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What Your Child Needs to Study Before the National Latin Exam Next Month

Last month, I had the pleasure of being interviewed on Leigh! @ Lunch concerning the National Latin Exam. Since there was so much interest in the information, I thought I should spend a little time discussing some of the things that need to be reviewed before your child takes the National Latin Exam. Henle is an excellent textbook, but it is not aligned to the NLE (probably because the NLE did not exist when Henle was published).


First of all, go to and in the syllabi section get the syllabus for your child’s level of Latin (in our community, Challenges A and B are taking the Intro while Challenge I is taking I, II is taking II, et cetera). Also, visit the “exams—previous exams” section and print out the tests for your child’s level (beware, each year’s exam includes all levels—just print out the ones you need and the answer key). I usually start with the most current and work backward (the exam shifted a little around 2005). When you are reviewing the exams and your child is practice testing, you will notice that there are always stock questions, such as one or two conjunction questions, questions with sum, and so on. Also, the vocabulary is a bit different on the NLE so take note of that. A lot of the questions are straight memorization. All of the questions are multiple choice. There are usually twenty questions about grammar and vocabulary, ten questions on all sorts of things, and ten questions on a sight passage.


Second, notice that from around question twenty to question thirty the questions are about English derivatives, Roman culture, mythology, and history. This can be hard because it is hard to anticipate what the questions will be. One year, all of my students missed the question for the Latin word for lunch (prandium). They knew many other things, but not lunch!  If I want my student to do really well, I will have my student read Bulfinch’s Mythology (found at or at Project Gutenberg), Edith Hamilton’s Mythology, or D’Aulaires’ Book of Greek Myths. Also, find two maps: one of ancient Italy showing the Apennine Mountains, Brundisium, Pompeii, Tarentum, and Rome, and one showing the empire at its greatest extent. Usually, the test focuses on Italy, but sometimes it has a basic question on the Empire (for which I am pretty sure our Foundations students would know the answer). Finally, have your child read something about Roman culture. I like the sites and


Third, have your student review some grammatical constructions they may not have seen. The Latin I NLE usually has some questions on imperatives and Henle teaches them much later in the book. Also, for Latins II and III, students need to learn the irregular conjugations of the verbs sum, eo, fero, volo and possum. Conjunction questions are always popular: aut (or), et (and), neque (and. . ..not), quod (because), sed (but), ubi (when, where), et. . .et (both. . and), neque. . . neque (neither. . . nor), aut. . .aut (either. . .or), postquam (afterwards), quamquam (although), nec. . . nec (neither. . . nor), sive. . . sive. . . (whether. . .or), vel. . . vel (either. . . or), si (if), non modo. . . sed etiam (not only . . .but also),antequam (before), nam (for), vero (but, indeed). Finally, have your students review adverbs. In Latin I or Intro, it is important that they know that first and second declension adjectives change from –us to –e to make an adverb. For example, altus meaning high becomes alte meaning highly.


Finally, please stress to your student that this test can only help him or her, not hurt. It is a low pressure standardized-type test. Colleges love to see that a student has placed on the National Latin Exam. Students who do well on upper level exams can apply for a college scholarship. Bona fortuna tecum sit aut, gravius, Deus tecum sit!

TIERS: challenge
CATEGORIES: Articles, Classical Christian Education, Dialectic Stage (ages 12 to 14), Rhetoric Stage (ages 14 to 18)

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