Language subject tests are a great way to differentiate yourself on your college application. In this series, I’ll share my wisdom as a language tutor and SAT tutor to provide you insight into the test and how best to approach questions on this test.
My discussion of the Spanish SAT subject test specifically actually pertains to all romance language subject tests: Spanish, French and Italian. So, if you are planning on taking any of the language subject tests, the strategies and overview presented here are also relevant to you!
Note: I discuss the Spanish test, NOT the Spanish with Listening test. The Spanish test, as with many language tests, does not test your ability to actually speak. This test is the easier of the two.
When are language SAT subject tests offered?
These subject test is offered 5 times/year in October, December, January, May and June.
What is the format of these tests?
The tests include 85 multiple-choice questions in 60 minutes. They are scored on a scale of 200-800.
What do I need to know to do well?
The exams test 3 topics equally: vocabulary and structure, paragraph completion and reading comprehension.
1) Vocabulary: You should have a broad command of Spanish words that includes basic idioms.
2) Usage: You should have knowledge of the different parts of speech and their placement in a sentence.
3) Analysis: You should be able to analyze a passage and break down the main idea, style, tone, and temporal setting. This, in turn, implies knowledge of basic tenses, such as the present, future and simple past.
What high school academic courses should I have taken before signing up?
You should have taken at least 2 years of Spanish in high school, though 3 or 4 years of Spanish study is best. If you plan to take another year or two of Spanish, I would recommend waiting to take the test. Your grasp on the knowledge will only get stronger with additional coursework. If you wait, you might make the preparation process easier for yourself!
Looking more closely at the Spanish SAT subject test, here is a sample “sentence completion” question. Testers love these because they can test your knowledge very specifically, but can also trip you up easily!
Recientemente, un arqueólogo ha ------- nuevas ruinas mayas en Guatemala.
Take a stab answering this yourself before you review my explanation below.
How should I approach this question?
1) Identify what is being tested. In this case, it is your knowledge of the present perfect, which is a compound tense. You know this because of the word ha ____________ and the subsquent blank.
2) What do you know off the bat? We know that "ha" represents the first part of the compound tense, therefore we are looking for a past participle.
3) Review the answer choices: You might realize that all the answer choices given are past participles. Why? Well, the most obvious reason is that they end if “ado” or “ido”.
* Careful though...the testers hae included irregular past participles (descubierto and hecho), so this might trick you up.
4) Analyze the meaning of the sentence: “Recently, an archaeologist has ___________ new Mayan ruins in Guatamela.”
5) Check the Answer choices. What makes the most sense here? Le's go through each:
a. hecho means made: We know that ruins are, by definition, old, therefore this doesn’t work.
b. construido means built: Same as above.
c. deterrado means exiled: this sounds like "unearthed", doesn’t it? It’s a false cognate….they are trying to trick you!
d. descubierto means discovered: this makes the most sense!
= "Recently, an archaeologist has discovred new Mayan ruins in Guatamela.”
You are left with d: descubierto.
Apply the strategy above to all sentence completion questions: identify what is being tested, ask yourself what you know, review the answer choices, analyze the meaning, check the answer choices.
Next time, we’ll look at another question type on language SAT subject tests! For support preparing for these types of test or to speak with a Spanish tutor about the best plan for you, sign up for a free consultation. Good Luck!