By Emily Aguilar
¡Hola, chicos! ¿Están nerviosos para el examen de AP? So was I last year in May, but I’m happy to say, eh, no era tan mal!
The only feeling I remember before taking the test was a soothing warmth in my little panza. The Spanish department had pitched in on Mexican bread and hot chocolate for the students taking the test that May morning, so whatever stress I should have had melted with the warm sip of Abuelita Hot Chocolate. Lucky for me, the test was no harder than tying a shoe. During the multiple choice section, I giggled at how simply written the passages were, and it was even better because the questions themselves practically gave me the answers to the question. I’ll admit, I stumbled a bit during the impersonal conversation, but I handled myself pretty well for the essay portion of the exam. However, I do wish I would have studied more on my vocabulary. Nonetheless, I ended the test victoriously and managed a 4 in the end.
Now just because the test is easy to manage doesn’t mean it’s not easy to fail the test as well. You will have to know what you’re going into beforehand:
Section 1 is the multiple-choice section which is divided into two sections.
- The first section involves reading a series of passages that may include journals, articles, short stories, or research papers. These are all part of the first 30 questions you will have to answer. This section will last for 40 minutes.
- While you wait for the whole room to finish, you will have to prepare yourself for the next part of the section: the listening and answering section. Make sure your ears are sharp and cleared out, because you will have to listen attentively to a series of audio recordings to answer the next 35 questions on the test. This will go on for 55 minutes.
In total, you will have 95 minutes to answer 65 (simple) questions. You will most likely take your 5 minute break after this. You might hear this before and during the break, but it is vital that you follow these simple instructions: do not feel tempted to go over the questions on the test. Even a simple “Dude, that one question where they asked you…Was so easy!” can get your test terminated.
Section 2 is the Free Response portion — in other words, the real part of the exam. The next 85 minutes of your life is divided into four sections:
- The interpersonal e-mail reply in which you will have 15 minutes to reply to an e-mail either formally or informally.
- The persuasive essay where you are given 55 minutes to read over articles, graphs/statistics, and an audio source and stand for or against a topic.
- The interpersonal speaking portion where you respond to a series of recorded statements or questions by your “friend.” Keep in mind that you have approximately 20 seconds to reply to the audio tapes.
- The final section where you talk about the cultural differences of Latin American society to that of another society.
Those three long hours will be your morning on May 7th beginning at 8:00 AM, pero no te preocupes, sera facil con mi asistencia.
Before you take any test, the one factor that will always help you is when you focus on your weaknesses. Maybe you’re the best writer in your class, but you tend to forget when a word needs an accent. That’s okay; it’s a common mistake everyone needs to practice. It’s best to make a checklist of what you know and what you don’t. Out of the many factors that will help you on the test, these are the most prevalent you should focus on:
Conjugation: This word alone should make you cringe if your teacher took the initiative to teach you correctly. Hopefully, your teacher gave you all the notes he or she could provide in order to teach you correctly. If not, the concept of conjugation isn’t hard. If you are a native Spanish speaker, you should know how and when to say something given the topic, but you in case you have your doubts, THIS is a fantastic resource for you. If at any time you want to improve your conjugation while writing, reading articles or reviewing your classwork is a good idea.
Spelling/Accents: When it comes to words such as azucar or Africa, You might get confused on where the vowel might go. You should know that all accents go over vowels, but which one is it? The best way to figure this out is through the stress test. This is a task where you break up the words into syllables and determine where the accent is supposed to go based on the syllable with the most emphasis. If you take the word Africa, and split it up into a-zu-car, you can feel your tongue naturally draw most attention to the “zu.” For more help, this site is a good resource.
Culture: While conjugation might have been the biggest nightmare from your Spanish class, it’s possible that your teacher probably didn’t focus on culture as much as he or she should have. When it comes to the second half of the test, you will have to compare and contrast a series of cultures with that of Latin America or the United States. If you are lucky, you will only have to compare a Latin American culture to the US, but then again, you might not know much about any other country except Mexico when the question might apply to Cuba.
In order to amass as much knowledge as you can about world and North American cultures, you might want to overlook the articles given to you in class and make notes about the cultures of certain countries. Another good source is to watch the news. My teacher recommended http://www.rtve.es/ as a news source, and admittedly, watching and reading the news on this website was phenomenally helpful in understanding other cultures — not to mention it helped me get past the thick Castillean accents you might be forced to hear on the test.
Writing Persuasively: Even if your spelling and conjugation is great, your writing can still prevent you from getting that 5 you desire. The best essays, as my teacher has told me, are the ones where you agree with the prompt. Take for example the AP test’s fascination with the problems presented by social media. Now you might not personally agree with the topic, but the sources the test will give you will stand in favor with the idea that the fascination with social media is the biggest problem the world is facing, so you have no choice but to agree. As much as you might want to argue against it, just let down your personal belief for a day. Remember, this is an essay to get college credit, not your chance to campaign your personal belief.
Even after you focus on your weaknesses, you will realize that there are other factors that might keep you from getting that 4 or 5. Studying AP Spanish is not like studying for AP Calculus; because there are numerous applications to the AP Spanish exam, you have to make sure you take advantage of every opportunity to study Spanish outside of the classroom. Whether or not you speak Spanish on a daily basis, it’s best to assimilate Spanish into your daily life: speak to family members in Spanish to better understand how certain phrases are used, and they might also help you with certain uses of verbs, conjugation techniques, and share cultural experiences that can help you on the test. If you don’t speak Spanish on a regular basis, it would be best if you volunteered in areas where speaking Spanish is prevalent. If volunteering takes too much of your time, you could settle for watching movies dubbed in Spanish; it’s a good way to pick up as much Spanish as you need.
In spite of the classroom experience you had, I want to stress the fact that anyone can pass the AP Spanish test. Even though my entire class wanted our teacher exiled from the school, we couldn’t help but admit that she prepared us for that test. If your case is better or worse than mine, just know that si se puede lograr! Just apply yourself and you can do it.
Emily Aguilar is a California native who is eager to become a journalist for the Los Angeles Times one day. While she is looking forward to enrolling at UC Riverside in September, she spends her free time working on new stories for her local newspaper and helping her friends with menial love advice.
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