Spanish Subject Test

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The Spanish Subject Test is a great way to highlight your knowledge of Spanish and demonstrate your interest in the Spanish language during the college-admission process. Plus, it could give you a head start in college by allowing you to fulfill basic language competency requirements or place out of introductory-level Spanish courses.

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Test Basics

Scoring, Timing, Number of Questions
Points Minutes Questions
200-800 60 85 (Multiple Choice)

Getting Ready for the Test

  • Knowledge of words representing different parts of speech and some basic idioms within culturally appropriate contexts.
  • Ability to select an appropriate word or expression that is grammatically correct within a sentence. One part of the test contains vocabulary and structure questions embedded in longer paragraphs.
  • Understanding of such points as the main and supporting ideas, themes, style, tone, and the spatial and temporal settings of a passage. Selections are drawn from prose fiction, historical works, and newspaper and magazine articles, as well as advertisements, flyers and letters.
  • 3–4 years of study in high school or the equivalent (two years for advanced students)
  • Gradual development of competence in Spanish over a period of years
CONTENT Approximate % of Test
Vocabulary and structure 33%
Paragraph completion 33%
Reading comprehension 33%

Download the SAT Subject Tests Student Guide (.pdf/6.3MB) for more information on the topics.

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The Official Study Guide for All SAT Subject Tests, Second Edition

Get the only study guide available for all 20 SAT Subject Tests.

Features include:

  • 20 full-length, previously administered Subject Tests
  • Detailed answer explanations for all test questions
  • The most up-to-date tips and approaches on selecting which tests to take, the best time to take the tests, and how to best be ready for test day
  • The latest versions of the instructions, background questions, and answer sheet
  • Detailed descriptions of every Subject Test, including topics covered and recommended course work
  • Two audio CDs for all six Language with Listening Tests

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Additional Things to Know

When should I take the Spanish test?

There are a few factors to consider as you decide when to take the test. You should have at least two years of strong preparation in the language, but the more the better.

It's recommended that you take the Spanish test as close to the end of the most advanced Spanish class that you plan to take, while still balancing college admission and placement requirements. You’re likely not to do as well if you take the test after you haven’t been in a Spanish class for several months.

  • For seniors studying Spanish: If Spanish is a strong subject for you, be sure it’s one of the SAT Subject Tests you take in time for colleges to see your score. If you’re only taking it for placement purposes, and not as part of your application, wait until you’re as far along in your course as possible. If you want to take the Spanish with Listening test, check the test schedule to see when it's offered (and don't forget to bring a portable CD player with earphones).

What’s the difference between the Spanish test and the Spanish with Listening test?

The Spanish test includes reading only—you read in Spanish and answer multiple-choice questions. The Spanish with Listening test also includes a listening portion—you listen in Spanish and answer multiple-choice questions. Although students report feeling more anxious about the listening portion, they also tend to do better on that part of the test. Plus, many colleges indicate the Spanish with Listening test gives them a fuller picture of your ability and may be more useful for placement purposes.

Which Spanish is used on the Spanish test?

The language used on the test is taken from pieces written and dialogue spoken by those who use Spanish in their everyday lives. Words or sayings specific to certain geographic areas (e.g., Mexico or Spain) will not be used on the test. If you’ve had at least two years of strong preparation in the language, then you should be able to understand the Spanish on the test.

I am familiar with Spanish but have not taken a class in high school. Can I still take the Spanish test?

No matter how you acquired your knowledge of Spanish, it’s important to show colleges what you know. Bilingual (or multilingual) abilities are achievements that deserve to be highlighted. Your test will be scored the same way as that of someone who learned Spanish in the classroom only. If you’ve been exposed to a lot of spoken Spanish, then you should definitely consider taking the Spanish with Listening test.

If you’ll be using these results to fulfill a college-admission requirement, you should be aware that different colleges have different policies regarding Subject Tests in foreign languages. You should check with the colleges that you’re interested in about their policies and seek guidance from your counselor or teacher on your specific situation.

Please note that this test reflects what is commonly taught in high school. Due to differences in high school classes, it’s likely that most students will find questions on topics they’re not familiar with. This is nothing to worry about. You do not have to get every question correct to receive the highest score (800) for the test. Many students do well despite not having studied every topic covered.