a Memoria Press Classical Curriculum Homeschool Tutorial
National Latin Exam
Dimidium facti qui coepit habet: sapere aude, incipe. -Horace
“He who has begun is half done: dare to know, begin!”
The National Latin Exam (NLE) is an affordable 40 question multiple choice test that covers Latin grammar as well as Roman history, mythology, and culture. Students in Second Form and higher are encouraged to take the NLE each year in March. Registration is open each winter at http://www.nle.org and usually has an end date around January 20th. HLN registers students each year for the online exam. For preparation tips, please see the article included on this page below the photograph. The NLE website provides all previous years’ tests and keys, starting with 1999, and an online game/app for practice.
Memoria Press produces very affordable preparation guides which we strongly recommend! Details on how to use these are in the article below.
Generally, students in Second Form are registered for the Introduction to Latin exam, Third Form students are registered for the Beginner Level (if they performed well on the Intro Level the previous year), and Fourth Form students are registered for the Intermediate Level. The long term goal is collecting gold or silver medals through as many levels of the NLE as possible. The additional goal of a “perfect paper” or successive perfect papers may motivate some students. Our founding school, Highlands Latin School, has had students win as many as six gold medals! One HLN student has won five thus far. Fourth Form students and beyond should move up to the next hardest test each year that they win a gold medal.
Medals, certificates, awards, and even scholarships are available to students who excel on the NLE. For a complete list of awards, visit their site here. We hope that all of our Latin students will take advantage of this opportunity to test their knowledge on this national exam.
Preparing for the NLE in your homeschool
by Jessica Phillips
The MP NLE Prep Booklets (linked above the photo):Start by highlighting everything you don’t already know, then work through those items trying to memorize or learn how to guess based on derivatives and/or grammar forms. Students who’ve done a lot of classical studies over the years should knock the history, culture, and mythology section out of the park. Those who are newer to classical ed and haven’t done Famous Men of Rome/Book of the Ancient Romans (or similar) will not be as familiar. They will have to invest extra time in those back sections with mythology and geography. You can check things off in the booklet as you become confident with them. Things that are often on the first section of the Intro test: mythology pictures, Roman numerals, maps and geography.
This is a great way to practice a little bit each day gain to gain familiarity with the type of question that is asked on the NLE and what formats to expect. All the instructions are right there on this page. Many students may not be familiar with multiple choice testing and this app can give them the advantage of learning to select the best guess from four unknown answers. As Mrs. Lowe comments in the prep-guides, you can often figure out the correct answer with your grammar skills–by the form endings on the nouns/verbs–even if you don’t know the vocabulary word. Usually, only one answer is in the right gender, number, and case (nouns), or person, number, and tense (verbs).
Good news! There are only 40 multiple choice questions!
At Highlands Latin School the strategy is to take one exam a day every day leading up to the official exam. The ending result in that test day has a business as usual feel to it. There are currently 19 to choose from which means they have almost a month’s worth of tests with which to practice! Here is a strategy for using them in your home: start with the oldest exam (1999) and work your way to the newest at the very end because you can warm up to the way the test is currently being written. There are going to be several places on the Key where two answers are given: A or C, for example, or “all answers correct.” This means that this question was too hard or unclear and was “thrown out,” therefore multiple/all answers are credited as correct. Each year’s test is a single PDF of all the levels offered plus the key. You have to pay attention to how they are marked at the top: most beginning students will be in INTRO or LEVEL I. Parents can print those one/two pages along with the Key page(s). The Key will have the letter answers to all the problems and then a translation of the Latin paragraph at the end of each test. A good study method suggested is this sequence:
Student takes the test, circling their answers in pencil.
Parent marks which are correct (a highlighter works great for this–some of them are in the tiniest font).
The test is returned to student to review the ones that are wrong. Parent and student talk through the missed problems, determining what type of error was made (simple mistake, not knowing the information, grammar error, misunderstood the question, etc.). This can be the best step, because they are learning how to avoid their mistakes and it isolates the information they don’t know so it can be mastered.
Keep all the completed practice tests in a binder or a stack so the student can easily go back and review their mistakes to make sure they have mastered them.
If they have their sights set on a perfect paper (all 40 correct) this gives them a chance to master the art of getting them all right in one sitting. The level of attention to detail has to go way up and they can get into the rhythm of thoroughly rechecking their work before handing it in. If they’ve gotten 40/40 on a practice test, they will be more confident about being able to do it on official test day. It’s a huge confidence boost!
Side-note: The exam uses a bubble/scan form. If a student isn’t familiar with bubbling-in correct answers, they would do well to do a practice run. Some will never have used one before and have to learn how to color them all the way in! Answers must be correct on the **form** to count not just circled on their paper on test day. There are many printable scan forms online you can use to practice.
A little bit of work each day will result in a better test performance than simply trusting in their Latin knowledge. Like any other test, it’s a test. Knowing how to approach it can breed confidence and improve scores.
One last tip for the actual exam: The students will have two papers–the exam itself and the scan form. They only have to send the scan form back. If they will mark their answers on the test itself (a colored paper, see the photo above), it will give them a way to cross check between what they intended to mark on the scan form and what has actually been marked. They will also have a better idea of how they did while awaiting official results.
Parents should refer carefully to the proctoring instructions for direction on mailing back the exam (must be the same day as it is taken) and for how long the tests must be put away before they can be freely reviewed by students.