6 Best AP Spanish Language & Culture Prep Books (2020)

Best AP Spanish Language Study Books

Spanish is the second most common language spoken in the United States, with around 52 million speakers. Taking an AP Spanish class is a great way of improving your mastery of this language and preparing for speaking Spanish in a professional setting.

The AP Spanish exam will test your proficiency in Spanish. The content of the exam is different from one year to the next, but the AP Spanish exam always follows the same structure and uses predetermined question types.

The best AP Spanish prep books teach you the Spanish language and test-taking tips specifically for this exam. Here are some of the best books to help prepare for this AP exam.

Best AP Spanish Language and Culture Prep Book Reviews

Ace your AP Spanish exam with these six prep books.

1. AP Spanish Language and Culture Premium: With 5 Practice Tests

This 10th edition of Barron’s AP Spanish prep books gives you the language, culture, and test-taking tips to get a five on your exam.

The author of this prep book is a language teacher. This means the book will have the essential information you need, and the structure will facilitate your understanding.

You’ll get five practice exams with this book. Taking several practice exams is one of the best ways to help boost your AP score. With five included exams, there’s no need to consult other books to get your hands on more exams.

In addition to the exams, this Barron’s prep book offers practice questions throughout each chapter to help you retain information. There’s also online content to help you master listening comprehension, types of conversations, dialects, and other items you’ll encounter on the exam.

Overall, this is the best book we found for taking the AP Spanish exam. It’s recent, having been published in December of 2019. The book separates units into reading comprehension, writing, speaking, vocabulary, and grammar. Each section is to understand and helps you improve your language skills.

Pros

  • Includes five practice exams — two in book and three online
  • Has online content to boost listening comprehension
  • Many practice questions throughout the book with answers

Cons

  • None

Overview

  • Publisher: Barron’s Educational Series
  • Year: 2019
  • Number of Pages: 496
  • Our Final Grade: A+

2. 5 Steps to a 5: AP Spanish Language and Culture

Find out some of the best ways to get a five on the AP Spanish exam with 5 Steps to a 5.

Published in March of 2020, this book lays out how you can get a five on the AP Spanish exam with a five-step plan. That plan is:

  1. Create a study plan. The book includes three schedules to model yours after.
  2. Determine how ready you are for the exam with essentially a mock AP Spanish exam.
  3. Learn strategies to help you succeed on test day.
  4. Review the terms and concepts needed for a high score.
  5. Grow your confidence by taking full-length practice exams.

Many other books include strategies or steps to help you succeed on the AP exam. However, none do it as simply as 5 Steps to a 5. This book helps you understand the AP exam, not just Spanish. Therefore, you can learn how to spot trick questions and improve your approach to it on test day.

5 Steps to a 5 includes two full-length practice exams, hundreds of test-taking tips, and audio downloads to improve your Spanish listening and comprehension skills. It’s best for students who want to maximize their study time.

Pros

  • Understand the AP exam, not just Spanish material
  • Includes helpful 5-step plan to succeed on test day
  • Two full-length practice exams included

Cons

  • Comes with CD, which may be difficult to use if you don’t have access to a CD drive

Overview

  • Publisher: McGraw-Hill Education
  • Year: 2020
  • Number of Pages: 336
  • Our Final Grade: A

3. Cracking the AP Spanish Language & Culture Exam

You’ll get tried-and-true techniques to pass the AP Spanish exam in addition to the material itself.

This book is from The Princeton Review — one of the best college prep organizations in the United States.

Cracking the AP Spanish Language & Culture Exam succeeds in three areas: giving you test-taking techniques that actually work, multimedia materials to help you grasp the subject, and plenty of practice material to solidify your understanding.

The test-taking strategies teach you how to spot questions that are designed to trick you or slip you up. You’ll learn to identify the different types of questions on the AP exam and how to best answer them.

The book itself has lots of information on the Spanish language and culture. The audio CD lets you practice your speaking and listening. All the tracks are available online, and we wonder why they bothered to include the CD.

Finally, this book gives you two full-length practice exams. Each exam has detailed answers in the back explaining why each answer is correct. There are also sample student essays and comments to help you model the type of free responses expected on the exam.

Overall, this book from The Princeton Review teaches you how to study smarter, not harder, for the AP Spanish exam.

Pros

  • Has two mock AP Spanish exams inside
  • Audio CD helps practice speaking and listening skills
  • Includes expert test-taking tips

Cons

  • Audio CD may be cumbersome to use (who still has a CD player?)

Overview

  • Publisher: The Princeton Review
  • Year: 2019
  • Number of Pages: 368
  • Our Final Grade: A-

4. AP Spanish: Preparing for the Language and Culture Examination

See the teacher’s version of an AP Spanish prep book — complete with answer explanations and test-taking tips.

You have the option to purchase either the teacher edition or the edition for students. Either will help you prepare for the AP Spanish exam. The teacher edition just has more explanations as to why an answer is correct, which could be useful for AP students.

You also have the option to view this student edition of this book digitally if you want to reduce the number of books in your backpack. Any edition comes with the following:

  • Automatically graded interpretive reading and listening assignments
  • Interpersonal writing tasks, such as emails or essays
  • Interpersonal speaking tasks
  • Downloadable audio files

This book isn’t as popular as the other AP Spanish exam prep books. It can be a refreshing change if you’re tired of seeing similar test prep formats.

Pros

  • Teacher or student editions available
  • Auto-graded listening and speaking assignments
  • Lots of interpersonal speaking and writing tasks

Cons

  • Layout can be confusing
  • Expensive compared to other books
  • No practice AP Spanish exam

Overview

  • Publisher: Prentice Hall
  • Year: 2014
  • Number of Pages: 304
  • Our Final Grade: B+

5. Temas AP Spanish Language

A straightforward textbook that covers everything you need to know about Spanish language and culture.

The Temas AP Spanish language prep book takes you through these six different themes:

  • Families and communities
  • Science and technology
  • Beauty and aesthetics
  • Personal and public identities
  • Global challenges
  • Contemporary life

You will get a broad understanding of Spanish culture. But Temas hasn’t neglected the Spanish language. You can practice your language skills online with access to the Student Supersite.

The Student Supersite provides you with extra material like interactive grammar practice and audio for listening comprehension. The assessments are also available online. The Supersite is iPad friendly too.

You’ll find auto-graded assignments online so that you don’t have to spend time doing it yourself. The book also gives you strategies to help break down and understand the content. There’s also the ability to save certain words you have trouble with to revisit them later.

This prep book covers everything you need to prepare for the AP Spanish exam. The only downside is that it’s rather expensive to buy new. Buying it used may not give you the ability to access the necessary online materials. It will be worth the investment if you can afford it, though.

Pros

  • In-depth coverage of Spanish culture and language
  • Plenty of online material to facilitate learning
  • iPad-compatible student learning website

Cons

  • Rather expensive to buy new
  • Since you need its online material, you can’t buy used

Overview

  • Publisher: Vista Higher Learning
  • Year: 2019
  • Number of Pages: 502
  • Our Final Grade: B-

6. The Ultimate Guide AP Spanish Literature and Culture Prep Book 2020

Don’t let the title fool you — you should stay away from this book.

Yes, this is a list of the best AP Spanish prep books. But we felt it necessary to discuss a text that looks like it could be good but actually isn’t — The Ultimate Guide AP Spanish Literature and Culture Prep Book 2020.

At first glance, this book could have everything you want: it’s tailored to the AP exam, it’s cheap to buy new, you can easily buy it online. But that’s about where the positives stop.

Firstly, it’s not even tailored to the AP exam. It’s better suited for an Introduction to Spanish course because of the words it introduces.

And this book only gives you a bunch of flashcards. There’s very little written material explaining Spanish culture or how to string together a sentence. There are no test-taking tips or practice exams to take. The flashcards aren’t even that well made.

If you want to study vocabulary, then this book is for you. Otherwise, it won’t help you on the AP Spanish exam.

Pros

  • Lots of flashcards
  • Cheap
  • Recently published

Cons

  • Doesn’t prepare you for the AP Exam
  • Nothing but flashcards
  • Misleading title
  • No practice exams or test-taking tips

Overview

  • Publisher: College Test Center
  • Year: 2019
  • Number of Pages: 77
  • Our Final Grade: F

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some things to know about the AP Spanish exam.

How Long Is the AP Spanish Exam?

According to the College Board, the exam lasts a little over three hours.

What Does the Exam Entail?

Here are the different sections you’ll find on the exam:

  • 40-minute multiple choice section with 30 questions (23% of your score).
  • 55-minute multiple choice with audio section with 35 questions (27% of your score).
  • Free response written section lasting 1h10 with two questions (25% of your score).
  • 18-minute free response spoken section with two questions (25% of your score).

What Will I Need on Exam Day?

Use this checklist to make sure you have all the items you need on exam day:

  • No. 2 pencils for the multiple-choice answer sheet.
  • Pens with blue or black ink for the free-response portion.
  • A government-issued ID or school-issued ID if you don’t attend the school where the exam takes place.
  • If you need testing accommodations, your College Board SSD Accommodations letter.

Conclusion

Learning Spanish may be difficult for a non-native Spanish speaker. That’s why we recommend Barron’s AP Spanish Language and Culture prep book. It will not only teach you the language and culture but provide you with plenty of test-taking tips to get a five on the AP exam.

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Hannah Young
 

Contributor at ExamCave. Hannah is pursuing a degree in middle school English education at The Ohio State University. Hannah has worked as a writing and math tutor for elementary, middle school, and high school students.