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What Should You Expect from the Spanish SAT Subject Test?

From Jon, published on 20/02/2018 Blog > Languages > Spanish > What Does the Spanish SAT Subject Test Look Like?

The Spanish Subject Test is a great way to highlight your knowledge of Spanish and demonstrate your interest in the Spanish language during the college-admission process.

Plus, it could give you a head start in college by allowing you to fulfill basic language competency requirements or place out of introductory-level Spanish courses.

To prepare, you may want to work with a Spanish tutor and prepare the test together with some Spanish tutoring sessions.

Anticipated Skills

  • Knowledge of words representing different parts of speech and some basic idioms within culturally appropriate contexts.
  • Ability to select an appropriate word or expression that is grammatically correct within a sentence. One part of the test contains vocabulary and structure questions embedded in longer paragraphs.
  • Understanding of such points as the main and supporting ideas, themes, style, tone, and the spatial and temporal settings of a passage. Selections are drawn from prose fiction, historical works, and newspaper and magazine articles, as well as advertisements, flyers and letters.

Vocabulary Words

Here are some examples of lists of vocabulary words that you could learn in order to advance on your SAT Subject Test studying. They are pretty basic.

Places (Lugares)

el aeropuertoairportpanaderiapastry shop
lapanaderíabakeryel parquepark
el bancobankla farmáciapharmacy
la playabeachla estación de la policíapolice station
el cafécafelos correospost office
la iglesiachurchla piscinapool
la fábricafactoryel restauranterestaurant
el gardíngardenla escuelaschool
almacéngrocery storeel estadiostadium
el hogarhometiendastore
la hospitalhospitalla estación del trentrain station
la bibliotecalibrarypasillo de ciudadtown hall
el mercadomarketlibreríabookstore
el cinemovie theaterparque zoológicozoo

Business (Negocio)

la officinaofficeel intercambio de modernidadcurrency exchange
la ciudadcitylas aduanascustoms
la rentathe rentla entradaentrance
el impuestotaxel salidoexit
la cuestathe costla informacióninformation
el préciopricepagarto pay
la cuentabillcomprarto buy
la estimaciónestimatevenderto sell
el chequecheckcostarto cost
el cheque de viajartravelers checkalquilerto rent
el passaportepassportdepositarto deposit
el equipajeluggage/baggage



Transportation (Transporte)

en aviónby airplanemotorengine
en bicicletaby bicyclellantawheel
en barcoby boatmapamap
en busby buslos direccionesdirections
en automovílby caracelerarto accelerate
a pieon footretardarseto break
en ciclomotorby mopedpararto stop
en motocicletaby motorcycleirto go
en subterráneoby subwaydar vuelta a la izqierdaturn left
en taxiby taxidar vuelta a la derechaturn right
en trenby trainir derechogo straight


home-words It’s important to know how to say words like “casa” “jardin” “puerta” and “garaje,” which are all related to the home.


House and Furniture (Casa y Muebles)

la casahousela mesatable
el apartamentoapartmentla sillachair
el cuartoroomsofácouch
la salaliving roomescritoriodesk
la cocinakitchenlavaplatosdishwasher
cuarto de cenardining roomel puertodoor
vestíbulohallwayla luzlight
el bañobathroommantablanket
duchashowerel rádioradio
la pilasinkla refrijedorarefrigerator
armarioclosetel hornooven
la ventanawindowla basuragarbage
la paredwallmicroondamicrowave


Religion (Religión)

el ángelangelel judaismoJudaism
el bautismobaptismel monasteriomonastery
la bibliaBibleel PápaPope
el obispobishopla profetaprophet
el buddismoBuddhismel protestanteProtestant
el catedralcathedralla religiónreligion
el cristianismoChristianityel sermónsermon
la iglesiachurchel templotemple
la fefaithcantarto sing
el DiósGodadorarto worship
el cieloheavenorarto pray
el infiernohellarrepentirseto repent (reflexive)


subject-test-studying A Spanish dictionary will always help you get ahead on the Spanish SAT Subject Test.

How to Effectively Learn New Spanish Vocabulary

1. Always learn new Spanish words in context

No sense in just repeating words mindlessly! You want to understand the word you are learning. So make sure to look at it in a sentence or a paragraph.

2. Always learn new Spanish words with audio material

Make sure you listen to those words being spoken aloud so that you don’t start memorizing the wrong pronunciation. It’s essential you do this quick because pronunciations stick and you could find yourself repeating something wrong over and over again.

3. Doing lots of repetitions

Speaking of repeating, make sure that you repeat over and over again in order to really let the words sink in to your memory.

4. Learn new Spanish nouns always with their article

Make sure you take a look at the article. The article makes a big difference in Spanish. You need to know whether the word is masculine or feminine, also.

5. Learn new Spanish words by saying them out loud

It is always good to enunciate words when learning them. Get a feel for them by saying them out loud, and preferably to a native speaker so they can maybe correct you if need be.

When Should I Take the Spanish Subject Placement Test?

There are a few factors to consider as you decide when to take the test. You should have at least two years of strong preparation in the language, but the more the better.

It’s recommended that you take the Spanish test as close to the end of the most advanced Spanish class that you plan to take, while still balancing college admission and placement requirements. You’re likely not to do as well if you take the test after you haven’t been in a Spanish class for several months.

  • For seniors studying Spanish: If Spanish is a strong subject for you, be sure it’s one of the SAT Subject Tests you take in time for colleges to see your score. If you’re only taking it for placement purposes, and not as part of your application, wait until you’re as far along in your course as possible. If you want to take the Spanish with Listening test, remember that it’s only given in November (and don’t forget to bring a portable CD player with earphones).

Required Competencies For the Spanish SAT Subject Test

Is it necessary to be bilingual in order to pass the Spanish SAT Subject test? Hopefully not. The exam is there to assess your ability for comprehension and expression.

Can studying the language abroad help? Yes and no. If you plan to leave during the Easter holidays, you may as well say that it is too late knowing that the test is so soon! However, if it’s during the summer before senior year in high school, it could definitely be worth it. Speaking Spanish in real life will make you feel more comfortable once you sit down in front of the SAT Subject Test.

Keep it simple. No need to mess with convoluted sentences. You risk getting confused and/or appearing presumptuous. You should probably also avoid humor, which could mean you will be misunderstood.

laughing-guy What if your jokes were totally misunderstood by a Spanish person? Wouldn’t you feel irked…

More Information on the Spanish SAT Subject Test

The Spanish test includes reading only — you read in Spanish and answer multiple-choice questions. The Spanish with Listening test given only in November also includes a listening portion — you listen in Spanish and answer multiple-choice questions. Although students report feeling more anxious about the listening portion, they also tend to do better on that part of the test. Plus, many colleges indicate the Spanish with Listening test gives them a fuller picture of your ability and may be more useful for placement purposes.

The language used on the test is taken from pieces written and dialogue spoken by those who use Spanish in their everyday lives. Words or sayings specific to certain geographic areas (e.g., Mexico or Spain) will not be used on the test. If you’ve had at least two years of strong preparation in the language, then you should be able to understand the Spanish on the test.

No matter how you acquired your knowledge of Spanish, it’s important to show colleges what you know. Bilingual (or multilingual) abilities are achievements that deserve to be highlighted. Your test will be scored the same way as that of someone who learned Spanish in the classroom only. If you’ve been exposed to a lot of spoken Spanish, then you should definitely consider taking the Spanish with Listening test.

If you’ll be using these results to fulfill a college-admission requirement, you should be aware that different colleges have different policies regarding Subject Tests in foreign languages. You should check with the colleges that you’re interested in about their policies and seek guidance from your counselor or teacher on your specific situation.

Please note that this test reflects what is commonly taught in high school. Due to differences in high school classes, it’s likely that most students will find questions on topics they’re not familiar with. This is nothing to worry about. You do not have to get every question correct to receive the highest score (800) for the test. Many students do well despite not having studied every topic covered.


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