Welcome to our comprehensive guide on the National Spanish Exam (NSE) – the standardized assessment that measures the Spanish language proficiency of students studying Spanish as a second language. Administered by the Association of Teachers of Spanish and Portuguese (AATSP), this exam provides students with an opportunity to showcase their interpretive communication skills and earn recognition for their achievements in Spanish.

Whether you’re a high school student preparing for the exam, a teacher administering it, or simply interested in learning more about this prestigious competition, this guide will provide you with valuable insights and tips to excel in the NSE.

Every year, thousands of students throughout the United States voluntarily participate in the NSE, which has become the largest standardized assessment of its kind. The exam challenges students to demonstrate their language proficiency in areas such as reading comprehension and listening comprehension. It serves as a motivation for students to improve their Spanish skills and serves as a benchmark for teachers to measure the performance of their students.

The NSE offers various levels of the exam, allowing participants to compete with peers at a similar proficiency level. Students who perform well can earn awards, recognition, and even scholarships, opening doors to further educational opportunities.

Key Takeaways:

  • The National Spanish Exam (NSE) is a standardized assessment for students studying Spanish as a second language in high school.
  • Administered by the Association of Teachers of Spanish and Portuguese (AATSP), the NSE measures students’ interpretive communication skills through reading and listening comprehension.
  • The exam provides an opportunity for students to earn awards, recognition, and scholarships based on their performance.
  • Participating in the NSE is a valuable experience that promotes the teaching and learning of Spanish and stimulates students’ interest in the language.
  • Preparation and practice are key to success in the exam, and resources such as study guides and practice tests are available.

Registration and Exam Dates

For middle to high school students studying Spanish as a second language, the National Spanish Exam provides an opportunity to assess their language proficiency and receive recognition for their achievements. If you’re interested in participating in the exam, it’s essential to be aware of the registration and exam dates for the upcoming year.

The registration period for the 2023 National Spanish Exam begins on November 1st and ends on February 9th of the following year. During this period, middle and high school students can register online to secure their spot in the exam and showcase their Spanish language skills.

Once you’ve completed the registration process, the exam itself will be administered between March 4th and April 15th. It’s important to mark these dates on your calendar and prepare accordingly to ensure you’re ready to perform at your best.

By taking part in the National Spanish Exam, you’ll have the chance to measure your progress, challenge yourself, and earn national recognition for your excellent performance and dedication to the study of Spanish.

If you’re ready to take the next step in your Spanish language journey, mark your calendars and register for the exam. This is an exceptional opportunity to showcase your skills and join thousands of students across the country in celebrating the beauty of the Spanish language. Don’t miss out on this chance to shine!

Registration Period Exam Dates
November 1 – February 9 March 4 – April 15

Exam Format – Reading Comprehension

The National Spanish Exam assesses reading comprehension through the use of authentic texts in Spanish. Students are presented with a context in English, an authentic text in Spanish, and a question based on one of the learner outcomes.

The authentic texts used in the exam cover a wide range of materials, providing students with exposure to various types of written content. These texts can include:

  • Signs
  • Lists of words and phrases
  • Schedules
  • Personal notes
  • Letters
  • Postcards
  • Instructions
  • Social media posts
  • Menus
  • Labels
  • Advertisements
  • Posters
  • Notices
  • Narratives
  • Excerpts from articles, letters, essays, journals, magazines, books, news sources, editorials, short stories, poems, legends, fables, fairy tales, and websites

The difficulty of the learner outcomes increases as the student progresses to higher levels. This ensures that the exam effectively measures students’ reading comprehension skills and their ability to understand and interpret a variety of authentic texts in Spanish.

Reading Comprehension Exam Format


Context: You are planning a trip to a Spanish-speaking country and need to understand a schedule of train departures and arrivals.

Authentic Text (in Spanish):

5:00 AM – Primero tren a la ciudad

7:30 AM – Tren rápido a la playa

10:15 AM – Tren turístico hacia las montañas

Question: What time is the first train to the city?

By incorporating authentic texts in the reading comprehension section, the National Spanish Exam ensures that students develop their language skills in a practical and meaningful way, preparing them for real-world scenarios where reading and understanding written content in Spanish is essential.

Exam Format – Listening Comprehension

The listening comprehension section of the National Spanish Exam is designed to assess students’ ability to understand and interpret spoken Spanish. This section provides an opportunity for students to demonstrate their skills in comprehending authentic spoken passages.

During the exam, students are presented with a context in English, an authentic spoken passage in Spanish, and a question related to one of the learner outcomes. The difficulty level of the questions increases as students progress to higher levels of the exam, challenging their listening skills and comprehension.

The authentic spoken passages in the exam can include a variety of audio materials, such as conversations, descriptions, sets of instructions, film or video clips, excerpts from news bulletins, radio broadcasts, speeches, articles, letters, essays, magazines, plays, newspapers, editorials, short stories, poems, legends, fables, fairy tales, and websites. These passages are carefully selected to represent real-world language use and provide students with exposure to a range of topics and genres.

Examples of Authentic Spoken Passages:


“¡Hola! ¿Cómo estás? Me llamo María y soy de España. ¿Y tú?”


“La fiesta de cumpleaños fue en un parque temático con atracciones emocionantes y una rueda de la fortuna impresionante.”

Through the listening comprehension section, students are challenged to develop their ability to understand spoken Spanish in various contexts and to extract meaning from authentic audio materials. This section of the exam allows students to demonstrate their proficiency in listening comprehension, a crucial skill in language acquisition.

Listening Comprehension

Difficulty Level Examples of Authentic Spoken Passages
Level 1 Simple conversations and descriptions
Level 2 Short dialogues and instructions
Level 3 Conversations with more complexity and detail
Level 4 Longer speeches, interviews, and narratives
Level 5 Authentic audio materials on a variety of topics
Level 6 Advanced conversations, debates, and presentations

Exam Preparation and Practice

To prepare for the National Spanish Exam, students can access practice material and mini practice exams through the Lingco Language Labs platform. Introduced in 2022, Lingco Language Labs provides a valuable resource for exam preparation. It offers a preview of the new testing platform used for the exam, allowing students to become familiar with the format and content.

Teachers can leverage the practice material available on Lingco Language Labs to ensure a smooth testing experience for their students. The platform covers NSE/NSA Levels 01-6, offering comprehensive resources for instructors to guide their students through the exam preparation process. These practice materials assist students in developing and refining the necessary skills to excel in the National Spanish Exam.

Exam Preparation

Through the Lingco Language Labs platform, students can access a wide range of practice material and mini practice exams. These resources are designed to improve students’ understanding of the exam structure, enhance their language proficiency, and build their confidence. By engaging with Lingco Language Labs’ exam preparation resources, students can effectively prepare for the National Spanish Exam and perform at their best on test day.

National Spanish Assessments (NSA)

In addition to the National Spanish Exam, the American Association of Teachers of Spanish and Portuguese (AATSP) offers the National Spanish Assessments (NSA). The NSA is a proficiency-based online exam designed to assess students’ language skills in various areas.

The NSA provides immediate results, allowing teachers and students to gauge their performance quickly. It can be administered up to three times a year, providing opportunities to track student growth and progress. The exam consists of four modules that cover different aspects of Spanish language proficiency:

  • Reading
  • Grammar
  • Vocabulary
  • Listening

Teachers have the flexibility to choose which modules to administer based on their students’ needs and goals. This targeted approach allows for a comprehensive assessment of reading comprehension, grammatical understanding, vocabulary knowledge, and listening skills.

The NSA is available for Levels 01-6, catering to students at various proficiency levels. It is also worth noting that students have the option to repeat levels if desired, allowing them to measure their growth and progress over time.

By offering these proficiency-based assessments, the AATSP aims to support language educators in their efforts to ensure that students attain the necessary language skills in reading, grammar, vocabulary, and listening at each level.

National Spanish Assessments

The NSA serves as a valuable tool for measuring and evaluating students’ language proficiency. With its immediate results, it provides timely feedback to guide instructional planning and support targeted learning experiences. Teachers can use the NSA to develop individualized strategies to address their students’ specific areas of improvement and foster overall language development.

By utilizing the NSA, educators can empower their students to achieve higher levels of proficiency and increase their confidence in using the Spanish language. These assessments play a vital role in promoting a comprehensive and well-rounded approach to language instruction, ensuring that students are equipped with the necessary skills to communicate effectively in Spanish.

Interpreting NSA Results and Rating Guidelines

After taking the National Spanish Assessment (NSA), teachers gain access to raw scores and percentages. This valuable information allows them to interpret and assess their students’ performance in the exam. The rating guidelines used for interpretation are based on the esteemed Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR) and the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL). These guidelines serve as a benchmark for evaluating students’ proficiency levels in the Spanish language.

When interpreting NSA results, it is crucial to consider individual students’ backgrounds and exposure to the language. Each student’s language learning journey is unique, and their results should be understood in the context of their specific circumstances and prior language instruction. By taking into account these factors, teachers can provide a more accurate assessment of their students’ language proficiency.

Both the CEFR and ACTFL provide comprehensive frameworks with multiple proficiency levels. The CEFR categorizes proficiency levels into six categories, ranging from A1 (beginner) to C2 (advanced). The ACTFL, on the other hand, uses a scale with five proficiency levels: Novice, Intermediate, Advanced, Superior, and Distinguished. These rating guidelines enable teachers to have a standardized approach in evaluating their students’ language skills.

Interpreting NSA results based on the rating guidelines allows teachers to accurately gauge their students’ proficiency levels and track their progress over time. It provides valuable insights into their strengths and areas for improvement. With this knowledge, teachers can tailor their instructional strategies and provide targeted support to help their students further develop their language skills.

Certificates and Scholarships

Students who take the National Spanish Assessment (NSA) have the opportunity to receive an optional certificate of completion. This certificate serves as recognition for their dedication and achievement in the study of Spanish. While the NSA does not offer medals or student scholarships, it provides students with a tangible acknowledgement of their language proficiency.

In addition to student certificates, the NSA also offers teacher scholarships to instructors who administer the exam. These scholarships are designed to support educators in their ongoing professional development in the field of Spanish language instruction. By investing in the growth of teachers, the NSA aims to enhance the quality of Spanish language education and promote excellence in teaching.

Certificates Scholarships
  • Optional certificate of completion for students
  • Recognition of language proficiency
  • Available for teachers who administer the NSA
  • Support for professional development
  • Promotion of excellence in teaching

Benefits of Certificates and Scholarships

Student certificates serve as a testament to their hard work and dedication, providing a sense of accomplishment and pride. They can also be included in college applications and resumes, showcasing the student’s language proficiency and commitment to academic excellence.

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Teacher scholarships, on the other hand, offer valuable opportunities for educators to further their knowledge and skills in Spanish language instruction. By participating in professional development programs and courses, teachers can stay updated with the latest teaching methodologies and resources, ultimately enhancing their classroom instruction and benefiting their students.

“Certificates and scholarships provide recognition for students and support for teachers, elevating the importance and value of Spanish language education.”


Certificates And Scholarships

Exam Administration and Proctoring

The National Spanish Exam and the National Spanish Assessment are typically administered by the teacher of record who has registered the participating students. Students are not allowed to register for the exams themselves. During the exam administration, the use of any aids such as scrap paper, notes (online or written), dictionaries, online translators, cell phones, and similar devices is strictly prohibited. Visual aids in the testing area, such as charts, posters, and diagrams, must be covered or removed. It is the responsibility of the proctor to ensure that the exams are administered according to the guidelines.


The National Spanish Exam and the National Spanish Assessment are valuable tools for assessing and recognizing student achievements in the study of Spanish as a second language. These exams provide an opportunity for students to demonstrate their language proficiency and receive recognition for their accomplishments. By participating in the exams, students can gain a better understanding of their language skills, measure their progress, and set goals for further improvement.

Teachers play a crucial role in preparing students for these exams and supporting their language learning journey. Through their guidance and instruction, teachers help students develop the necessary skills and knowledge to succeed on the exams. They provide resources, practice materials, and practice exams to familiarize students with the test format and content. With teachers’ support, students can feel confident and well-prepared when taking the exams.

Overall, the National Spanish Exam and the National Spanish Assessment offer students a valuable opportunity to showcase their language proficiency and receive recognition for their hard work. These exams not only serve as a measure of achievement but also motivate students to continue studying the Spanish language. Whether students are aiming for medals, certificates, scholarships, or simply personal growth, participating in these exams can be a rewarding experience that encourages lifelong learning.


Q: What is the National Spanish Exam?

A: The National Spanish Exam is a prestigious competition offered voluntarily to students who are studying Spanish. It measures their performance in the Spanish language and offers national recognition for excellent achievement.

Q: Who is eligible to participate in the National Spanish Exam?

A: The exam is open to middle and high school students throughout the United States, as well as high school teachers who teach Spanish.

Q: What are the benefits of participating in the National Spanish Exam?

A: Students who score well on the exam receive national recognition for their high achievement in Spanish. They may also receive a medal or honorable mention, and teachers may also receive recognition for their students’ performance.

Q: How are the scores on the National Spanish Exam reported?

A: Scores are reported as percentile rankings, which measure students’ performance relative to others who took the exam. This percentile ranking is a measure of the top students in the United States.

Q: How can teachers prepare their students for the National Spanish Exam?

A: Teachers can prepare their students by offering specialized study materials, incorporating the exam content into their class curriculum, and offering motivational support to encourage students’ participation and success.

Q: What opportunities are available for students who excel in the National Spanish Exam?

A: Students who perform exceptionally well may earn a place in the 75th percentile, receive a prestigious award, or even be offered a first-hand class abroad to further develop their language skills.

Q: What is the significance of the National Spanish Exam’s recognition for teachers?

A: The exam provides a platform for middle and high school teachers throughout the United States to showcase the success and high achievement of their Spanish students.

Q: How does the National Spanish Exam contribute to the improvement of Spanish language teaching programs?

A: The exam acts as a standardized assessment tool, offering valuable insights and data that can be utilized to measure and improve the performance of Spanish language teaching programs.

Q: What is the National Spanish Challenge and how does it differ from the National Spanish Exam?

A: The National Spanish Challenge is a contest that offers the largest of its kind in the United States medal or honorable mention to students participating. It is a separate competition that provides an additional opportunity for students to showcase their skills in Spanish.

Q: Where can I find more information about the National Spanish Exam and related news and updates?

A: For the latest news, program updates, and teaching tips related to the National Spanish Exam, visit the official blog of the American Association of Teachers of Spanish and Portuguese (AATSP).

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