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Guide to National Latin Exam – What to Expect and How to Study 

The National Latin Exam (NLE) offers Latin students a unique opportunity to showcase their knowledge of Latin language and Roman culture through a well-structured exam. In this guide, we will delve into what the NLE entails, who can take it, the format of the exam, and what you can expect at each level.
1. What is the National Latin Exam?

The National Latin Exam (NLE) is a school-administered paper and online exam that allows students to demonstrate their knowledge of Latin and the Roman world. It is not a competition—it’s a chance for students to assess their personal progress and measure success in terms of personal accomplishments. The National Latin Exam is based on the American Classical League’s Standards for Classical Languages.

2. Who Can Take the National Latin Exam?

Any Latin student (either currently or previously enrolled in a Latin course) at any school across the world, from any grade level and including college students and graduate school students. Students at American and Canadian schools have the option to take the paper or online version of the exam, but students outside of the U.S. or Canada can only take the online version.

3. What is the Format of the National Latin Exam?

The National Latin Exam is administered in schools and is available as a paper exam or an online exam. There are two main types of exams: non-reading comprehension exams and reading comprehension exams. Every exam is 45 minutes long and all questions are in multiple choice format.

For non-reading comprehension exams, there are 40 multiple choice questions—30 of which are language questions, 10 of which are culture questions. These exams will test on grammar, comprehension, mythology, derivatives, literature, Roman life, history, geography, oral Latin, and how Latin is currently used in the modern world.

For reading comprehension exams, there are 36 multiple choice questions—33 of which assess reading comprehension, and 3 of which test on culture. These exams will test on grammar, comprehension, historical background, classical literature, and literary devices.

4. What to Expect on the National Latin Exam and Which Level Should I Take?

The National Latin Exams are categorized by difficulty level, with a total of 8 levels. In general, higher-level exams will have more reading comprehension questions. See below for a breakdown of what each exam tests on and what type of student each level is most suitable for.

National Latin Exam Levels

Introduction to Latin Exam

  • Who: Novice level learners. This level is for students in their 1st year of a two-year Latin 1 class.
  • First part tests on questions about language, culture, history, and mythology.
  • Second part’s questions are focused on sentences from a Latin short story.
  • Third part includes an original Latin passage that’s a continuation of the story in part 2, and tests reading comprehension of that passage.

Beginning Latin Exam

  • Who: Novice-high to intermediate-low. This level is for students in 2nd year of a two-year Latin 1 class.
  • First part tests on language, culture, history, and mythology through unconnected sentences and questions.
  • Second part includes questions about an original Latin passage.

Beginning Latin Reading Comprehension Exam

  • Who: Novice-high to intermediate-low learners.
  • This exam contains one or two original Latin passages with questions about culture, history, and mythology.

Intermediate Latin Exam

  • Who: Intermediate-mid to intermediate-high learners. This level is for students in Latin 2 or 3.
  • First part tests on language, culture, history, and mythology through unconnected sentences and questions.
  • Second part tests on reading comprehension of original or heavily adapted authentic Latin prose passage.

Intermediate Latin Reading Comprehension Exam

  • Who: Intermediate-mid to rising advanced learners. This level is for students who haven’t started reading and translating authentic Latin literature yet.
  • This exam contains two original or adapted authentic Latin prose passages with questions about culture, history, and mythology.

Advanced Latin Prose Exam

  • Who: Advanced level learners. This level is for students who are reading and translating authentic Latin texts.
  • First part tests on language, culture, history, and mythology through unconnected sentences and questions.
  • Second part tests on reading comprehension of an authentic or lightly adapted Latin prose passage.

Advanced Latin Poetry Exam

  • Who: Advanced level learners. This level is for students who are reading and translating authentic Latin texts.
  • First part tests on language, culture, history, and mythology through unconnected sentences and questions.
  • Second part tests on reading comprehension of an authentic or lightly adapted Latin poetry passage.

Advanced Latin Reading Comprehension Exam

  • Who: Advanced level to approaching superior level. This level is for students in their 2nd year of reading authentic Latin texts and have taken both Adv. Prose and Adv. Poetry exams as recommended prerequisites.
  • The exam contains two authentic passages (one prose, one poetry) with questions about culture, history, and mythology.
  • These authors may have their works included in the exam: Cicero, Livy, Horace, Ovid, Pliny, writers from the medieval and renaissance periods, and neo-Latin authors.
  • Question topics include the Greek models for Latin literature including Homer, Aeschylus, Euripides, Sophocles.

Read more specific details of what language (nouns, adverbs, verbs, etc.) and culture (geography, roman life, etc.) is tested at each level in the National Latin Exam Syllabus 2023-2024 and the draft syllabus for the new Beginning Latin Reading Comprehension Exam.

5. When is the National Latin Exam 2025?

Registration opens: Monday, August 26, 2024

Deadline for registration for paper exams: Friday, January 24, 2025

Deadline for registration for online exams: Friday, February 14, 2025

Examination window: Monday, February 24 – Friday, March 14, 2025

Results, answer key, and awards packet mailed by: April 20, 2025

For online exams, schools should administer the National Latin Exams on desktop computers with Google Chrome. The exam is delivered on a platform called Lingco.

6. How to Register for the National Latin Exam

Since the National Latin Exam is administered through schools, your Latin teacher must order the required number of exams to either be mailed or electronically sent to your school. First, you should ask your Latin teacher if your school is already registered with the National Latin Exam. If not, they should follow the following steps:

  • Register online through Lingco (watch this tutorial).
  • Order the appropriate number of exams by the respective registration deadline for either paper or online exam format (see above section).
  • Submit payment within 30 days of registration (see below for costs).
  • Immediately count exams upon receiving them in case NLE needs to send more.
  • Proctor the exam within the exam window—try to test students closer to the beginning of the exam window rather than towards the end.
  • Mail blue book answer sheets back to NLE.
7. How much does the National Latin Exam cost?

Schools in the U.S. and Canada: $8 per exam ($15 fee for 1-10 exams, $25 fee for 11+ exams) – can take online or paper exam

Other schools: $10 per exam per exam ($50 fee for all exams) – must take online exam

Title I schools can apply for a grant of up to $300 to help with exam costs.

8. National Latin Exam Questions, 2024 Results and Answer Keys

National Latin Exam Beginning Exam Sample Question

National Latin Exam Beginning Exam Sample Question

National Latin Exam Intermediate Exam Sample Question

National Latin Exam Intermediate Exam Sample Question

National Latin Exam Advanced Prose Exam Sample Question

National Latin Exam Advanced Prose Exam Sample Question

Click for all the previous National Latin Exams and answer keys from 2012-2024 for all levels: Introduction, Beginning, Intermediate, Intermediate Reading Comprehension, Advanced Prose, Advanced Poetry, and Advanced Reading Comprehension. Since the Beginning Latin Reading Comprehension will be new for the 2025 season, there are no records of previously administered exams at this level.

9. Why Take the National Latin Exam?

The National Latin Exam is a prestigious exam that’s well-recognized across the world. In 2023, over 107,000 students took the National Latin Exam; hence, winning awards and scholarships from this exam will look very impressive on your college resume!

Additionally, the National Latin Exam is an excellent way to prepare for the AP Latin exam or the SAT II (Subject Test) on Latin. These can help you earn college credit to exempt you from the foreign language requirement, giving you more time in college to take the classes you are interested in and to enjoy social life in college to the fullest.

Even if you decide not to take the AP Latin or SAT II Latin exams, studying for the National Latin Exam helps you prepare for the Latin language placement test in college. Getting a high score of the placement test (usually administered during orientation freshman fall) can place you into a higher-level Latin course, making it easier for you to fulfill your foreign language requirements.

10. National Latin Exam Awards and Scholarships

The National Latin Exam offers both prestigious awards and many scholarships to promote continued Latin language learning and teaching. These awards and scholarships are available to high school seniors, college students, and/or graduate students.

National Latin Exam Awards

Perfect Paper: Golden certificate with winner’s name

First place: Gold medal and Summa Cum Laude certificate

Second place: Silver medal and Maxima Cum Laude certificate

Third place: Magna Cum Laude certificate

Fourth place: Cum Laude certificate

Perfect Paper winners and Gold Medalists will be featured in a national publication Torch U.S.

National Latin Exam Special Book Awards

In addition to the medals and certificates awarded to students based on their scores each season, students are awarded for their progress and success throughout multiple years of taking the National Latin Exam at different levels, with at least one at the Advanced level. Students who have earned their 4th or subsequent gold medal and students who have earned their 3rd perfect score on different exams will be bestowed with the honorable National Latin Exam Special Book Award.

 

How is the National Latin Exam graded?

The National Latin Exam has cutoff scores that segregate each award level. Once students reach a benchmark/threshold, they’ll receive the respective award. See below for the National Latin Exam 2023 cutoff scores based on difficulty level.

Introduction to Latin Exam 
Award Gold Silver Magna cum laude Cum laude 
Cutoff Score (out of 40 questions) 38 35 32 30 
Beginning Latin Exam 
Award Gold Silver Magna cum laude Cum laude 
Cutoff Score (out of 40 questions) 37 34 31 30 
Intermediate Latin Exam 
Award Gold Silver Magna cum laude Cum laude 
Cutoff Score (out of 40 questions) 34 30 28 26 
Intermediate Latin Reading Comprehension Exam  
Award Gold Silver Magna cum laude Cum laude 
Cutoff Score (out of 36 questions) 34 32 31 30 
Advanced Latin Prose Exam  
Award Gold Silver Magna cum laude Cum laude 
Cutoff Score (out of 40 questions) 35 31 29 27 
Advanced Latin Poetry Exam  
Award Gold Silver Magna cum laude Cum laude 
Cutoff Score (out of 40 questions) 33 30 27 25 
Advanced Latin Reading Comprehension Exam  
Award Gold Silver Magna cum laude Cum laude 
Cutoff Score (out of 36 questions) 34 32 30 28 

See here for more National Latin Exam cutoff scores from 1991 to 2023.

National Latin Exam Scholarships

On top of impressive medals and Cum Laude certificates, the National Latin Exam also awards special students with scholarships to encourage their continued study of Latin. Each year students can apply for a scholarship pool of over $60,000.

Maureen O’Donnell Scholarship for Academic Excellence

  • Sixteen $2,000 scholarships for college
    • Who can apply? High school seniors who were gold medalists in the Advanced Latin Prose Exam, Advanced Latin Poetry Exam, and Advanced Latin Reading Comprehension Exam
    • Conditions: accepted scholarship recipients must take at least one Latin or classical Greek course per semester in their first year of college
  • One $2,000 scholarship for post graduate study where the recipient becomes a Latin/Greek teacher at a school

Linda S. Montross New Latin Educators Scholarship

  • Ten $2,000 scholarships for entering a Latin teaching profession
    • Who can apply? High school seniors, college students, and master’s degree graduate students

Christine Fernald Sleeper Educational Travel Award

  • Up to $5,000 to cover expenses for one recipient’s educational travel program

Sally R. Davis Graduate School Scholarship

  • One $2,000 scholarship for graduate study where the recipient becomes a Latin/Greek teacher at a school
    • Who can apply? College seniors or other professionals who are seeking a graduate degree
11. National Latin Exam Practice and Study Guide

Your first step to start preparing for the National Latin Exam is to try out some practice tests!

National Latin Exam Practice Tests

  • Choose your level exam – This is the official NLE link to an online portal with practice tests at all levels except for the newly released Beginning Latin Reading Comprehension Exam.
  • New Beginning Latin Reading Comprehension Exam – This is a PDF with a sample draft of what the Beginning Latin Reading Comprehension Exam will look like in the 2025 season.

National Latin Exam Quizlet

Another great way to study for the National Latin Exam is through premade flashcards sets on Quizlet. As a notable, popular way to assess progress for all Latin students, there are many extensive, carefully made Quizlet sets. Start with the ones below:

12. Study for the National Latin Exam with Aralia Education!

Aralia Education offers an online class specifically curated to help students pass the National Latin Exam with flying colors. Aralia’s acclaimed instructors are recruited from the top high schools of the nation with backgrounds as AP Exam Readers, award-winning competition coaches, and, most importantly, a passion for helping students with attentive guidance and state-of-the-art education technologies. Learn more about Aralia Education’s National Latin Exam class.

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