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Anika Manzoor

SAT Spanish Subject Test

There are a variety of reasons why students would consider taking the SAT Spanish Subject Test. If the colleges that you are looking at requires or recommends SAT Subject Tests and you’re a whiz at Spanish, the Spanish Subject Test can be a great way to show of your bilingual skills in an era where multiculturalism and worldliness are big plus points. If you’re taking it a step further and considering majoring in Spanish, some schools even use the SAT Spanish Subject Test as one of the methods for determining placement for classes. If you’re interested, here’s everything you would need to know about the SAT Spanish Subject Test in a nutshell.


What’s on the test

There are two types of Spanish tests: Spanish and Spanish with Listening. You will have an hour to complete either test. The Spanish Test without Listening has 85 multiple choice questions and the content is evenly divided between 3 categories:

  • Vocabulary and structure
  • Paragraph completion
  • Reading comprehension

The Spanish Test with listening has roughly 85 questions. You will have 20 minutes to complete the listening section and 40 minutes to complete the reading section. The content, therefore, is divided as such:

  • 40% Listening. There are three main types of listening questions, which are described more in detail on The College Board website:
    • Pictures
    • Rejoinders
    • Selections  
  • 60% Reading, which has the same format of the Spanish Test without Listening


Differences between the two SAT Spanish tests

If you are deciding between taking the test with or without listening, here are some things to consider. First of all, colleges might prefer the Spanish Test with Listening because it gives a more holistic picture of students’ language skills. Students also seem to do better on the Spanish Test with Listening than the Spanish Test with just reading, according to the percentiles. However, a few drawbacks of the Spanish Test is that it costs more, it is only offered in November, and you have to bring an acceptable CD player. So if you want to take the Listening Test but don’t have a CD player (I mean, in this day and age, who does?), you might want to figure out how to get one before registering.  

Who should take the test



Definitely not that guy. The College Board recommends the equivalent of three to four years of Spanish study at the high school level or two years for advanced students. If you are currently in AP Spanish or a similar class and you’re doing pretty well, you are probably in good shape for either Spanish Subject Test without too much additional studying. If you’re not currently taking any formal study of Spanish, you might need to do additional study on your own. Practice your skills with the Reading Test and the Listening Test to get a feel for how you might do on the real thing and what sorts of topics you need to brush up on.


How to study

As you can see from the practice questions, the SAT Spanish Subject Test requires you to have a pretty strong vocabulary and an extensive understanding of grammar (including the dreaded subjunctive tenses). What’s more, some reading questions check for subtextual understanding, like drawing inferences or the underlying tone of the passage, which can even be hard to do in English!

If you’re not currently taking a Spanish class or if you want to supplement your formal study, read all sorts of Spanish literature because the reading section samples from a wide variety of works from prose fiction to historical works to newspaper articles. Be sure to take note of new vocabulary as you go along. Barron’s Spanish Grammar is a great pocket-sized source to have for all your grammar needs. And Netflix has a wide array of telenovelas, with the option of Spanish subtitles, to help hone your listening skills in a fun way. There is also the Official Study Guide for all Subject Tests, but try to see if your school or library has a copy, because it only has one test per subject.


What’s a good score on SAT 2 Spanish?

Like all SAT Subject language tests, many native speakers take the Spanish Subject Test as well, which might make it difficult for non-native speakers to score as high as they would like. Therefore, if you’re a non-native speaker and you score above a 600, colleges will consider you to be capable in the language; if you score over a 700, you might just wow them!


Ready to register?

The next SAT Spanish Subject Test (without listening) will be available on June 4. Register by April 8 to avoid the late fee. The cost would be $26 to hold the test date plus $18 for the test (you can take up to two additional Subject Tests that are offered on this date for $18 per test). Want to wait a few months? Check out College Board for more information about future test dates and fees.  

About Anika Manzoor

A 2013 graduate of Grinnell College, Anika dedicated her first few years as a newly-minted professional to teaching. In addition to being an SAT instructor, she served as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant at a Malaysian secondary school for two years. Considering that both opportunities allowed her to explore fun ways to teach and relate to students who were otherwise bored out of their minds, she is excited to share that expertise on the Magoosh High School blog.

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