AP Language Exams: Don’t Get Tongue-Tied

It’s easy to be intimidated by foreign language AP tests, but you don’t have to be a native speaker to score well. Nor do you have to be fluent—you’re not expected to know every single word or understand every grammatical construction the test writers throw at you. You just need to use strategy.

Multiple-choice questions – Print

*Identify what type of communication you’re reading (e.g., advertisement for a product, customer’s letter to a company, community announcement) in order to get a head start on understanding the author’s motive and what communication strategies s/he might likely use. This way, if you run into unfamiliar words or grammar, you’ll still have a general sense of the text’s meaning.

*Cover-Anticipate-Reveal -Eliminate – just like on the SAT and the ACT, you don’t want the test writers to tell you what to think. COVER the answers they’ve provided, ANTICIPATE your own response (in the foreign language, if you can, but otherwise in English), and then REVEAL and ELIMINATE answer choices that don’t match with your own sense of what the answer should be.

Multiple-choice questions – Audio

Before listening to the audio, you have time to preview the print materials and the questions you’re going to answer—read through the questions in particular to get a sense of what the audio portions will be about. When you begin listening to the audio, don’t panic if you don’t understand a word or phrase—remember that you’ll get to listen to the audio one more time. Pay attention to the speaker’s tone: is s/he excited? disappointed? making a statement? asking a question? As in English, you can often get a sense of what someone is saying by picking up on his or her tone.

Free response – Written

E-mail response: before the test, memorize the formal greeting and closing for a letter so that you have them prepared; in the actual email, underline all questions so that you remember to answer each one in your response.

Persuasive essay: use elements from each of the three sources to support your argument. For the audio source, don’t worry about trying to jot down exact phrases—just take notes on the content.

Free response – Oral

Interpersonal mode: You’ll have one minute to preview the conversation you’re supposed to take part in; read the descriptions of the lines you’ll hear, and then pay attention to the imperatives (e.g., explain, propose, encourage) in the descriptions of the response you’re supposed to give. Remember that the maximum time allowed for each of your five responses is only twenty seconds, so you just need to execute what the lines are instructing you to do.

Presentational mode: Use the four minutes of preparation time to outline your presentation (think of the exercise as a verbal essay: intro, body, conclusion). Your presentation can’t be longer than two minutes; that might seem like a lot when you’re speaking a foreign language, but two minutes will pass more quickly than you realize if you have your ideas organized.

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