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The 4 Best AP Spanish Prep Books [2019-2020]

Article by Jane Newsom. Last Updated: Monday, Aug 19, 2019.

AP Spanish Language Overview

The AP Spanish Language Course is one of 2 AP level High School courses in the Spanish Language (the other being AP Spanish Literature). The course focuses on communication in Spanish (that is, understanding and being understood by others), through interpersonal, interpretive and presentational skills. Grammatical accuracy in AP Spanish Language is stressed to a lesser extent than the ability to actually communicate. There are no formal prerequisites for the course, but students are usually in their 4th year of High School Spanish study.

We’ll cover the course, exams, and our picks for the best AP Spanish Language and Culture books, and Review Guides for test year 2020 below, but if you just can’t wait, here’s the short list:

Getting a jump start on college level studies in Spanish can be extremely helpful for students regardless of your field. Many college programs have foreign language requirements, and even if not AP Spanish can help contribute to general education credits. Whatever your motivation for studying AP Spanish Language, we’re here to help you make the most of your time!

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Course Summary

A full Course Description for AP Spanish Language is available from collegeboard.org.

AP Spanish Language gives students the opportunity to develop and demonstrate intermediate to pre-advanced proficiency in multiple modes of communication. The course is structured around 6 broad themes which facilitate the integration of language, content, and culture. The themes are:

  • Beauty and Aesthetics
  • Contemporary Life
  • Families and Communities
  • Global Challenges
  • Personal and Public Identities
  • Science and Technology.

In addition to the themes above, students will spend significant time and be expected to demonstrate:

  • Ability to engage in spoken interpersonal communication
  • Ability to engage in written interpersonal communication
  • Synthesize information from a variety of audio, visual, and audio-visual resources
  • Synthesize information from a variety of written print resources
  • Plan produce and present spoken presentations
  • Plan and produce written presentations.

The AP Spanish language course allows students to explore culture in historical and contemporary contexts. It helps to develop a students appreciation of products, perspectives, and practices related to the culture.

Exam Summary

Students taking the AP Spanish Language Exam are responsible for demonstrating knowledge of the above mentioned skills and abilities. The student will read and listen to Spanish Language materials, and answer questions on the content covered.

Knowledge is assessed through a 3 hour exam consisting of 2 parts, multiple choice and free response. Each of the above mentioned themes and skills will be tested.

Section 1: Multiple Choice

  • 1 hour 35 minutes long
  • 65 multiple choice questions
  • Based on print or audio texts
  • Accounts for 50% of the final score

Points are awarded for each correct answer, and no points are subtracted for incorrect or unanswered questions.

Section 2: Free Response

  • 1 hour 25 minutes long
  • 4 open ended tasks (interpersonal writing, presentational writing, interpersonal speaking, presentational speaking)
  • Accounts for 50% of the final score.

On the AP Spanish Language Exam, all questions, instructions, and texts are presented in spanish.

For exam dates, refer to The College Board AP Calendar.

Best AP Spanish Language Books

AP Spanish Language has several strong contenders for the best textbooks and review guides which we’ve ranked for you above. Continue on for detailed information on each one!

Barron’s AP Spanish Language and Culture

Barron's AP Spanish Language and Culture
9th Edition
by Paolicchi & Springer
Price:$12.56
(as of 13 Oct 19 10:11 GMT)

Pros: Excellent practice exams.
Cons: Some themes are covered in less depth than others.
Best For: Complimenting course assignments and as self assessment leading up to the exam.
Our Rating: 5 / 5

Barron’s AP Spanish Language and Culture is our top pick for best AP Spanish Language and Culture review guide in 2020. It comes with excellent online and in-book practice exams, and the audio materials are top notch. The full list of features include:

  • 3 full length practice tests (2 in book + 1 online)
  • CD containing audio practice materials
  • Strategies for improvement on all major course topics
  • Separate practice and review units

This review guide is great for supplementing your other course text books throughout the year, and as a final review guide leading up to the exam. As our top choice for the subject, you won’t be disappointed if you choose to go with this book.

5 Steps to a 5: AP Spanish Language and Culture

5 Steps to a 5: AP Spanish Language and Culture
2020 Edition
by Dennis Lavoie
Price:$20.56
(as of 13 Oct 19 10:11 GMT)

Pros: Comprehensive coverage of course themes and concepts.
Cons: Wording can be confusing in some sections.
Best For: Supplementing course materials throughout the year.
Our Rating: 4.5 / 5

5 Steps to a 5: AP Spanish Language and Culture is our second pick for best review guide this year. The book contains a wealth of information that’s presented in a logical and easy to follow way. The full list of features for this book include:

  • 2 full length practice exams
  • MP3 Disk with audio content
  • Complete review program with focused review

AP Spanish can be a challenging course and extra review material can be a tremendous help in preparing for the test. While it didn’t take our top spot, if you’ve used and enjoyed other 5 Steps to a 5 books for other courses, this is a solid choice.

Cracking the AP Spanish Language & Culture Exam

Cracking the AP Spanish Language & Culture Exam
2020 Edition
by Princeton Review
Price:$17.51
(as of 13 Oct 19 10:11 GMT)

Pros: Well rounded review of course material.
Cons: Lack of bonus online content.
Best For: Final review leading up to the exam.
Our Rating: 4.0 / 5

Cracking the AP Spanish Language & Culture Exam isn’t at the top of our list, but it’s still a great resource. It has a number of full length practice tests, as well as actual essay examples from past years. Features include:

  • 2 Full length tests with detailed answer explanations
  • Targeted review of verb and grammar forms
  • Sample essays with scored evaluations
  • Access to online study plans

Cracking the AP Spanish Language & Composition Exam has some of the best online content of any book on our list, and we don’t hesitate to recommend it to any student.

AP Spanish Language and Culture All Access

AP Spanish Language and Culture All Access
1st Edition
by Garcia & Sevilla
Price:$25.10
(as of 13 Oct 19 10:11 GMT)

Pros: Narrow focus is easy to get through in a hurry.
Cons: Limited practice test resources, somewhat out of date.
Best For: Last minute review and cramming leading up to the exam.
Our Rating: 3.5 / 5

The final entry on our list is AP Spanish Language and Culture All Access. It’s a more abbreviated and focused guide than others we recommend. This can be a big plus for students in the act of final preparation for the exam. Features include:

  • Short quizzes throughout the guide
  • Audio component prepares students for the listening sections
  • 2 Full length practice tests
  • Access to online practice materials including flash card generator

The book comes with excellent online resources including a flash card generator which can be helpful for memorization of terms. It doesn’t go as deep as some of the other guides on the list, but it definitely has a place for last minute cramming.

Wrapping Up

Given the incredible amount of information contained in the AP Spanish Language and Culture course and exam, extra practice materials and study guides are a huge help. When choosing the right book for you, it makes sense to consider factors like how much time you have to prepare for the test, and what your preferred method of study is.

We’ve gone ahead and rounded up our list of top picks for Best AP Spanish Language books. Ultimately, which one suits you best will be a matter of your circumstance and preference. Here’s a recap of our recommendations:

Top Overall RecommendationBarron’s AP Spanish Language and Culture
Top Pick For Course SupplementBarron’s AP Spanish Language and Culture
Top Pick For Last Minute PrepCracking the AP Spanish Language & Culture Exam

Barron’s AP Spanish Language and Culture is our top pick overall and our first choice for students who have plenty of time before the exam. It functions as a great supplement to other course materials like text books.

If your study timeline is more compressed, Cracking the AP Spanish Language & Culture Exam is your best bet. It does a good job of focusing on just the relevant material for the exam, and comes with great online resources.

Whatever your circumstance, supplemental study and review materials are a key part of ensuring success on the exam. We’ve listed some of the best AP Spanish Language and culture resources available. Good luck, and study hard!

Sources and Further Reading

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