Tag Archives: National Latin exam

Why I do what I do….

I received this note from the parent of an online student:

Thank you so much!  As someone who is part of my “educational team” for my kids, you should know my daughter received a Gold Summa Cum Laude award this evening for her NLE this year. She missed 3 on the Latin 1 test, and her younger sister by 2 years missed 5 on the Intro. What a surprise to mom!  Thanks for making a difference!

This is our first online class, and I have to say that I am beyond impressed that our teacher who is somewhere out in the Internet world actually knows who we are!  I have always figured that you had so so many students….never would I have dreamed that you would know us the way you do.  Thanks for being personal, even if we never meet face to face!

You made her year of Latin so much better than if we had attempted it alone!  Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!  

– Julie

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Textbooks of tears

I received this comment:

I have switched to using Visual Latin for my freshman. It is going so well. I have some questions though:

Are there cumulative tests available after lesson 30 and 60? If not, what do you recommend I could do to replace cumulative tests?

What do you recommend I make sure she does to get a full credit of work in the class? In our state that means 120 of work with evident progress.

Thank you.

Here is my first reply:


By nature, every test or quiz is cumulative. In this sense, Latin is a bit like math. You do not get to advance if you do not understand the basics.

Still, you could also use the National Latin Exams for practice. All of the old versions (with answer keys) are available here:


You will have to scroll down a bit. Terrible website.

If you are following our scope and sequence for high school, credit is no problem. We have structured Visual Latin based on the Home School Legal Defense parameters. 150 hours is full credit for a school year.

Let me know if you need more help!

She replied to my reply:

Sorry to email a second time. I glanced over one test. Are you saying by the end of the Visual Latin course a student should be able to take any of these tests? If so that is amazing! I appreciate all your work. It has saved us from many frustrations.

My reply:

Good morning, Susan!

Yes.  You should be able to practice with old National Latin Exams.  

However, you must be careful.  Visual Latin does not teach verb tenses until lesson 37.  

Verb tenses show up on the National Latin Exams in the very first tests.  

This is because most textbooks start with verb tenses.  This is the most difficult concept for students to grasp.  I’ve been in the classroom for almost twenty years.  Believe me.  

I don’t know why most textbooks begin with verb tenses.  It makes no sense.  Textbooks of tears in my opinion.  Someone has a lot to answer for.

Visual Latin, and Lingua Latina by Hans Orberg, are the only courses I know of that push verb tenses to the end.  I believe this is the better approach.  

Unfortunately, it throws a wrench into the standardized testing system.  Students of Visual Latin and Lingua Latina may be doing very well, in fact, better than many Latin students struggling through eternal verb tenses, only to find themselves demoralized after taking the National Latin Exam.

My advice?  Take the National Latin Exam.  Take all the practice exams you like.  Just wait until you have finished about half of Visual Latin 2.

The National Latin Exam

I received this question:

To get “credit” for a foreign language, my daughter needs to take the National Latin Exam and pass.  Do you have any experience preparing kids for this exam?  My daughter will take your Lingua Latina this fall.  Hopefully, she will take the 2nd class the following year.  Do you know if she will be ready for the exam after that?

Here is my reply:

The National Latin Exam follows the format of most Latin Grammars.  In other words, it is heavy on verb tenses from the beginning.  

Lingua Latina, on the other hand, pushes verb tenses back as far as possible.  Lingua Latina is in the present tense for the first 17 chapters (out of 35 chapters).  This was a brilliant move on Hans Orberg’s part.  Since the first half of the book is in the present tense, students can focus on learning nouns, pronouns, adjectives, participles, and a number of other more “simple” grammatical concepts.  Then, with so much grammar out of the way, Lingua Latina adds in the very complicated Latin verb tenses.  Not only does Lingua Latina cover verb tenses late, it also covers them slowly.  Again, this gives students time to wrap their heads around one of the most difficult language concepts.  As I said… brilliant.

Most other Latin grammars, and as far as I can tell, all of the public school grammars, flip the order.  Students learn the very complicated and overwhelming verb tenses from the beginning.  This ensures that students are confused.  It also ensures that they begin to hate Latin right away.  

Unfortunately, the National Latin Exam follows the standard “verb first” format.  

For this reason, I recommend Visual Latin students wait until they complete lesson 30 before attempting the National Latin Exam.  I recommend Lingua Latina students wait until they complete chapter 17 before they attempt the National Latin Exam.  

There is another benefit to waiting.  The longer you wait, the better at Latin you become.  Using this strategy, three former students from New Hope Academy (where I teach locally) just received perfect, or in one case, near perfect scores on the exam.  

Incidentally, I have decided to teach a class on the National Latin Exam if you are interested.  I get this question so much, I finally decided to do something about it.

I will be uploading more details to my site soon.

Thanks for the push.  🙂


The National Latin Exam

I received this inquiry:

Hello Dwane,

“Your class is awesome and my 8th grade daughter is still with it! We are close to completing your first 30 lessons and are considering the NLE to gauge how we’re doing. My hope is that she will complete at least lessons 31 to 60, and prepare for high school credit.

Do you recommend taking the NLE at this time? If so, which level should she take? Should she be expect to take the SAT subject test in Latin too?

If you have any additional thoughts about preparing for and passing a high school language credit, level 2 accomplishment, I would appreciate it.

Many thanks for your great work!”

Here is my reply:


Thanks for the inquiry.  Happy to hear that your daughter is enjoying Visual Latin.

The National Latin exam is a tricky thing.  Imagine taking thirty students, and teaching them to work on cars.  Each student is trained only on one car.  One student learns to repair Hondas.  One student learns to repair Jeeps.  One student learns to repair Volvos, and so on.  Now, imagine we take all the students, who have never worked on any other car models, and test them with a national test.  Much of the material on the test would be familiar.  Much would not.

It is the same with the National Latin Exam.  The test is designed for students in the public school system, using public school textbooks.  There is much variation among these textbooks.  The National Latin Exam does not mesh perfectly with any textbook. 

It gets even more complicated when you add Visual Latin.  Here’s why:  

Visual Latin was designed to help students push through Lingua Latina, by Hans Ørberg.  Lingua Latina is the best Latin textbook out there, in my opinion.  It is a novel, written entirely in Latin.  The author takes students from simple Latin to complicated Latin by the end of the book.  

There is one major problem.  Lingua Latina contains no English instruction at all.  This actually not a problem.  The text is an immersion text.  However, after attempting to teach it for years, I only frustrated my students.  They wanted, and needed, English explanations of the grammar in Lingua Latina.  Eventually, we created Visual Latin.  Visual Latin is the English explanation of the grammar in Lingua Latina.

This is where Visual Latin and Lingua Latina bump against the National Latin Exam.  Hans Ørberg essentially ignores Latin verbs and all their tenses until chapter 15 of his book.  Visual Latin pushes the verbs and all their tenses off to lesson 30.  

The National Latin Exam, which is designed to work with the standard Latin textbook, emphasizes verbs and all their tenses immediately.  This is the modus operandi of the standard Latin textbook.  Verbs, and all their tenses, show up early.

For this reason, I recommend Visual Latin students wait until they finish Visual Latin before taking the National Latin Exam.  At the very least, they should wait until they have finished lesson 45.  By lesson 45, they are familiar with the complicated Latin verb tenses.  

However, if you want to start practicing, you can do so right away.  All of the old National Latin Exams (and the answer keys) are available on the National Latin Exam site.  Here is the link: http://www.nle.org/exams.html#previousexam

Using these exams, you give yourself a competitive edge.  I recommend taking one exam each week.  Start with the introduction exams, and work your way through each level.  In this way, you are able to determine your level.  This keeps you from registering for the wrong exam.

As for the SAT Latin placement test, I honestly do not know.  I have done no research on that exam.  I need to check it out.

Let me know if you need more help!


By the way, I am considering an online National Latin Exam preparation class.  Anyone interested?

Here’s a pile of tests and quizzes.

I received this question this week:

“I am hoping to find a midterm and a final exam for this curriculum to use for a high schooler. Any recommendations?”

Here is my reply:


I need to create those two tests.  This is actually on my list of things to do.  Thanks for the reminder.

Meanwhile, you might consider using any of the old free national Latin exams.  I would be a little careful with them, only because they are based completely on ancient pagan writers.  This may cause trouble for students who are used to the Vulgate, as students of Visual Latin are.  

Start with the easier exams, and work your way up. 

They are all available herehttp://nle.org/exams.html#previousexam