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Spanish A Level: How to succeed in your IRP

Part 2 of the AQA A Level Spanish Speaking Assessment consists of the presentation and discussion of an Individual Research Project, which students have previously prepared throughout the year.

It constitutes one of the most fascinating and exciting parts of the A Level Spanish course, as learners can link their own interests to the subject while developing not only their language, but also their research skills.

So, what steps do you need to take in order to prepare a successful IRP?

1. Don't be afraid to choose an original topic.

For the IRP, students must identify a subject or a key question which is of interest to them and which relates to a country, or countries, where Spanish is spoken.

The most successful students use this to their advantage and play to their strengths by choose a topic that they are really, genuinely interested in.

Don’t be afraid to choose something unique and original!

Since the AQA A Level Spanish syllabus includes such a broad variety of themes, it is worth taking your time to identify your area of greatest interest. Instead of going through lists of previous IRP topics for ideas, think about what inspired your interest in Spanish in the first place, and where you intend to take your studies in the future.

The IRP topics do not even have to be taken from the syllabus itself; this is a brilliant opportunity to broaden your knowledge by studying something that the AQA syllabus does not already cover, as long as it is appropriate in scope (not too broad or too narrow) and is based in the culture or history of a Spanish-speaking country. You can find further guidance on the choice of topic here.

2. Combine your choice of topic in Spanish with other subjects you enjoy.

Are you also taking an A Level in art? Then why not research a Spanish-speaking artist and the impact of their work, or the role of art in education in Spain? Taking an approach based on your other A Level subjects means you will be on solid ground and have plenty of existing knowledge and ideas. An added bonus is that you will gain relevant insight into your other A Level subject, too.

Researching something that you really want to learn about, and that may be related to your personal interests, your other academic work or your further studies, will mean that you genuinely enjoy the preparation of your IRP and are in a strong position to make it a success.

💡 Tip: You can also base your research on one Spanish or Latin American literary text or film, but it must not be the same one that you are going to refer in Paper 2, your written assessment.

🔍 Further reference: The A Level Content Advisory Board has published these illustrative examples of individual research topics.

3. Select an appropriate key question for your IRP.

Once you’ve decided which topic you’re going to explore in your project, you can then think of what key question will guide your research.

Why is this important?

If we look at AO4, one of the assessment objectives, it says that, in order to achieve highest marks, students must give an "excellent critical and analytical response". It is therefore important to find an appropriate question that will allow you to analyse the impact and/or evaluate the importance of the aspect you are researching.

Let’s look at an example.

The question “¿Cuáles son las pinturas más famosas de Frida Kahlo? / What are Frida Kahlo’s most famous paintings?” leads to a more descriptive / narrative answer, whereas “¿Cuál es el impacto de la obra de Frida Kahlo? / What’s the impact of Frida Kahlo’s paintings?” requires an analytical answer.

A question that leads to analysis and evaluation is what will set you up to gain the most marks under the AO4 criteria, putting you in a strong position from the outset.

4. Only use high-quality, Spanish-language sources.

The AQA specification states that students must select relevant information in Spanish from a range of sources, including the internet.

You should therefore use a wide variety of sources (not only online information, and not Wikipedia!). These must be reliable and high-quality; it’s better to use information from reputable news sources instead of online tabloids, and documentaries instead of Youtube influencers.

In summary, your sources must be:

  • reliable: from a reputable author, newspaper, etc;

  • in different formats: articles, podcasts, books, TV news, etc;

  • up-to-date: check that the information is recent and correct;

  • directly relevant to your question or title: not superfluous.

5. Prepare thoroughly for your 2-minute IRP presentation.

In the assessment for the AQA Spanish A Level, students will need to give a presentation with their key findings, speaking for up to two minutes. According to the assessment criteria, "thorough knowledge and understanding of the area of study" must be evident in the presentation in order to gain full marks.

To make sure that all the relevant information is summarised in those two minutes, you can follow this structure:

  1. Initial information.

  2. Background / Context.

  3. Examples / Evidence / Observations.

  4. Consequences / Impact.

  5. Opinions / Conclusions.

Once you’ve prepared the presentation, record yourself reading it to make sure you don’t exceed the 2 minutes. Then, practice many times to learn the overall structure by heart so that you can present it confidently in the exam.

6. Anticipate some of the questions that the examiner might ask you in the discussion.

The presentation of your research will be followed by a 9- to 10-minute discussion with the examiner. These will be based on your presentation and the headings you have chosen (these headings are entered on your Candidate Record Form, which is submitted in advance of the exam). You can’t know the questions in advance, but there are ways to anticipate some of them. Here are some examples of prompts that examiners use frequently:

¿Por qué has elegido estudiar este tema?

Háblame un poco más de….

Cuando hablas de…..¿qué quieres decir exactamente?

Algunas personas piensan que….¿qué piensas tú al respecto?

¿Cómo reaccionas ante esto?

¿Piensas que esto es verdad/ mentira?

¿Qué piensas si te digo que…?

¿Tienes algún ejemplo que pueda justificar tu idea?

¿Y qué dirías si…?

¿Y si te dijera que…..que dirías tú?

En tu opinión, ¿qué impacto ha tenido…..sobre…?

¿Qué es lo que te ha interesado/chocado/marcado/sorprendido más a raíz de tu investigación?

¿De dónde has obtenido tu información?

¿Qué es lo más importante que has aprendido de tu investigación?

¿Cómo ha cambiado tu visión de [nombre del país] o del mundo hispanohablante después de este proyecto individual?

The choice of topic and the way you prepare for the Individual Research Project can make the difference between a good exam performance and an outstanding one. The key is to find what you really love to talk about. This will make the research process, and the assessment itself, a highlight of your Spanish A Level course.


The Kate Maria Languages Academy teaches immersive online A Level courses in Spanish, following the AQA syllabus. The course develops all four key skills of reading, writing, speaking and listening, with live lessons taught by experienced A Level tutors. For further information and enrolment details, you can contact us here.


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