Exam Categories

Categories of Exam Competition

In order to allow students with like-exposure to compete against one another, the NSE has defined Three Categories of exam competition. 

* The Categories of Exam Competition will be determined on the day of the Exam Administration, not during Exam Registration. *


View this instructional video to see how to choose the correct category on the National Spanish Examinations.


*For information on Exam Specifications for each NSE Competition Level, click HERE.*



1. Classroom Experience


A student whose only contact with Spanish is in the classroom.



2. Outside Experience


A student who has had specific experiences with Spanish beyond the classroom:


- The student is a heritage speaker who has had exposure to Spanish but limited practice in his/her home environment. The student may hear or speak some Spanish at home.

- The student has been enrolled in a Spanish immersion or dual language program for the prior 3 years or more.

- The student's principal language is another romance language (Catalan, French, Galician, Italian, Sicilian, Portuguese, Rumanian, etc.)

- The student has participated in an elementary Spanish language program during grades K-6 for three years or more. (This specification applies to LEVELS 01 and 1 only. Any student taking the Level 2 exam or above who participated in an elementary Spanish program may be placed in the CLASSROOM EXPERIENCE category.)

NOTE: For the purpose of the NSE Contest, an elementary Spanish language program is defined as having had 30 minutes or more of Spanish instruction per week for three years or more during Grades K-6.



3. Bilingual


- A student who comes from a home where Spanish is the predominant language:

- The student has grown up in a home where Spanish is spoken.

- The student is bilingual to some degree in both Spanish and English.



 Teacher Discretion


The following language experiences may place a student in either the outside experience category or in the bilingual category. The teacher should advise the student as to which category is appropriate:

- A student has lived (after age 6) in a Spanish speaking country for more than a year.

- A student has studied in a Spanish speaking country for more than 4 months.

- A student whose principal language at home is Spanish or Spanish/English.

- A student whose principal language outside the home is Spanish or Spanish/English.


* Note: The National Spanish Examinations are used to measure performance (interpretive communication) and achievement of students who are studying the Spanish language in the United States.

Native Spanish-speakers (i.e. foreign exchange students and/or students who were born in and who have studied the Spanish language formally in a native Spanish-speaking country and later moved to the United States) should compete in the Bilingual Category only. The teacher may need to evaluate the appropriate Competition Level of the NSE for these students to maintain the integrity of the National Spanish Examinations. 


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