What Skills Do Students Need to Succeed in AP Spanish

What Skills Do Students Need for Success in AP Spanish?

As teachers, we all want to see our students do well in our classes. So what skills do students need for AP Spanish success? It’s not the same for each and every student, and it can depend on what their personal goals are and how they define success.

Defining Success in AP Spanish

Probably the first thing students and teachers need to figure out is what constitutes success in AP Spanish? Most students will take AP Spanish in the hopes of gaining 6 college credits, and that is certainly an important goal! These are the students who care about their grades and their GPA. Almost all students in my experience sign up to take AP Spanish because they genuinely like learning Spanish, and that is a blessing because in lower levels of Spanish, I find a lot of students there to meet their college entrance requirements, not because they enjoy learning language.

For some students, however, their goal may not be to earn an A or a 4 or 5 on the AP Exam. Their goal may simply be to continue learning Spanish and to advance their communication level and cultural understanding. I have had many students in the past whose academic skills were not the strongest, but their desire to learn and their enjoyment of Spanish was far beyond some of the stronger students.

It’s important to chat with your students and understand what their goals and values are. Understanding these things will make it easier to advise students on whether or not the course is a good fit for them! (And it’s ok if it is NOT a good fit for them!)

Skills Students Need For Success in AP Spanish

Vocabulary: Students who take AP Spanish should be the kind of students who come in possessing a rich vocabulary. How do we determine this? My guidepost goes something like this: If I know the student, I think about the vocab lists we use in Spanish 1-4. If this student was one who knew 80% or more of the words for each unit, this is a student who has a rich vocabulary. Another way to judge this when you’ve taught the student before is to think about what they have produced in writing and speaking. When you don’t know the student, they should consult with their most recent Spanish teacher, or simply ask themselves that question… how much vocab did I learn? They should be encouraged to be honest with themselves!

Grammar: Each school district does their own thing. While some districts follow the ACTFL proficiency guidelines and focus more on communication, others are focused on teaching and assessing discrete skills. And some are a combination of both. From my point of view, students who will be successful in AP Spanish must start with a proficiency level solidly in the Intermediate Low range. If your school doesn’t use that ACTFL measure, a student must have a good grasp on the 3 time frames (present, past and future) and consistently be able to conjugate accurately in those time frames.

Other Skills Students Need to Succeed in AP Spanish

Vocabulary and Grammar are the basis for all of our forms of communication (reading, writing, listening and speaking). I think we all know that each person has one or more skills that they are strongest in, and there is always a skill that is most difficult. But here are some important skills and characteristics that lead to success with my AP Students.

  1. They have a strong work ethic.
    • High school students must be willing to put in the time it takes to succeed in AP Spanish. Many will find that their assignments take a long time to complete, when done well. But doing assignments well and on their own (not with Google Translate) will lead them to incredible growth and success!
  2. They are organized and complete work on time.
    • To succeed in AP Spanish, students must be ready to behave as college students. That means organizing time to be able to complete assignments by the due date, preparing for tests and balancing all the other things in their lives.
  3. They have grit, and can recover from mistakes, misunderstandings and feedback.
    • Learning another language can be difficult and frustrating at times. Students will misunderstand instructions, answer the wrong question and miss important steps in assignments. It’s part of life! But students who succeed in AP Spanish are the kind that can take a “failure” and use it as a learning opportunity.
  4. They must be willing to talk in Spanish in class.
    • There is no way to increase skill in speaking without speaking! Students must participate to be successful, and those who refuse will not do very well.


Whether you are advising students on course selection or it’s the beginning of a new year, and you want to make sure your students are in the right spot, these are some guidelines that have helped me in the past. I hope they help you too!


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