (In this case, how the poetic voice is conveyed through the poem’s imagery.)
3
C
Can you identify perspective, tone, or attitude in the poem? (In this case, the tone of the poem.)
4
C
Can you identify and describe literary elements, voices, and stylistic features in the poem? (In this case, a stylistic resource that appears in the poem.)

 

To ace interpretive listening questions like these, you’ll need to listen closely, jot down notes about important words, themes, or ideas, and use context clues to accurately analyze the texts that you’re given. 

Next, let’s look at the second part of Section I of the exam: Part B, multiple-choice reading analysis. 

 

Section I Part B: Multiple-Choice Reading Analysis

Section I Part B asks you to demonstrate your skills of reading analysis by engaging with print or written texts. On this part of Section I, you’ll be given 60 minutes to complete 50 multiple-choice questions. Part B accounts for 40% of your exam score

The questions on Part B are divided into four sets. Each set applies to a specific text or set of texts. To give you a clearer picture of how Part B is structured, we’ll break it down further below: 

Part 
# of Questions
Stimulus (text) type
Skills Tested
Part B
2 sets of 7-10 questions
Single text (required text from the course)
Analysis
Cultural Context and Connections
Comparing Literary Texts
Part B
2 sets of 7-10 questions
Single text (non-required text)
Analysis
Cultural Context and Connections
Comparing Literary Texts
Part B
1 set of 7-10 questions
Text comparison (two texts: one from the required reading list, the other, a nonrequired text)
Analysis
Cultural Context and Connections
Comparing Literary Texts
Part B
1 set of 7-10 questions
Critical commentary
Analysis
Cultural Context and Connections
Comparing Literary Texts

Source: The College Board

 

Sample Multiple-Choice Question: Reading Analysis

To help you get a better sense of what Section I Part B will be like, let’s take a look at a real set of reading analysis questions from the 2021 AP Spanish Lit exam

In the picture below, you’ll see a set of written directions (Spanish-only provided on the real exam!), a written passage, and a set of five multiple-choice questions:

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Source: The College Board

 

Each of the questions above asks you to analyze the provided text and select the answer choice that best characterizes your understanding of the text’s meaning. Now, let’s look at the correct answers for each question and the skills you’ll need to successfully choose them: 

Question #
Correct Answer
Skills Tested
5
B
Can you read and comprehend the events occurring in the text? 
Can you comprehend key details in the text? 
6
A
Can you relate the text to its literary, historical, sociocultural, or geopolitical context?
7
D
Can you identify and describe literary elements, voices, and stylistic features in the poem? 
8
B
Can you situate the text’s language and register within social, historical, and geopolitical contexts? 
9
C
Can you explain the function and/or the significance of rhetorical, structural, and stylistic features? 

 

To succeed on reading analysis questions like the ones above, you’ll need to have a solid grasp of Spanish language conventions, strong analytical skills, and the ability to interpret ideas in different contexts.  

Next, let’s look more closely at Section II of the AP Spanish Lit exam: the free-response section. 

 

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Or more accurately, escribe algo.

 

Spanish AP Literature Section II: Free-Response

Section II of the AP Spanish Lit exam lasts for one hour and 40 minutes, includes four free-response questions, and counts for 50% of your exam score. 

There are two distinct types of questions on the AP Spanish Lit free-response section: short answer questions, and essay questions. Both types of free-response questions test your ability to clearly and thoughtfully explain the events of a text, analyze texts, and compare and contrast multiple texts that share common themes. You’ll demonstrate these skills by writing short and longer free-responses on the exam!

To help you understand what free-response questions will be like on the exam, we’ll walk you through a real exam question, scoring rubric, and student response for both short-answer and essay questions below. 

 

Free-Response Short Answer Question: Scoring Rubric and Example Response

On the AP Spanish Lit exam, you’ll respond to two short-answer questions. The sample question below is an example of a short answer free-response question from the 2021 AP Spanish Lit exam. This short-answer question asks students to provide a Spanish-language explanation of the provided text, which comes from Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz’s poem “Hombres necios que acusáis,” written in 1689: 

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Source: The College Board

 

The free-response short answer question above asks students to read the provided text, identify the author and period of the text, and explain the development of a given theme in the text. 

We’ll provide a sample student response to this question in just a minute, but first, let’s see how you could earn full credit for this question. Take a look at the official scoring rubric used to evaluate this question on the 2021 Spanish AP Lit exam to see how your response will be scored: 

Scoring Criteria: Content
1
2
3
The response incorrectly identifies the author and/or the period; response does not successfully explain the development of the theme in the text; description and narration outweigh explanation; irrelevant comments may predominate.
The response correctly identifies either the author or the period and explains the development of the theme in the text; description and narration are present but do not outweigh explanation.
The response correctly identifies the author and the period and effectively explains the development of the theme in the text.
Scoring Criteria: Language
1
2
3
Language usage is inappropriate to the task, inaccurate, or insufficient; the student’s use of language impedes the reader’s understanding of the response.
Language usage is appropriate to the task and sometimes accurate; although the student’s use of language is somewhat limited, it supports the reader’s understanding of the response.
Language usage is appropriate to the task, generally accurate, and varied; the student’s use of language supports the reader’s understanding of the response.

Source: The College Board

 

The example student response below comes straight from the 2021 AP Spanish Lit exam. The student is responding to the short-answer question we’ve included above. 

This short-answer response received a 3 for Content and a 3 for Language based on the criteria in the scoring rubric above. That means that this student response received six out of six possible points for this free-response question!

body-ap-spanish-image-11Source: The College Board

 

Free-Response Essay Question: Scoring Rubric and Example Response 

There are two free-response essay questions on the AP Spanish Lit exam. To help you get an idea of what these questions are like, let’s go over a sample essay question, scoring rubric, and student response from the 2021 AP Spanish Lit exam. 

The free-response essay question below asks students to analyze how a single text represents both the specified period, movement, literary genre, and technique and the given cultural context. The selected text in the question below comes from Gabriel García Márquez’s short story, “La siesta del martes”:

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Source: The College Board

 

Before we look at a real student’s response to this essay question, let’s look at the scoring rubric used to evaluate responses to this essay question. The rubric below was used to score this type of essay question on the 2021 AP Spanish Lit exam: 

Scoring Criteria: Content
1
2
3
4
5
The essay is inaccurate and insufficient; there is no attempt to analyze how the text represents the specified period, movement, literary genre, or technique and the given cultural context; irrelevant comments predominate.
The essay shows little ability to analyze how the text represents the specified period, movement, literary genre, or technique and the given cultural context; summary and paraphrasing predominate.
The essay attempts to analyze how the text represents the specified period, movement, literary genre, or technique and the given cultural context; however, description and narration outweigh analysis.
The essay analyzes how the text represents both the specified period, movement, literary genre, or technique and the given cultural context; description and narration are present but do not outweigh analysis.
The essay clearly analyzes how the text represents both the specified period, movement, literary genre, or technique and the given cultural context.
Scoring Criteria: Language
1
2
3
4
5
Language usage is inappropriate to the task, inaccurate, or insufficient; the student’s use of language impedes the reader’s understanding of the response.
Language usage is sometimes inappropriate to the task and generally inaccurate; the student’s use of language requires the reader to make inferences to understand the response.
Language usage is appropriate to the task and sometimes accurate; although the student’s use of language is somewhat limited, it supports the reader’s understanding of the response.
Language usage is appropriate to the task and generally accurate; the student’s use of language is clear in spite of occasional errors that do not affect the reader’s understanding of the response.
Language usage is appropriate to the task, mostly accurate, and varied; the student’s use of language is clear and supports the reader’s understanding of the response.

Source: The College Board

 

Now that you know how this type of essay question is scored, let’s look at a real student’s response to this essay question. This student’s response comes straight from the 2021 AP Spanish Lit exam and scored a 5/5 for Content and a 5/5 for Language, which means this response received full points!

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Source: The College Board

 

How the AP Spanish Literature Exam Is Scored

Understanding how your AP Spanish Lit exam will be scored can help you feel more prepared for the exam. Here, we’ll overview how each section of the AP Spanish lit exam is scored, scaled, and combined to produce your final score on the AP 1-5 scale

As a refresher, here’s how the score percentages break down on the AP Spanish Literature exam: 

  • Section I: Multiple-choice: 50% of overall score
    • Section IA: 10% of score
    • Section IB: 40% of score
  • Section II: Free-response: 50% of overall score
    • Question 1: 7.5%
    • Question 2: 7.5%
    • Question 3: 17.5%
    • Question 4: 17.5%

On the multiple choice section, you earn one raw point for every question you answer correctly. This means that the maximum raw score you can earn on the multiple choice section is 65 points. No points are deducted for wrong answers

The free-response section is a bit different. The two short answer free-response questions are each worth six raw points, and the two essay free-response questions are worth 10 points each. This means that there are a total of 32 possible points in the free-response section. 

Keep in mind that you’ll lose points on free-response questions only for major errors, like failing to analyze or compare the provided texts, for instance. You aren’t going to lose points for a stray comma splice here and there as long as grammatical errors don’t interfere with the AP grader’s ability to understand your response. 

You can earn 97 raw points on the AP Spanish Lit exam. Here’s how those are divided by section:  

  • 65 points for multiple-choice
  • 32 points for free-response

From there, your raw scores will be converted into a scaled score of 1-5 by the College Board. That’s the score you’ll see when you receive your official score report! Unfortunately, the 5 rate for the AP Spanish Literature exam is pretty low compared to other AP exams. You can see what percentage of test takers earned each possible score on the 2021 AP Spanish Lit exam below: 

AP Score
% of Students Who Earned Score (2021)
5
7.8
4
20.8
3
36.3
2
25.5
1
9.6

Source: The College Board

 

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4 Tips for Prepping for the AP Spanish Literature and Culture Exam

You know what’s on the exam and how it’s scored. Now you’re ready to get down to business! If you’re wondering how to study for AP Spanish Literature, keep reading–we’ll give you four top tips for kickstarting your Spanish AP Literature prep below!

 

Tip 1: Take a Practice Exam

The best way to assess your preparedness for the AP Spanish Lit exam is to test your skills out on a practice exam. Taking a practice exam will help you identify skills and texts that you struggle with. From there, you can design a study plan that targets your weaker areas to improve your chances of earning a passing score!

You can find a full set of official multiple-choice practice questions here, and the College Board provides a large repository of past free-response exam questions on their website. Be sure to use official practice questions like the ones linked here as much as possible. Using official practice materials ensures you’re getting quality practice that’s very similar to the real exam!  

 

Tip 2: Consult AP Spanish Literature Reading Lists

The AP Spanish Literature course includes a total of 38 required texts–and you’ll be expected to read and know all of them for the exam. That’s a lot of texts to master, especially if Spanish isn’t your first language! 

Your AP teacher will dedicate lots of class time to teaching you the texts on the AP Spanish Literature reading list, but if you want to really learn them, you’ll need to spend time studying them outside of class too. Remember: all of the required course readings will be unabridged, full-text, and in Spanish. The more effort you dedicate to studying the texts on the AP Spanish Literature reading list on your own time, the more successful you’re likely to be on the AP exam. 

The College Board provides an official AP Spanish Literature reading list on their website. You can use this list to start working through the course readings and searching for supplemental study materials for individual texts online. 

 

Tip 3: Master the Temas de AP Spanish Literature

Understanding the six core themes of the AP Spanish Lit course (temas de AP Spanish Literature) is crucial to success on the AP exam. These course themes are designed to promote critical thinking about the course readings and encourage making connections and comparisons between different texts and cultures. 

As you take the AP Spanish Literature course, you’ll notice that the course themes are paired with various learning goals. Pay close attention when these themes pop up in course materials and consider what you should be learning from them! Doing this will help you develop the skills you need to interpret, analyze, and compare texts on the exam

 

Tip 4: Practice Tough Questions 

As you progress through the AP Spanish Lit course, you’ll begin to notice question types that seem to trip you up. As you get graded quizzes and tests back during class, keep running notes about the questions you miss. Jot down what type of question it was (multiple choice or free response), the skills it assessed, and where you lost points or went wrong. 

From there, you can find and work with practice questions (like the ones linked earlier!) that are the same type as the ones you’ve struggled with. The more you practice with questions that trip you up, the more likely you’ll be to get them right on the real exam!

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What’s Next? 

Need a little help with your Spanish vocabulary? This list of how to talk about body parts in Spanish can give you a fun way to brush up! 

Thinking about taking another foreign language in high school? This guide will help you pick the best languages for you. 

While the SAT Spanish subject test is no longer offered, you can use the free study materials to help you practice your reading and comprehension skills. We’ve compiled a list of resources that you can use as extra prep. 

 

 

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Ashley Robinson
About the Author

Ashley Sufflé Robinson has a Ph.D. in 19th Century English Literature. As a content writer for PrepScholar, Ashley is passionate about giving college-bound students the in-depth information they need to get into the school of their dreams.



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