cultural comparison

How To Teach AP Spanish Students the Cultural Comparison

Let’s face it people… the AP Spanish Language and Culture Exam is HARD! In my experience, one of the most difficult open-ended tasks is the Cultural Comparison.

So how can we break it down for students and give them the know-how they need to be successful? Read on for some tips!

Step #1 Rules and Requirements for the Cultural Comparison

Review the rules and requirements of the task.

Students need to have an introduction and an ending. It’s important to state what 2 places they’re comparing. They need to compare 2 countries with specific information.

I created this Google Slides presentation for my students. It works well because it is something they can save and access all year long. It also includes a short vocabulary list and a Quizlet with related vocabulary that will help them in this task. Examples include pausing words and expressions to compare and contrast.

Step #2 Examples of the Cultural Comparison

Examples! AP Central releases examples of questions and even student responses with their scores.

Head over to the Free Resource Library to get a copy of these released student samples and scores, and a reflection for your students!

After listening to some examples from AP Central, or perhaps some that you saved from years past, your students can identify things that met the requirements and things that could be improved upon.

Create a check list or rubric with specific look-fors in this task. Share it with students so they can use it on these samples and as a guide for their own attempts.

Now they will have a good idea of what they need to do!

Step #3 Write One First!

Before having your students practice the Cultural Comparison out loud, consider having them complete it in written form first. Writing allows students more time to think and edit. Even with native speakers, that 2-minute time limit can be challenging!

During Unit 1, I always introduce this task because it’s one that requires so much practice. I have them WRITE a cultural comparison as one of their summative tasks, and they are graded on it as such. After the writing is complete, I often will have them record. Just to give them an idea of what the time frame is like. They are always surprised with how fast 2 minutes goes by!

Step #4 Practice Run!

When your students have a good understanding of what they are supposed to do when attempting the cultural comparison, it’s time to start giving them opportunities to practice.

One thing I do is to give them a question related to the topic we’re studying. I let them record the SAME answer twice (with nothing but the notes they make during their 4 minute prep time). I let them choose which recording to send to me for feedback.

It’s really important to give them a practice run. This allows students to get the feel for a real cultural comparison, timed, and without writing out everything first. It allows teachers to listen and give important feedback BEFORE they are graded. Common feedback I give includes “You forgot to mention which 2 countries you’re comparing”, and “You ran out of time for the conclusion” and “You spent too much time on Mexico and never gave any examples of the US”.

Step #5: Grade One, But Record Two

Just as with the practice, the first time I grade their cultural comparison, I allow them to record the same answer twice. Students decide which one they want me to listen to.

Recording techniques I’ve used include:




-voice memo on a phone

-online voice recorder

All of these steps lead to greater confidence, and therefore better performance!

A Few Tips for the Cultural Comparison

Though we never know ahead of time what the topic/question for the Cultural Comparison will be, I always try to be sure that they relate to the unit that we’re studying.

I realized that there were times when I wasn’t offering enough class material for students to have enough information to make a good comparison! Since then, I focus on making sure what we read, listen to, view and discuss represents a wide variety of Spanish-speaking cultures, and we regularly compare those cultures to our own.

Another thing I noticed was that as the AP Exam approached, I wanted my students to take a look back at all the topics we had studied. But we had no organized way to do that!

To solve that problem, I created this resource which contains Unit Review Charts, which can be printed or used digitally. Now, we regularly add information to them as we work our way through the units. My original objective was to have an easy way for students to review for the AP Exam, but in the end, these review charts serve as the perfect way for students to review for a unit assessment too! Win Win!

Below I have listed some things that might help you with your AP Spanish journey!

Blog Posts related to AP Spanish:

Building Confidence with AP Spanish Students

Resources that can help with the Cultural Comparison and/or the AP Spanish Language and Culture Exam

AP Spanish Cultural Comparison: How To

AP Spanish Exam Bundle Open Ended Questions: How To (Save money with the Bundle!)

AP Spanish Exam Unit Review Charts: Digital and Printable Versions!

Stay tuned for more posts on the ways that I tackle the other open-ended tasks!

cultural comparison