What does GCSE Spanish involve?
Preparing to take the British GCSE Spanish? First of all, make sure you understand what you need to cover.
Here’s an outline from the AQA syllabus, one of the main exam boards, but other boards follow a similar pattern.
GCSE Spanish covers the four disciplines of listening, reading, writing and speaking. You need to show proficiency in each area to do well. Within that framework, there are two tiers - the Foundation Tier (grades 1–5) and the Higher Tier (grades 4–9). Once you’ve decided on the tier you’re going to follow, you must take all four question papers at the same level, in the same series.
The syllabus covers three main themes across all four question papers:
Identity and culture
Local, national, international and global areas of interest
Current and future study and employment
You’ll need to understand and provide information and opinions on any of these themes. Progress with Lawless Spanish's reading and listening comprehension exercises cover many of these topics so are worth including in your GCSE Spanish revision.
2023 Update: In 2022, GCSE students were given advance information on topics that would be covered in the exams due to the pandemic. It's been announced that there will be no advanced information in 2023.
When is the Spanish GCSE exam taken?
In 2023, Spanish GCSE exams (as the rest of the GCSE exams) will reportedly begin on May 15 and end on June 21.
The precise dates, however, could change based on your exam board and subjects. We highly recommend you confirm the exact dates of your Spanish GCSE exams with your school or exam board in advance, so you can prep accordingly.
GCSE Spanish Listening
The listening exam assesses how well you understand and respond to spoken Spanish, used for different purposes. It’s worth 25% of your overall grade.
Foundation level - 35 minutes - 40 marks available
Higher level - 45 minutes - 50 marks available.
The first section asks questions in English, which have to be answered in English too. The second part asks questions in Spanish, which have to be answered in Spanish.
Train your ear to get used to the speed Spanish is spoken at in real life. Listen to Spanish radio, or podcasts and watch Spanish T.V. and films. Anything that gets you used to the intonation, speed and rhythm of the language. Also make sure you familiarise yourself with the Spanish spoken in different Latin American countries.
We’ve summed up some of the different ways you can use music to help you improve our Spanish. Not only is it good for helping your pronunciation but it’s also been proven to help recall - and it makes the whole experience a bit of fun, into the bargain!
It’s key to learn as much vocabulary as you can on all the themes in the syllabus from topics such as food and eating out to the environment or elections. Think about what words and phrases may come up so you’re more likely to pick up on them in the actual GCSE Spanish exam. Listen out particularly for any numbers as they can be quite tricky.
Here’s a handy list of what topics could be tested at each level.
We have a great selection of dictation exercises and audio articles so you can practise your listening skills as much as you need. Choose those at A2 level for GCSE Foundation level and B1 for Higher.
All the exercises marked free are free for registered users and the rest are available with any of our Premium plans.
Take a look at the following articles which tie in with the GCSE themes;
They are all designed to help you with particular aspects of grammar.
GCSE Spanish Reading
The reading paper is a written exam designed to test your ability to understand an Reading d respond to different types of language.
Foundation level - 45 minutes
Higher level - 1 hour
The total number of marks available is 60 and it contributes to 25% of your overall grade.
The first section asks questions in English, which should be answered in English, while the second section asks questions in Spanish, to be answered in Spanish. The third section is a translation from Spanish to English.
In the exam, go right through the whole passage to get the general meaning, before you look at the questions. It’s always easier to understand what you’re being asked, if you know the context.
Revise your grammar so that you recognise which tenses are being used in the questions and learn as much topic-specific vocabulary as possible.
The best way to prepare for the reading section is simply to read as much as possible. Cover a wide variety of topics in whatever format you can find - newspapers, magazines, books.
We have a wide range of Spanish articles and transcripts to help you practise your reading:
Take a look at just a few:
Culture - Spanish superstitions
Places of interest - Discover the incredible works of the architect Antoni Gaudi
Employment/study - A look at the virtual classroom
They’re a great way to practise your reading comprehension. Read the Spanish first then click on any phrase to see the English translation with the related grammar points.
There are more exercises available to help your reading with one of our education partners - see A2 reading comprehension. Or try and read a Spanish newspaper online, such as El Pais. Don’t worry if you don’t understand all the words. It will get easier the more you do it and the context will give you some of the meaning. Children’s books or sites with simple language are also a good source of reading material.
GCSE Spanish Writing
The GCSE Spanish written exam assesses how well you can communicate in writing for different purposes.
Foundation level - 1 hour - 50 marks available
Higher level - 1 hour 15 minutes - 60 marks available
The paper contains four questions at both levels. At Foundation level, you’ll be expected to write a 90-word answer covering four bullet points, with a choice from two questions. At Higher, in the open-ended writing task you’ll be expected to write approx 150 words in response to two detailed bullet points.
You’ll need to show you can use a variety of tenses, clauses and vocabulary in your writing as well as demonstrating accurate use of grammar. You may need to discuss a topic, describe something or tell a story so adapt your writing style to match.
Expand your vocab by using these lists of Spanish words and phrases, all grouped by theme. Experiment with new expressions. It’s a good idea to get to grips with specific grammar techniques, such as the subjunctive - a sure way to impress the examiner. Check out our full set of tips and techniques to perfect your writing here.
We’ve put together a whole set of exercises to help improve your writing skills at A2 for GCSE Foundation level or B1 for Higher level.
Here’s a taster:
Culture - The famous Spanish dance - the Pasodoble
Places of interest - A weekend in Barcelona
Employment/study - How to prepare for a job interview (avail on Premium)
Another great way to expand your vocab is through fill-in the blank exercises as they have tips and translations at various points and are linked to specific lessons.
And if you want some extra practice, there are weekly writing challenges and dictation exercises on our Premium package.
GCSE Spanish Speaking
The speaking exam usually takes place with your Spanish teacher rather than in an examination hall.
Foundation level - 7-9 minutes
Higher level - 10-12 minutes.
There are 60 marks available in total, and the test accounts for 25% of your overall grade. The exam includes a role play, photo card and conversation element.
For the photo card part of your GCSE exam, practise as many topics as possible so you’ll be prepared for whatever comes up. Start off by preparing subjects you’re passionate about, for example, your hobbies and interests. Move on to social issues such as unemployment, homelessness and climate change. Keep a book with all the new vocab you’re learning.
A good way to build your confidence is by speaking out loud, so you can perfect your pronunciation and your accent. Record yourself on your phone so you can play it back and revise.
Check out these ways to improve your speaking skills. It’s always best to practise with someone else - conversation is a two way thing after all. If you do have to practise on your own, try some of these techniques for solo Spanish speaking which will help you get used to how the words sound.
Getting ready for your GCSE Spanish exam
We’ve put together a list of top tips for preparing for Spanish tests.
Flashcards are a great way to expand your vocab and memorise new words. Either make your own or use a resource like Quizlet.
Practise as much as you can by doing GCSE Spanish past papers, which can be downloaded here.That way you’ll know the sort of questions to expect in the exam.
Research shows that testing regularly will help to improve your Spanish but it’s important to focus on recall not just repetition.
It’s also a good idea to have someone to assess your written Spanish so you don’t keep making the same mistakes. Kwizbot can do this, highlighting where you’re going wrong and adjusting your Studyplan accordingly. And your Brainmap will show you what topics you’ve mastered and what you still need to work on.
Expanding your vocab as much as possible is vital if you are going to succeed in all four of the disciplines so create a vocab book with any new words and phrases. You can also use our Notebook facility to put lessons or grammar topics in if you want to revisit and test them again.
And finally, take a look at our study tips to check you’re setting realistic expectations and making the most of your revision time.