NSE Overview

The National Spanish Examinations (NSE) are a motivational contest to recognize student achievement and proficiency in the study of Spanish. In addition to the contest, these examinations are online, standardized assessment tools for Grades 6-12 that measure content standards (vocabulary and grammar) and performance standards (reading and listening comprehension).

At the National level, students receive medal placement (gold, silver, bronze, honorable mention) based on their scores and are eligible to apply for several types of scholarships (Global Citizen Scholarship, Junior Study Abroad Program, Senior Scholarship). 

Teachers receive individual reports for each student disaggregating data in various ways so that teachers can identify strengths and weaknesses of individual students for specific standards, measurement categories, and learner outcomes; show growth from one year to the next; and/or report other variables as needed!

 Exam Format & Length

For a comparison between the National Spanish Examination (national contest) and the National Spanish Assessments (NSA are non-contest) click here.

 The format and length of the National Spanish Examinations for all levels (01-6) is as follows:

  • Achievement exam (vocabulary and grammar) is 40 minutes.
  • Proficiency exam (reading and listening) is 40 minutes.

 Click here for a more detailed chart of the Format and Length of the National Spanish Examinations. 

What does the NSE measure?

 The National Spanish Examinations are standards-based assessments which evaluate both content standards (what a student knows) and performance standards (what a student is able to do) over various levels of secondary instruction (grades 6-12).

The Achievement Section of the test assesses Content Standards through specifications for vocabulary and specifications for grammar.

The Proficiency section of the test assesses Performance Standards as defined by the National Spanish Examination Proficiency Levels. This section assesses Interpretive Communication: both Reading Comprehension and Listening Comprehension.


NSE Competition Levels & Categories

NSE Competition Levels

Click the image below for detailed descriptions of each level of the NSE!

NSE Competition Categories

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


 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. Examples:
 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. Examples:

 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 Exam is used to measure performance (interpretive communication) and achievement of students who are studying the Spanish language in the United States.
Native Speakers
Native Spanish-speakers 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 Exam.
 Foreign exchange students  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.


 For questions and special circumstances, please contact us



  1. Most teachers choose to give the Achievement exam and the Proficiency exam on two separate days during the normal class period.  The days do not have to be consecutive.

  2. If teachers have students who are sick on the day of the administration of the exam, the teacher may administer the exam to the students as long as the exam window is still open.

  3. Teachers should allow an additional five (5) minutes for students to fill out the student information section on the Achievement part of the test.