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Everything You Need to Ace the National Spanish Exam

Everything You Need to Ace the National Spanish Exam

Are you currently studying Spanish in school? Consider taking the National Spanish Exam to assess your skills in a fun competition alongside other 6th through 12th graders across the U.S. This blog will guide you through the exam's question structure, offer studying tips and tricks, and explain the reward system. Keep reading to discover how you could earn a nationally recognized Gold Medal for the National Spanish Exam!
1. What is the National Spanish Exam?

The National Spanish Exam (NSE) is an online standardized test used to measure Spanish proficiency in 6-12 graders. Organized by the American Association of Teachers of Spanish and Portuguese (AATSP), the National Spanish Exam is an exciting opportunity to stand out amongst your classmates and see how you rank against other Spanish students in your state.

The NSE measures content standards (i.e. vocabulary and grammar) and performance standards (i.e. reading and listening comprehension). More information e will be further explained in section 6. What does the National Spanish Exam look like? of this blog.

Cost: $5 per student

National Spanish Exam Cost
2. When is the National Spanish Exam 2024?

Registration for the NSE 2024 opened on November 1, 2023, and closed on February 9, 2024.

The exam dates are from March 4, 2024, to April 15, 2024.

While you can no longer register for the 2024 National Spanish Exam, now is an excellent time to familiarize yourself with the test format and take some Spanish courses outside of school to polish your skills for the 2025 National Spanish Exam!

3. Why take the National Spanish Exam?

You should take the National Spanish Exam to win nationally recognized prizes in Spanish literacy and to win scholarships and spots in immersion programs!

Available Prizes:

  • Premio de Oro (Gold Medal ≥95th percentile)
  • Premio de Plata (Silver Medal ≥85th percentile)
  • Premio de Bronce (Bronze Medal ≥75th percentile)
  • Mención Honorifica (Honorable Mention ≥50th percentile) – an honorable mention medal must be purchased on your own through the online NSE Store
  • Perfect Score

Qualify to Apply for NSE Scholarships!

Test takers who place at or above the 75th percentile qualify to apply for exclusive scholarships to Spanish Language and Cultural Immersion Programs and college funds. NSE offers three options: the KCB Global Citizen Scholarship, the Junior Travel Abroad Scholarship, and the Senior Scholarship (students can win $2,000 or $1,000 for college). Read more about these special opportunities here.

4. National Spanish Exam Winners 2023


Gold Medal

Silver Medal

Bronze Medal

Honorable Mention

Perfect Score

Students Awarded






(Statistics sourced from National Spanish Exam website)

See which schools had the top performers in the National Spanish Exam in 2023!

5. Is the National Spanish Exam prestigious?

Some college applications will give you the option to list national-level awards you’ve received. While not substantial enough on its own to indicate a strong passion for learning Spanish, it can make you a stand-out applicant coupled with things like leadership roles in Spanish language/culture clubs, 5s on AP Spanish exams, study aboard experience in Spanish-speaking countries, and/or art projects on Spanish culture.

The National Spanish Exam gains its prestige from its popularity as a famous, common school activity. In 2022, over 73,000 students participated in the National Spanish Exam, thus meaning that earning a high percentile in the exam speaks miles for your skills and work ethic in studying Spanish.

6. What does the National Spanish Exam look like?

The National Spanish Exam is broken down into 7 different levels: Levels 01 through 6—the higher the level, the more difficult the exam. Not sure which level suits you? Don’t worry this blog will help you decide! First, check out the table below to get a rough assessment based on your current grade level and how many years you’ve been learning Spanish. Second, check out these vocabulary lists filtered by different exam levels. Finally, ask your teacher for access to a practice test.








Available to grades 6-12.

Available to grades 6-12.

Available to grades 7-12.

Available to grades 8-12.

Available to grades 9-12.

Available to grades 10-12.

Available to grades 11-12.

What is the difference between Level 01 and Level 1?

Level 01 is equivalent to first half year of learning Spanish.

Level 1 is equivalent to second half year of learning Spanish. Estimated: grade 8.

Format and Length


80 minutes / 66 questions / 100 points


40 minutes / 38 questions / 40 points


40 minutes / 28 questions / 60 points


20 questions / 20 points


18 questions / 20 points


14 questions / 35 points


14    questions / 25 points


The NSE is split into two portions: Achievement and Proficiency, and they can be separated and taken on separate days. Teachers can choose to administer the Achievement portion of the exam during one class period, and administer the Proficiency portion on the following day’s class period. The days also do not have to be consecutive, making the exam more accessible and flexible to students’ schools’ teachers’ varying schedules.

7. What to Expect for National Spanish Exam Questions

Reading Comprehension

Students are provided with some context written in English to accompany an authentic text in Spanish. The questions are multiple-choice, each with four answer choices. Some examples of authentic Spanish text include a book excerpt, poem, menu, or even a social media post.

Listening Comprehension

Students are provided with some context in English to accompany an authentic spoken passage in Spanish. The questions are multiple-choice, each with four answer choices. Some examples of authentic Spanish spoken passages include a conversation, play, radio broadcast, or a film/video clip.

Click here to view a detailed breakdown of the types of questions to expect on the National Spanish Exam—from specifications for grammar to vocabulary—all categorized by exam level.

8. National Spanish Exam Practice Tests

The NSE website offers free practice tests, which is one of the best ways to prepare for the exam. While students do not have open access to these practice tests, teachers can register here to access these tests for free!

Don’t have access to practice tests yet but want to get started?

Don’t feel like these options work well for you? Read this helpful article on 6 Websites to Master New Languages Fast.

9. How to study for the National Spanish Exam

Review NSE Vocabulary Lists

Determine your level and start learning these vocabulary words based on your level. Check out these Level 2, Level 4, and Level 6 lists to get started!

Take a Spanish language course with Aralia Education

Classes are taught by top US prep high school Spanish teachers such as *list school that the instructors are from and other credential* (I’m not sure which teacher is teaching the following courses).

For those just getting started with the Spanish language or if you need a refresher, try Aralia’s Introduction to Spanish course. If you are more advanced and want to hit two birds with one stone, prepare for the National Spanish Exam and AP Spanish exams with Aralia’s AP Spanish Language and Culture course.

10. How to take the National Spanish Exam

The National Spanish Exam is administered through your Spanish teacher and usually taken during class. Talk with your Spanish teacher about when your class will be taking the National Spanish Exam!

Want your teacher/school to get involved? Send this link to your Spanish teacher! If the link doesn’t work, copy and paste this URL into your browser: https://www.aatsp.org/general/register_member_type.asp?

11. How often can I take the National Spanish Exam?

You can take the National Spanish Exam multiple times, but you must advance to the next level each time you take it. For example, if you took Level 3 one year, you must take Level 4 next year. You cannot take the same level more than once.

12. What is a good score on the National Spanish Exam?

Students should aim for above 75th percentile for a Bronze Medal, 85th percentile for Silver, and 95th for Gold.

If you are a junior or senior in high school and want to include an impressive NSE score on your college applications, definitely aim for Gold.

Ideally, a Perfect Score will look the best on your record but do keep in mind very few students achieve this level, so don’t be too hard on yourself!

13. How is the National Spanish Exam graded?

Competition Categories

Students are split into 3 categories based on where they learned Spanish: 1) classroom experience where students only use Spanish in a language class, 2) outside experience such as study abroad language immersion, or 3) bilingual where parents might speak Spanish at home.

This ensures students aren’t unfairly compared against each other. A student who only learns Spanish a few times a week in a foreign language class will not be graded the same as a student who has grown up hearing Spanish at home their whole lives.

These categories and levels are determined by your own Spanish teacher. Not sure which category or level you belong in? We recommend speaking with your teacher to make sure they provide you with the most accurate exam.

How to check the National Spanish Exam results

Your National Spanish Exam results will be sent to your teachers in the form of a report card.

What do my teachers see on my National Spanish Exam report card?

On your report card, you will receive a Raw Score and a National Percentile for both sections (1-Reading and listening, 2-Vocabulary and grammar).

For a detailed breakdown of what’s on the report card and how to understand the grading rubric, check out this helpful guide.

How do I send my National Spanish Exam to colleges?

The association in charge of the National Spanish Exam doesn’t send report cards directly to students or teachers, but rather to the teacher/school hosting the exam for their students. To receive a copy of your National Spanish Exam results to include in your college applications, reach out to your teacher/school and have them email nse@aatsp.org.

14. National Spanish Exam vs National Spanish Assessment vs National Spanish Challenge

National Spanish Assessment is essentially the same as National Spanish Exam except that it’s not a competition and the exam window is always open, meaning students can take the exam at any time of the year.

National Spanish Challenge, on the other hand is purely for fun to motivate elementary and middle schools in grades 1-6 to continue studying Spanish.

15. What’s next?

Try for the Seal of Biliteracy!

So now that you know everything about the National Spanish Exam, you’re probably wondering what the next steps would be for you as a Spanish language learner. Try out for the Seal of Biliteracy!

Schools, districts, or county offices award students with a Seal of Biliteracy on their high school diploma or transcript if the student has studied a foreign language so proficiently that they can be considered bilingual by their high school graduation. “The Seal of Biliteracy” is a statement of accomplishment for future employers and for college admissions.” Have questions about how to improve your Spanish? Contact us and we’ll get you right on track to becoming fluent in Spanish!

Take Spanish class with Aralia teachers

Learning Spanish is an exciting journey that opens doors to new opportunities and experiences. We offer National Spanish Exam Prep classes, designed to provide high school students with the necessary skills and knowledge to excel in Spanish language learning and provide foundations to succeed in assessments and competitions.

These Spanish exams and competitions provide valuable opportunities for middle and high school students to demonstrate their proficiency and passion for the French language. Whether aiming for college credit, international certification, or simply personal growth, these assessments offer a structured path for students to achieve their language learning goals.

Writing Competition Aralia Education
National Spanish Exam Preparation

Join our National Spanish Exam Preparation Class and unlock opportunities for recognition and scholarships. Join our personalized one-on-one course to master Spanish language proficiency and achieve your goals.


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