The Ultimate Guide to Spanish Tests and Diplomas

Have you ever thought about working in a Spanish-speaking country? Perhaps studying abroad? Maybe one day living in Barcelona?

In all three of these cases, the best place to start is by obtaining a Spanish diploma.


Because many Spanish positions and courses require proof of language proficiency. Even if you're moving abroad independent of a job or school, having a Spanish diploma empowers you to make the move with confidence. And for those with no plans to venture overseas, an upcoming exam is still one of the best motivators for studying a language. Having official proof of your skills is well worth the effort.

However, each of the Spanish tests is aimed at a specific language level and serves its own practical purpose. Certain institutions may even require one of these diplomas in particular.

That's why we've made this complete guide to Spanish diplomas and their exams. Read on to learn about the most popular options, who they're for, and how they work.

Table of Contents

Before you apply for a diploma

Before you decide which Spanish exam is for you, you need to determine your current Spanish CEFR level.

CEFR levels are an internationally recognised definition of language proficiency. To learn more about each of the levels, see our full article explaining the CEFR levels.

Knowing your level is essential to selecting the right difficulty for a diploma. It also helps you decide if you're ready to take the exam now or if you'd like to improve your Spanish first and go for the diploma later. To find out your Spanish level now, take a look at our free Spanish level test!

Top 6 official Spanish exams to choose from

Official Spanish diplomas are recognised around the world, holding much more weight internationally than any school grade can. But which diploma should you go for?

Here are the most popular choices:

1. DELE (Diplomas de Español como Lengua Extranjera)

2. SIELE (Servicio Internacional de Evaluación de la Lengua Española)

3. CELU (Certificado de Español Lengua y Uso)


Besides these, there are also a few school exams that have a high enough level of recognition to be considered:

4. IB Spanish (International Baccalaureate)

5. AP Spanish (Advanced Placement Spanish Language and Culture)

6. GCSE Spanish (General Certificate of Secondary Education)


These diplomas all serve different purposes, so it's important to choose the right one for your circumstances. The right Spanish test for you may depend on:

  • Your Spanish level
  • What country you are in
  • Why you need the qualification

To help you choose, here's a brief breakdown of these diplomas, as well as links to in-depth articles about each one.

1. DELE (Diplomas de Español como Lengua Extranjera)

The Diplomas de Español como Lengua Extranjera (DELE) is probably the most widely recognised diploma for "Spanish as a foreign language" speakers. The tests are created, evaluated, and corrected by the Universidad de Salamanca. The DELE is a great diploma to pursue for adults looking to advance their careers, work in a different country, or simply test their Spanish proficiency.

To learn how the test works and what grades are available, see our article on what to expect from the DELE exam.

2. SIELE (Servicio Internacional de Evaluación de la Lengua Española)

The Servicio Internacional de Evaluación de la Lengua Española (SIELE) is an official Spanish language test administered by the Instituto Cervantes and made in collaboration with a number of other institutions.

It's a single test that grades your Spanish proficiency from A1 to C1 according to the CEFR standard (there's no C2 accreditation).

If you're looking to prove your Spanish fluency for a job, to relocate to a Spanish-speaking country or to enter a Spanish university, the SIELE might be a great option for you.

To learn more about the SIELE exam and how it differs from the DELE, see our article on the SIELE exam.

3. CELU (Certificado de Español Lengua y Uso)

For those of you who have a good grasp of the Spanish language, the CELU, or Certificado de Español Lengua y Uso, is one of the pinnacles of advanced Spanish fluency testing.

It's recognised by several governments and institutions in Latin America, Brazil, Italy and China. This advanced certification is great for those who need to validate their proficiency in Spanish as a second language in a working environment or an academic context.

To achieve this level of proficiency and pass the exam, we highly suggest spending time in Spanish culture to let immersion learning do its magic.

To learn more about the CELU and whether it's the right diploma for you, see our article on the CELU exam.

4. IB Spanish (International Baccalaureate)

The International Baccalaureate® (IB) programmes are designed to help students develop their critical thinking skills, nurture their curiosity, and develop their ability to solve complex problems. The Diploma programme is aimed at students from 16–19, and the Language B course, as it is known, is designed for students who have some previous experience in Spanish.

In order to pass the end-of-year exam, you'll need to be able to show your proficiency in both written and spoken Spanish, including reacting to a spontaneous conversation. You'll also be tested on your overall understanding of Spanish culture.

Learn more about how to pass the IB Spanish exam here.

5. AP Spanish (Advanced Placement Spanish Language and Culture)

A good number of high schools in the United States offer "Advanced Placement Spanish Language and Culture" (AP Spanish) as an elective. If you're in high school, reach out to your guidance counsellor to see if you have the bandwidth to add this course to your semester.

You'll earn college credit and get a head start on your path to Spanish-speaking fluency. Plus, the final AP Spanish exam is comparable to a college-level Spanish 301 final exam.

Learn more about how to pass the AP Spanish exam here.

6. GCSE Spanish (General Certificate of Secondary Education)

Are you in Great Britain? Well, there's a special exam just for students of the Commonwealth. The General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE) is broken down into two comprehension levels: the Foundation Tier (grades 1–5) and the Higher Tier (grades 4–9).

Both exams cover the four disciplines of listening, reading, writing, and speaking. Additionally, you can expect to be tested on the following themes:

  • Identity and culture
  • Local, national, international and global areas of interest
  • Current and future study and employment
Learn more about how to pass the Spanish GCSE exam here.

Test for Spanish citizenship

Perhaps you've already taken your Spanish tests and diplomas. Maybe you've even lived in Spain for years and decided that it's time to make it your home.


But before you can say "Muchas Gracias", you'll have to get through a pretty involved naturalisation process, which includes interviews and a Spanish proficiency test.

You can get an in-depth overview of what it takes to become a Spanish citizen on the official site of the Ministerio de Justicia.

We also have experts on our team who have gone through this process themselves. Our friend María Virginia went through this process a few years ago and shared her experiences and thoughts for our bilingual Reader: Ciudadanía española: la experiencia de María Virginia.

With this experience under our team's belt, we know our extensive library of lessons, vocabulary lists, and exercises on Spanish culture is guaranteed to prepare you with the knowledge you need to impress your interviewer.

To learn more about the details of the citizenship test, such as common questions, and find all the best resources for your preparation, check out our full article on the Spanish citizenship test.

Study tips and resources

Whichever Spanish exam you're planning to take, the way you study is crucial to your success. In fact, we developed a whole series of articles on Spanish study methods, explaining how to make popular techniques work for you.

Here are some resources to show you how to practise effectively:

Between personalised Study Plans and over 5,000 Q&As covering endless topics, we also have the best resources out there for fine-tuning your skills. Our advanced algorithms evolve with your progress, making sure you're always moving forward.

But how should you start?

By finding out your Spanish level!

Before taking any Spanish tests…

Before you sign up for any of these Spanish tests, we suggest that you test your current Spanish level. A quick level test can help you decide which diploma to pursue, as well as whether you're ready.

Lucky for you, we have a free Spanish level test ready to go!

To find out your level and which areas you need to improve on, take our free Spanish level test now!

Clever stuff happening!