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.  🙂

Dwane