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How to Survive & Thrive in AP Latin
Sunday, September 17, 2017

Augustus CaesarAP Latin is an extremely challenging, college-caliber course that requires a sustained, serious commitment from the student.  Classical Latin is a literary language: that is, fluency means being able to read literature at sight, as opposed to being able to speak and listen to the language with a native’s proficiency.  And for AP Latin, students are expected to be fluent at reading, translating, and analyzing selected portions of two particular works of Literature: Vergil’s Aeneid and Julius Caesar’s Commentarii De Bello Gallico.

We consulted with two experienced AP teachers, a handful of tutors, and several recent AP Latin students to come up with four very useful tips--two “how to survive” tips to help you achieve a score of 3 on the AP exam, and two “how to thrive” tips to help you earn a 4 or even a 5.  Here they are:

How to Survive:

1. Master all of the rhetorical devices on the AP curriculum and become an expert at scansion.  Rhetorical devices, such as anaphora, anastrophe, and apostrophe (just to name three that often get mixed up--for obvious reasons!), feature in about 6-8 multiple choice questions and 2-3 short answer questions on the free-response section.  Because the rhetorical devices list is relatively manageable, mastering them can translate to guaranteed points on the exam.  And the scansion of dactylic hexameter, if thoroughly practiced, can also equate to 2-3 successful multiple choice answers as well as 1 short answer question.

2. Get a head start on vocabulary.  Bolchazy-Carducci, a small publisher that specializes in all-things Classics, offers “Caesar & Vergil AP Vocabulary Cards” for $19, and there are numerous lists on websites like quizlet.com and flashcardmachine.com.  In addition, students might benefit from maintaining and studying lists of the specialized vocabulary that Vergil and Caesar employ. Two examples of specialized lists for Vergil are nature/agricultural words and nautical/sailing words; for Caesar, it would definitely be useful to maintain a list of technical military terms, including types of weapons and armor.

How to Thrive:

1. Start sight-reading rich, complex Latin literature as soon as possible.  One of the most difficult aspects of the AP exam is the sight-reading portion of the multiple-choice section.  To be specific, students are challenged to answer about 25 questions that correspond to two passages not included in the AP curriculum (most likely one prose passage and one poetry passage).  The sooner a Latin student challenges him- or herself to read real, unmodified literature by authors such as Cicero, Horace, Ovid, Catullus, Sallust, etc., the better he or she will be prepared for these passages on the exam.

2. Practice crafting an AP-Latin style essay as much as possible.  The analytical essay, which is the third free-response question, is allotted 45-minutes of suggested exam time and is worth 10% of the overall score.  Thus, earning a strong mark on the essay can greatly increase a student’s chances of achieving a high raw score on the exam.  Students should take a look at the College Board’s list of “Themes and Essential Questions” on pgs. 30-33 of this course overview before the course begins, and they should practice crafting and evaluating responses to the essay questions from previous exams (which are available here).

We hope you find these study tips helpful.  Good luck, or--as the Romans would say--bona fortuna!