AP Latin Exam: Your Questions Answered

October 20, 2020
By AdmissionSight

AP Latin Exam: Your Questions Answered

AP Exams are administered among high school students in preparation for college. The topics covered in these exams mirror what’s taught in the related AP Courses. The College Board sets the standard for what both the courses and associated exams will include. There are 38 available AP Courses overall. Perhaps the most interesting of the bunch is the AP Latin Exam. Given the specificity of the subject, it’s no question that this AP Course and Exam isn’t the most popular option that students have. However, due in part to its practicality in understanding foreign languages and even English, the AP Latin Exam still sees a consistent stream of participants. In fact, the test has been administered every year since its genesis in 1956. Roughly, the exam sees 6,500 students enroll each year. Although the AP Latin Exam used to be composed of two parts, it’s been condensed into one course since 2013. Since Latin places a heavy focus on memorization, this is an AP Exam well suited for self-studiers who wish to take the exam without having taken the AP Latin Course. In this guide, the AdmissionSight team will address the most common questions students have about the AP Latin Exam to give you the best chance of succeeding

Carved Latin words

When is the AP Latin Exam?

Every year, the AP Exams are administered by the College Board near the beginning to the middle of summer. The exact days tend to change from year to year. In 2021, the AP Latin Exam will be held on Tuesday, May 11 at 12:00 pm. Students might be used to some college-prep tests being administered multiple times throughout the year, but the AP Exams are unique in that each test is only held once per year. This makes it crucial that students accurately determine the exact date and time of the exam when adding it to their schedule. We always recommend students give themselves more than enough time to commute to the exam. You can visit this College Board page for more information about the AP Exam Schedule for 2021.

 What does the AP Latin Exam and Course contain?

Since the AP Courses directly inform the skills, concepts, and topics that will be found on the AP Exam, it’s important to understand the curriculum. This is especially true for students who opt to take the AP Latin Exam without taking the course. The course seeks to provide high school students with a comprehensive and rich Latin curriculum. The level of knowledge required of the subject is equivalent to a higher level intermediate college course. Typically, students approach this type of course towards the end of their second year or at the beginning of their third year of high school. The AP Latin Exam will require students to know how to read, analyze, translate, and understand Latin prose and poetry.

Students attending tutors and completing SAT prep books in order to score well in the SAT test.

The AP Latin Exam mirrors AP Foreign Language Exams to the same extent that Latin resembles commonly spoken foreign languages. In other words, the general abilities to comprehend the language in its basic properties are reflective of the fact that Latin is essentially a dead language. You won’t be required to speak or understand spoken Latin on the exam as you would in other foreign language tests. Instead, you’ll be assessed on your ability to deal with the language in terms of reading, translation, and general understanding overall.

In the past, the AP Latin Course combined two different genres of study. Namely, students either engaged with Latin prose or poetry. This structure was later amended and the two were combined into a single course. The current AP Latin Exam reflects that synthesis. The test will assess your ability to understand the features of both of these genres. It’s the belief of the makers of the exam that the skill to do both is indicative of a strong student. As a result, you’ll notice that the required reading syllabus for the AP Latin Exam includes both prose and poetry works since the test will reflect such.

What kind of materials should I be familiar with for the AP Latin Exam?

For a complete and updated list of the required reading list for the AP Latin Exam and Course, visit the College Board site. Every year, the AP Latin Course focuses on the same selections from two classical works. This is critical to recognize for both students and self-studiers alike as this can accurately indicate what will be on the AP Latin Exam. The poetry work is always a selection from Aeneid by Publius Vergilius Maro, aka Vergil. The prose work is routinely Commentaries on the Gallic War by none other than Julius Caesar. It’s important to be familiar with these works for the AP Latin Exam and to be able to place them in a wider literary and historical context. While studying these works are important, it’s paramount that students don’t forget to study the structure, grammar, and other aspects of the language itself.

The Aeneid

What should I have before taking the AP Latin Exam?

Although there are technically no prerequisites for taking the AP Latin Exam, AdmissionSight does have some recommendations. Ideally, students will have taken and succeeded in the AP Latin Course. This is an excellent foundation that not only familiarizes students with the rigor of the subject but also gives them some idea as to what will be found on the real exam. However, the subject is conducive to self-studiers who opt to take the AP Latin Exam without taking the course. In this case, we recommend that you have sufficient proficiency in Latin to understand the required texts. For students, this might mean needing to have three or four years of study under your belt. While this varies from person to person, it’s critical to assess yourself and be honest about how prepared you are in comparison to what you’ll find on the exam.

What is the format of the AP Latin Exam?

Much to the dismay of AP Latin Course students, the AP Latin Exam is one of the longest AP Exams, clocking in at three hours. The primary section of the exam eats up just one hour and consists of 50 multiple-choice questions. Despite only taking up a third of the test time, this multiple-choice section is worth half of your overall exam score. The second portion of the exam includes a variety of free-response questions and accounts for the other 50% of your resulting score. The multiple free-response questions are broken down into 12 short-answer questions, one analytical essay, and two prompts translation projects.

What are the passing rates of the AP Latin Exam?

Exam 5 4 3 2 1
AP Latin 13% 19.3% 30.5% 24.1% 13%

In 2019, the curve resulting from the AP Latin Exam scores was fairly representative of the average results from previous years. This isn’t an anomaly for AP Exams. Of the thousands of students who participated in the exam, 62.8% passed by scoring three or higher. 13% of students received the highest score with a five. On the lower end of the passing group, just over a third skirted by with a 3. Interestingly, the same percentage of students who received the highest score on the AP Latin Exam also received the lowest score of one (13%).

When assessing the results of your AP Latin Exam, it’s important to keep in mind that not all colleges view the scores or even the exam itself identically. In other words, just because you received a three or higher, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you performed well enough in the eyes of the school or that you’ll even receive credit. Although the general understanding is that a three or higher is passing, some programs and colleges require students to earn a higher score in order to receive college credit. Still, there are some universities that don’t accept credit for the AP Latin Exam altogether.

It’s important to figure out how your ideal colleges assess the results of the AP Latin Exam to get a better understanding of how your results will position you if you were to be accepted. You might have to call the colleges’ admission offices to get this information.

What are the best ways to prepare for the AP Latin Exam?

Determine your skills – Before you can dive into the deep end of mastering the exam material, you have to get an accurate assessment of where your knowledge stands in relationship to what’s being asked on the test. One of the most effective ways of judging this is by answering some sample questions or taking some preliminary sample tests. Think of this step like a diagnostic test that will determine what areas you need to study in more depth and which areas in which you’re strong. Without this initial information, you would essentially be studying blind and might end up missing a few blind spots that you have. In the end, this initial step in determining your skills will make it easier to study efficiently and targeted.

The AP Latin Course’s description on the College Board site includes some helpful sample test questions that offer a great launching point. In order to get an even deeper look into your current knowledge of Latin, you could answer some sample questions regarding Vergil’s Aeneid or others regarding Caesar’s Gallic War.

Study the material –  Now that you have an accurate assessment of where you stand, it’s time to tackle the AP Latin Exam’s material. The topics you study should reflect the curriculum of the AP Latin Course. Some of the primary skills that you should practice are the analysis of texts, contextualization, translation, reading, and comprehension. Each of these skills will be used within the larger context of the following seven themes:

  • Human Beings and Gods
  • Memory and History,
  • Perspectives of Non-Romans
  • Leadership
  • Empire and War
  • Roman Values
  • Literary Style and Genre

Unlike other AP Exams, it’s not easy to find high-quality study resources for the AP Latin Exam. While there are several relevant materials out there, only a few are made specifically to help students study for the exam. The two main study guides produced with the exam in mind would be Caesar’s Gallic War: A Fully Parsed Vocabulary Guide for the AP Latin Exam and Vergil’s Aeneid: A Fully Parsed Vocabulary Guide for the AP Latin Exam. You should be able to find more helpful sources online in the form of test questions, review sheets, or study guides that other AP teachers have posted. Here’s an entire database of helpful materials used on a high school course. We recommend students taking the AP Latin Exam also check out this website that features helpful vocabulary and grammar studying tools. It wasn’t designed specifically with the AP Latin Exam in mind, but it still has a lot of material that you’ll find on the exam.

Rehearse multiple-choice questions – When you feel like you’ve got a good grasp on the theory, it’s a good idea to start focusing on answering the various question formats you’ll find on the AP Latin Exam. Although multiple-choice questions are generally assumed to be easy to answer, you shouldn’t overlook the types you’ll find on this exam. Students can find 30 helpful sample questions on page 41 of the AP Latin Exam’s official course description. You can also find more multiple-choice questions and sample passages on this page. There are 50 multiple-choice questions on the AP Latin Exam. 20 of these focus on Caesar and Vergil selections while the remaining 30 revolve around sight readings.

Rehearse free-response questions – Hands down, the best way to prep for the final free-response section of the AP Latin Exam is to review and answer the countless previously-administered free-response questions that date all the way back to 2013. All of these questions come along with real student answers and coring explanations. AdmissionSight recommends that students take this studying portion one year at a time and pay close attention to how the responses were graded. This is a helpful window into how you can expect your own answers to be graded.

Mimic test settings – The final stage of your preparation process would be creating your own AP Latin Exam. In other words, you can stage your own version of the real exam in order to get a better idea of how you’ll perform under test-like conditions. You need to put all of your studying materials away, including study guides, notes, flashcards, and your phone. Find a location that’s quiet where you won’t be interrupted for the three hours for which you’ll have to take your own preliminary AP Latin Exam. While it’s difficult to find a complete AP Latin Exam online, you should be able to piece your own together or find one in a commercial study guide. Try your best to make the settings of your practice test as realistic as possible. This will probably give you the most accurate idea of how you’ll perform come test day.

 AdmissionSight can help you prepare

AdmissionSight has earned a reputation for supporting students in the pursuit of their academic goals, no matter how lofty. In fact, we encourage students to think large and beyond the self-inflicted barriers by which too many students limit themselves. If we’ve learned anything from the decades we’ve helped students find their way into some of the best higher learning institutions in the world, it’s that the average student is capable of more than they might believe. Whether you’re hoping to find the perfect summer program, participate in the best extracurricular, or ace your placement exams, we have the resources and expertise to help students achieve more with their college admissions. If you’d like to learn more about what we do and how we can help, feel free to contact us for a free consultation.


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