Mastering the SAT Subject Tests, Easier Than You Think! – Spanish & Spanish with Listening

Posted by Alex O. on 10/1/18 9:30 AM


¡Hola! ¿Cómo estás? After a few years of Spanish classes and some committed preparation, you can show colleges your ability to understand the second most commonly spoken language in the world. Today we’ll discuss how to navigate the Spanish and the Spanish with Listening SAT Subject Tests. ¡Vámonos!

What are the Spanish and Spanish with Listening SAT Subject Tests?

The Spanish and the Spanish with Listening Subject Tests are 1-hour exams with roughly 85 questions. They test your knowledge from several years of classroom Spanish. The test covers vocabulary and grammatical structure, paragraph completion, and reading comprehension, as well as listening skills if taking the Listening version of the test.

What is the difference between the Spanish test and the Spanish with Listening test?

In the Spanish with Listening exam, you’ll need to make sure to bring headphones and a CD player, as there will be approximately 30 listening questions. The standard Spanish exam is only written. It is important to note that the Spanish with Listening exam is offered only in November, and the standard Spanish exam is offered on all dates EXCEPT November. So make sure to plan ahead, and check with the colleges you’re applying to see if they only accept one version of the test.

How should I prepare for the test beforehand?

Like all languages, Spanish requires constant practice and dedication to obtain a solid level of proficiency. There is no way that you can cram for this test a few weeks before. The best way to prepare is with daily practice. The Internet has a ton of resources to prepare. Aim to spend 10-15 minutes a day by reading something (a newspaper article or short story work great) and listening to something in Spanish (YouTube has countless videos). You’d be surprised how much your Spanish will improve in just a few weeks. Still, when you practice a language, you’re practicing your understanding of it. This means you need to have a good grasp of the grammatical structures of the language, at least until they become second-nature to you. Some of these topics include (but certainly are not limited to):

  • pronouns of all types and their orders, as well as some choice in object placement (ex. “Yo se lo voy a dar.” vs “Yo voy a dá”)
  • ser vs. estar
  • por vs. para
  • conditional “si” sentences
  • phrases that take the subjunctive (ex. “Dudo que él lo entienda.” vs. “No dudo que él lo entiende.”)
  • etc.

What are tips to remember during the test?

Remember that above all, this is a test. So don’t forget your standard testing-taking strategies. By using basic test-taking tips, you can greatly improve your score without knowing any more Spanish that you already do.

  • Elimination – Get rid of the answers you know cannot be correct. When asked to fill in the blank for

Los cubanos están muy orgullosos de _(1)_ larga tradición folclórica.

(a) suyos

(b) sus

(c) suya

(d) su

what can you immediately eliminate? Gender and number are the biggest hints, so start there. You know the options are describing “larga tradición folclórica,” so there are several ways to figure out the gender. “Larga” ends in –a, “tradición” ends in –ción, and “folclórica” ends in –a, all trends that typically indicate feminine words. So you can eliminate (a) (which is not even the correct grammatical form for this phrase). None of those words end in –s, so the number is likely singular, which eliminates (b). Now, using your understanding of Spanish to choose between two answers instead of four, you can remember “suya” is a possessive pronoun, not a possessive adjective. We need an option that describes “larga tradición folclórica”, so we need an adjective. The answer is then (d).

  • Read questions before reading the passages. You’ll then know what specifically to read for, and you’ll already have insight into what the passage is about before even reading it.
  • When filling in blanks within a passage, continue on and read the entire sentence before filling in the first blank. You’ll have a better idea of what the sentence is saying to help choose the first blank.

For Spanish-specific hints, use context clues to get around unknown Spanish words.

  • Use cognates to tell part of the story. In the phrase, “la tranquilidad de viajar sin estrés” you can see one obvious word “tranquilidad” that sounds like “tranquility.” This is seen because “-ity” in English often appears as “-idad” in Spanish (ex. “responsibility” vs “responsabilidad”, “generosity” vs. “generosidad”). Another is “estrés”. By recognizing that many English cognates that start with “s+consonant” morph into “es” in Spanish (ex. “school” vs. “escuela”, “special” vs. “especial”), you can see how “estrés” sounds like “stress”. If you remember “viajar” means “to travel,” you can then understand the phrase to mean “the calmness of traveling without stress.”
  • If you don’t understand an idiomatic phrase, see if you can deduce the meaning from it. Like all languages, many idiomatic phrases paint a picture that describe their meanings. For example, “echar agua al mar” literally means “to pour water into the sea.” That seems rather odd and pointless, and actually the phrase means “to do something pointless/worthless.” The phrase “quedarse de piedra” literally means “to stay as a stone.” Giving an image of someone completely still, this phrase means “to be stunned.”

By applying these tips during the test, and with consistent daily practice, you can score very well on the Spanish and Spanish with Listening Subject Tests. ¡Buena suerte!

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