For the 2012-2013 school year and for the first time, the Advanced Placement Latin Exam is going to include the works of Julius Caesar. In the past, there were two Latin exams: AP Vergil and AP Latin Literature (Catullus and Ovid, Cicero or Horace). In 2009, the AP Latin Literature Exam was discontinued and in this coming year, the Vergil Exam will add lines from Julius Caesar’s Commentaries on the Gallic Wars. These two authors are unified in their themes of leadership, Roman values, war, and empire (for more information, please see the AP Latin Course Exam Description 2012).
The test format includes: four passages with multiple choice (two from the syllabus and two from sight), two free response translations from the syllabus, an analytical essay, and five to seven short-answer questions each for Vergil and Caesar. The test takes three hours. I know this may sound scary, but please consider what we know our students will accomplish, Deo Volente (God willing), by Challenge IV.
By Challenge IV, our students should have the opportunity to translate the whole syllabus. In Challenge II, we translate Caesar. In Challenge IV, we translate Vergil’s Aeneid as well as read the Iliad, the Odyssey, and the Aeneid in English. Most students who elect to take the AP Exam use only one year to prepare; however, our students will have three years! Also, most students have to read the Aeneid in English, learn rhetorical devices, and translate the entire syllabus in one year during one specific class. Our students learn rhetorical devices in Challenge III and are immersed in the ancient world in Challenge IV by their literature, history, and, scilicet (of course), Latin! We are not learning these subjects in isolation, but in unity!
Our students have strengthened their writing skills through the many essays written in Challenges I-IV literature, history, and science. They have thoroughly practiced analyzing literature in their essays and discussions. Not only that, every week in Challenge III logic, students practice writing a timed essay. They are certainly going to be prepared for the free response section of the exam!
Another area in which our students are strong is in utilizing a good argument. Students have to know how to present an argument in order to write the analytical essays. Similar to debate skills, students have to prove why they believe what they believe concerning the Latin passages or the historical events set forth in the test prompts. They have to have evidence and must be able to articulate it well.
The last reason, ut mihi videtur (as it seems to me), that our students will do well on the AP Latin Exam is that they have to know how to contextualize the literature in the grand scheme of Roman history. In Challenge, our students make timelines starting from the ancient world to modern day and study each time period thoroughly.
I exhort all parents to make it their goal to try to prepare their students for AP Latin (just as I think every parent, including me, should start the year preparing his or her Foundations students to become a memory master). Not only will your students benefit by possibly earning college credit in a cost effective way, but he or she will gain practice in the rigors of college testing and writing.