Ap Latin Essay

The Advanced Placement (AP) curriculum is a set of standardized courses designed by the College Board and delivered at high schools throughout the country and abroad. Of the 38 available AP classes, eight are world languages and cultures courses. For more information about the Advanced Placement curriculum and why you should consider it, check out CollegeVine’s What is an AP Class?


The AP Latin course, though not hugely popular overall, still attracts a steady stream of students each year, as it has done since its first administration in 1956. In fact, the exam has had a near constant registration of approximately 6,500 students each year since 2010. Prior to 2013, the curriculum consisted of two courses. One of these was a prose course called AP Latin Literature, and the other was a poetry course titled AP Latin Vergil. In 2013, the courses were combined and AP Latin students can now expect to study both poetry and prose during a single school year.


About the AP Latin Exam

The course is intended to provide you and other advanced high school students with a rich and rigorous Latin curriculum, approximately equivalent to an upper-intermediate college or university course. A class of this level would generally be taken during the fourth or fifth semester of college-level studies. In this course, you will learn to read, understand, translate, and analyze Latin poetry and prose.


The previous versions of the class, wherein the two genres were taught separately, made structural sense in that poetry and prose in Latin have distinctly different features. Combining both curriculums into a single course, however, is indicative of the belief that a strong student should understand the broad features of both genres. As such, the syllabus of required readings includes a work of poetry and a work of prose to ensure that students will be confident in handling both.


Each year, the AP Latin course uses the same required selections from the same two classical texts. The poetry selection is always the Aeneid by Augustan author Publius Vergilius Maro (also known as Vergil or Virgil). The prose text is always Commentaries on the Gallic War, by Gaius Julius Caesar, commonly referred to simply as Caesar. During the course, selections from these texts will be studied in both Latin and English. Be sure to check the Required Reading List for exact details about which selections will be required in which languages. In addition to reading and translating these seminal works, you will also need to place them in a greater historical and literary context.


There are no prerequisites for the AP Latin course, though you will need to have enough proficiency in Latin to read and understand the required texts. For most students, this typically means that you’ll need to be in at least your fourth year to undertake the required work.


The AP Latin exam is one of the longer AP exams and lasts for three hours. The first section contains 50 multiple-choice questions, which you’ll have one hour to complete. This section is worth 50% of your total score. The second section, called the free-response section, contains two translation prompts, one analytical essay, and approximately 12 short-answer questions. You will have two hours to complete this section and it will account for the remaining 50% of your score.


In 2016, the curve for AP Latin scores was generally in line with the average AP score curve. Of the 6,500 students who took the exam, 65.6% passed the test by receiving a score of three or higher. Only 12.7% of all students received the highest score of a five, while nearly a third of all students scraped by with a three. Students receiving the lowest score of a one accounted for 11.5% of all test-takers.


Before you begin your studying for the AP Latin exam, review the College Board course description to help shape your understanding of the course content and exam format.


Read on for tips for preparing for the exam.


Step 1: Start with Assessing Your Skills

Start your studying for the exam by taking a practice or diagnostic test. It might seem counterintuitive to dive straight into test-taking when you haven’t even reviewed the material, but the easiest way to narrow in on content areas that need your attention is to get a realistic and objective score through a formative assessment. Check out CollegeVine’s What is a Formative Assessment and Why You Should Be Using One To Study? for more information.


You can find some sample test questions in the College Board course description, but to get a more comprehensive picture of the work ahead, you might choose to also take more practice test questions about Vergil’s Aenid or practice test questions about Caesar’s Gallic War.


Once you’ve taken some kind of diagnostic test, score your answers and make a list of areas that need more studying. Use this list to target content that will shape your studying.


Step 2: Study the Material

In the case of the AP Latin exam, your studying will focus on four major skills applied to the seven major themes of the course. The skills that you will need to develop are: reading & comprehension, translation, contextualization, and analysis of texts. These skills will be used in the context of the seven themes, which include:


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


As you study, you should concentrate in part on vocabulary, grammar, and syntax. These hard skills will make it easier for you to prepare and translate the required Latin readings with accuracy. In addition to translating known selections from the Latin texts, you will also be required to read and comprehend passages at sight. This doesn’t mean that you will have to precisely decode each word, but you will need to be able to get the general gist of selections that are not familiar to you.


You will also need to practice your critical reading skills, since the exam will test your ability to build clear and coherent arguments supported by evidence from the text. It will also assess your mastery of the many terms that have been devised by scholars and teachers over the years to describe and analyze Latin grammar, syntax, and literary style.


In order to build these critical analyses, you should be able to place the readings in the broader context of Roman history and civilization. The two required texts (Gallic War and Aeneid) were selected specifically to allow exposure to some of the important people, events, and literary genres of Roman times, focusing on the core periods of the late Republic and the early Principate.


Aeneid is widely regarded as the most influential work of Latin literature for both its model of Latin poetry and its deep reflection on Roman history and civilization. Similarly, Gallic War provides a pure and straightforward example of prose in the historical context of controversial themes such as war and peace, leadership, and ethnicity.


Unlike the case for most AP exams, it is difficult to find a high-quality, commercial study guide that is widely used for the AP Latin exam. There are many relevant study materials available, but few produced specifically for the exam. The two primary study guides that were produced for the exam are Vergil’s Aeneid: A Fully Parsed Vocabulary Guide for the AP Latin Exam and Caesar’s Gallic War: A Fully Parsed Vocabulary Guide for the AP Latin Exam.


These books were developed by a former university professor who spent several years grading the exam, and they contain complete vocabulary lists and detailed grammatical and historical notes. They do not, however, contain sample questions, quizzes, or practice tests.


More study materials can be found online. Many AP teachers have posted complete study guides, review sheets, and test questions. There is also a large database of materials used in one high school AP course. Navigate through the menu in the left-hand margin to find materials related to Caesar and Vergil, along with sample multiple-choice questions. Another helpful site for perfecting your grammar and vocabulary is also available. Although it wasn’t specifically developed for AP studying, this website contains many Latin phrases, abbreviations, proverbs, and maxims along with links to more study materials on other sites.


You should also take advantage of the materials provided by the College Board. Be sure to review the official course Learning Objectives, beginning on page seven of the course description. Also look through the vast compilation of study materials listed on the teacher’s AP Latin Web Guide.


Finally, a fun and easy way to brush up on your vocabulary and grammar can be through the use of the many apps available on your mobile device. These range widely in price and quality, so be sure to read reviews before downloading one. The SPQR Latin app is one that consistently receives high marks.

This article is about the course and exam focusing on Vergil. For the general purpose literature course and exam, see AP Latin Literature.

Advanced Placement Latin (known also as AP Latin), formerly Advanced Placement Latin: Vergil, is an examination in Latin literature offered by the College Board's Advanced Placement Program. Prior to the 2012–2013 academic year, the course focused on poetry selections from the Aeneid, written by Augustan author Publius Vergilius Maro, also known as Vergil or Virgil. However, in the 2012–2013 year, the College Board changed the content of the course to include not only poetry, but also prose. The modified course consists of both selections from Vergil and selections from Commentaries on the Gallic War, written by prose author Gaius Julius Caesar. Also included in the new curriculum is an increased focus on sight reading. The student taking the exam will not necessarily have been exposed to the specific reading passage that appears on this portion of the exam. The College Board suggests that a curriculum include practice with sight reading. The exam is administered in May and is three hours long, consisting of a one-hour multiple-choice section and a two-hour free-response section.

Material previously tested[edit]

The AP Latin exam was based upon Vergil's Aeneid and Caesar's De Bello Gallico.

Students were expected to be familiar with these following lines of the Aeneid:[1]

  • Book 1: Lines 1–519
  • Book 2: Lines 1–56, 199–297, 469–566, 735-804
  • Book 4: Lines 1-449, 642–705
  • Book 6: Lines 1-211, 450–476, 847–901
  • Book 10: Lines 420-509
  • Book 12: Lines 791-842, 887-952

Students were also expected to be familiar with the total content of Books 1 through 12.

Abilities tested[edit]

The exam tests students' abilities to:[1]

  • Translate a Latin passage from the syllabus into English literally
  • Explicate specific words and phrases in context
  • Identify the context and significance of short excerpts from the works specified in the syllabus
  • Identify and analyze characteristic or noteworthy features of the authors' modes of expression, including their use of imagery, figures of speech, sound effects, and metrical effects (in poetry only), as seen in specific passages
  • Discuss particular motifs or general themes not only suggested by passages but also relevant to other selections
  • Analyze and discuss structure and to demonstrate an awareness of the features used in the construction of a poem, thesis, or an argument
  • Scan the meters specified in the syllabus

Reading and translation[edit]

Critical appreciation of the Aeneid as poetry implies the ability to translate literally, to analyze, to interpret, to read aloud with attention to pauses and phrasing, and to scan the dactylic hexameter verse. Students should be given extensive practice in reading at sight and in translating literally so that their translations not only are accurate and precise, but also make sense in English.

The instructions for the translation questions, "translate as literally as possible," call for a translation that is accurate and precise. In some cases an idiom may be translated in a way that makes sense in English but is rather loose compared to the Latin. In general, however, students are reminded that:[1]


The three-hour exam consists of a one-hour multiple-choice section and a two-hour free-response section that includes fifteen minutes of reading time and one hour forty-five minutes of writing time.[2] The multiple choice section includes approximately fifty questions that relate to four passages: three read at sight and one from the syllabus. The multiple choice questions test the many skills learned and practiced throughout the year, including:[2]

  • 20–30% grammar and lexical questions (10–15 questions)
  • 35–45% translation or interpretation of a phrase or sentence (17–23 questions)
  • 2–5% metrics: that is, scansion of the dactylic hexameter line (1–3 questions)
  • 2–5% figures of speech (1–3 questions)
  • 20–30% identification of allusions or references, recognition of words understood but unexpressed, explication of inferences to be drawn (10–15 questions)
  • 2–5% background questions on the Aeneid passage only (1–3 questions)

The free-response section includes translation, analysis, and interpretation of the Latin text from the syllabus. The format is as follows:[2]

  • Question 1: a 10-minute translation
  • Question 2: a 10-minute translation
  • Question 3: a 45-minute long essay
  • Question 4: a 20-minute short essay
  • Question 5: a 20-minute short essay based on the entire Aeneid (Latin selections and parts read in English)

Course revisions for the 2012–2013 year[edit]

For the 2012–2013 academic year, the College Board announced that it has made revisions to its AP Latin curriculum. In general, the College Board announced new goals in the curriculum. These include:[3]

  • Required readings in both prose and poetry
  • Development of student capacity to read Latin at sight
  • Greater focus on grammatical, syntactical, and literary terminology

Instead of solely focusing on Vergil's Aeneid, the curriculum will now include both prose and poetry, including selections from Julius Caesar's Commentaries on the Gallic War.[3] The new required reading list, including revisions to the number of lines required from the Aeneid, is:[4]

Vergil's Aeneid

  • Book 1: Lines 1–209, 418–440, 494–578
  • Book 2: Lines 40–56, 201–249, 268–297, 559–620
  • Book 4: Lines 160–218, 259–361, 659–705
  • Book 6: Lines 295–332, 384–425, 450–476, 847–899

Caesar's Gallic War

  • Book 1: Chapters 1–7
  • Book 4: Chapters 24–35 and the first sentence of Chapter 36 (Eodem die legati [. . . ] venerunt.)
  • Book 5: Chapters 24–48
  • Book 6: Chapters 13–20

Also, there is a change to the required readings in English. The new list from the Aeneid is books 1, 2, 4, 6, 8, and 12, instead of all twelve books, as was previously required.[1] The new required reading list in English from the Gallic War is books 1, 6, and 7. Also in the revised curriculum there is also a newly placed emphasis on sight reading. The College Board announced that the exam will include Latin passages not on the required readings lists in an effort to enhance students' ability to read at sight. Recommended authors for prose include (inexhaustively): Nepos, Cicero (though not his letters), Livy, Pliny the Younger, and Seneca the Younger, rather than authors such as Tacitus or Sallust. For poetry, recommended authors (inexhaustively) include: Ovid, Martial, Tibullus, and Catullus, rather than poets such as Horace, Juvenal, or Lucan.[5] For practice with sight reading in both poetry and prose, the College Board recommends additional Latin passages in the Aeneid and Gallic War that are not included in the required reading list.

The free-response section includes translation, analysis, and interpretation of the Latin text from the syllabus. The format is as follows:

  • Question 1: 15-minute translation: Vergil
  • Question 2: 15-minute translation: Caesar
  • Question 3: 45-minute analytical essay
  • Question 4: 15-minute short answers: Vergil
  • Question 5: 15-minute short answers: Caesar

Grade distribution[edit]

In the 2010 administration, 6,523 students took the exam, and 4,114 passed (3 or higher), or about 63.1%.[6] In the 2011 administration, 6,044 students took the exam, and 3,861 passed (3 or higher), or about 63.9%.[7] In the 2012 administration, 18,161 students took the exam, and 11,244 passed (3 or higher), or about 61.9%.[8]

In the 2013 administration of the redesigned exam, 6,667 students took the exam, and 4,442 passed (3 or higher), or about 66.6%. [9] In the 2014 administration of the exam, 6,542 students took the exam, a slight decrease from last year, and 4,307 passed (3 or higher), or about 65.8%, a slight decrease from last year's pass rate. [10]

The grade distributions were:

Score percentages
Year54321MeanStandard deviationNumber of students


External links[edit]

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