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Preparing for the National Latin Exam

Registration for the 2011 National Latin Exam is out!  The NLE is a fun contest for Latin students that tests a student’s knowledge of vocabulary, grammar, classical history and civilization.  Each year thousands of Latin students from all over the world participate.  Students can win medals or certificates of merit based on their performance.  My students really enjoy this event.  While we do not use it as a measurement tool to evaluate our program, it provides a fun incentive for hard-working students.  So, how do I help my students prepare?

  1. Teacher Preparation.  Visit the official NLE site to download course syllabi.  The NLE is divided up into 7 tests, based on the level of Latin studied.  Each test has its own course syllabus that outlines what types of grammar questions can be expected.  It will also list the categories from which questions on history or civilization may be drawn.  This lets your students know what to study.
  2. Student Practice.  Print out the old NLE tests, also available on the official website.  Every now and then I give my students an old NLE test “just for fun.”  These are never for a grade, but I encourage them to do their best.  This helps them become comfortable with the style and format of the questions.  It will also help you evaluate which level you need to sign them up for.  I usually give the students 30 minutes to take the test (the real exam is about an hour) and then we spend 15 minutes reviewing the answers together. (HINT:  I always keep these on file as an emergency substitute lesson plan.)
  3. Reading Comprehension Practice!  The reading comp. portion of the exam can often prove the most challenging for students.  To prepare for this you should really consider working reading comp practice into your regular routine.  (Besides it is the best way – and a fun way – to learn to read Latin)  The LA series provides reading comprehension questions for each chapter reading.  In addition, the unit reviews are formatted in a manner very similar to the reading comp. passages on the NLE.  These provide great practice!
  4. History and Civilization.  I encourage students to check out resources in their library to help themselves prepare for these segments. The Latin Alive series provides a wealth of readings on history and culture that are very helpful, but no Latin text will cover everything.  My primary job as a Latin teacher is to teach the Latin language.  I do not have time to cover all the history and culture in my lesson plans too.  The great thing about the NLE is that it inspires my competitive students to take their learning outside of class and discover some of the material themselves.

The last and most important thing is to remember that THIS IS FUN! The NLE is meant to be a fun means to encourage Latin students in their studies.  So don’t stress.   The exam is really not a great standardized measuring tool for a Latin program as the score can sometimes be skewed by the sections on history, culture, or mythology that may or may not be in your curriculum.  The best goal for students is the challenge to beat themselves each time, to continually increase their score by A) studying diligently in class and B) pursuing more knowledge on their own outside of class.  It is a great tool to encourage a love for learning the classics!

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