By Andrew Kuhry-Haeuser, Carmenta Founder
I’ve developed the following approach to the Latin SAT Subject Test over the course of more than two decades as a Latin student and teacher. The first section of this article covers the 6 essential elements of Latin knowledge a student needs to cover when studying for the Latin SAT. The second section provides details on the best sources for Latin SAT practice work, practice tests, and tutoring.
Part 1: The 6 Elements of Latin SAT Success
The Latin SAT Subject Test is meant to be a measure of the student’s command of basic Latin grammar, and so the key to earning a high score is knowing the grammar in a standard beginning Latin textbook as well as possible. Ideally, students taking the Latin SAT will have taken four full years of a high school Latin course, though some may be ready after only three years. Check out the College Board website for an Overview of the Latin SAT.
Many people assume that the Latin SAT tests the same things as the general SAT, which isn’t so much a test of math or English knowledge as a test of problem-solving skills, but in fact the two tests are very different. The Latin SAT is primarily a straightforward test of real Latin knowledge, not problem-solving skills. Students who get high scores on the Latin SAT Test are strong intermediate students who have, without exception, mastered the following 6 elements of Latin competence.
1) Sentence Translation
It is essential that the student master a step-by-step approach for translating a Latin sentence. Students who are able to translate a sentence rapidly and correctly will also be able to move quickly through the Latin SAT Test. Though this aspect of Latin is fully integrated into the curriculum of most courses, many students never fully develop their translation skills because they aren’t taught them in a sufficiently organized fashion. Latin SAT high scorers need to have the following translation steps memorized and be able to apply them rapidly.
Click to download Latin Translation Steps from the Grey Fox Latin Archives.
2) Pronunciation and Accent
For any of the other elements of Latin to be mastered, the student must first learn and use a consistent pronunciation and know the correct accent of words. Download and study the Grey Fox Latin Pronunciation Guides (Classical or Italian/Ecclesiastical) for detailed information on both pronunciation and the rules of accent. Mastery of pronunciation and accent is a requisite for drilling Latin forms effectively, the 3rd element on this list.
Click to download Latin Pronunciation Guides (Classical or Italian/Ecclesiastical) from the Grey Fox Latin Archives.
3) Latin Forms
High scorers on the Latin SAT Subject Test spend as much time as possible conjugating, declining, and reciting forms and endings out loud. When drilling, the goal should be to get faster and faster until the student is able to do it both quickly and without thinking.
The student should learn groups of forms together as single chants with a distinct meter. For example, the Second Declension Masculine endings should be recited in rapid succession, first the singular, then the plural, almost as two long words. I like to say the singular endings, pause briefly, then say the plural endings:
“us-i-o-um-o…i-orum-is-os-is” Some students like to apply a particular musical tune to a set of endings as well. Either way, it is essential that the student drill endings and forms out loud and use correct pronunciation and accent.
Students who score well on the Latin SAT spend considerable time drilling the forms contained in the following Latin Grammar Sheets.
Click to download the following grammar sheets from the Grey Fox Latin Archives:
- Latin Pronunciation Guides (Classical and Italian/Ecclesiastical)
- Declension Endings
- Conjugations (Indicative, Imperative, Subjunctive)
- Conjugation of “sum” and “possum”
- Demonstrative Adjective “hic, haec, hoc”
- Demonstrative Adjective “ille, illa, illud”
- Demonstrative Adjective “iste, ista, istud”
- Demonstrative Adjective “is, ea, id”
- Personal Pronouns
- Reflexive Pronouns
- Relative Pronoun “qui, quae, quod”
- Volo, Malo, Nolo Conjugation
- Conjugation of “eo”
4) Rules of Grammar
Students who earn high scores on the Latin SAT have a very strong command of the rules of Latin grammar, including the details of Special Ablative and Dative Uses, Prepositions, the Sequence of Tenses, and Dependent Clause Types. If students want to perform well on the Latin SAT, it is essential that they both memorize and are able to apply the following Latin rules of grammar.
Click to download the following grammar sheets from the Grey Fox Latin Archives:
- Special Ablative Uses
- Special Dative Uses
- Special Accusative Uses
- Latin Prepositions Visual Guide
- Dependent Clause Types
- Confitional Sentences
One mistake most students make is to overestimate the importance of Latin vocabulary knowledge for the Latin SAT Subject Test. In fact, the test is written in such a way that knowledge of vocabulary is only marginally important. While a solid competence in basic general vocabulary is essential, it isn’t necessary for the student to learn any specific vocabulary for the test. The best preparation is to learn basic vocabulary over time in the context of a solid high school Latin course.
There will always be one question on the test requiring the student to scan the first four feet of a line of dactylic hexameter verse or determine the number of elisions in a line. The best preparation for this is to learn the rules of meter and then practice scanning the meter of as many lines in Vergil’s Aeneid as possible. The basic rules for dactylic hexameter scansion are outlined on Wikipedia. Still, most students will need training in scansion from an experienced Latin teacher or Tutor in order to master it.
Click to see a list of our Top 25 Online Latin Tutors.
Part 2: Latin SAT Practice Work and Tests
1) Practice Work
Since the Latin SAT Subject Test is meant to be a measure of a student’s command of basic Latin grammar, the best way to test a student’s level of preparedness is to have that student complete a certain amount of practice work from a solid beginning Latin textbook. My favorite beginning textbook is Wheelock’s Latin because it is extraordinarily well organized and complete. If the student is able to translate all end-of-chapter practice sentences from the last 5 chapters of Wheelock’s Latin with very few mistakes, then that student will almost certainly get a very high score on the Latin SAT.
2) Practice Tests
It’s a good idea for the student to take several practice tests in the months leading up to the test date. This isn’t because there’s any trick to taking the test but simply because it will familiarize the student with the general aspects of the test ahead of time. The Latin SAT Subject Test primarily measures a student’s knowledge of Latin grammar. This is in contrast to the general SAT Test, which though it does require some basic math and English knowledge, more than anything else measures the student’s problem-solving skills.
There are, unfortunately, only a few places where students can find Latin SAT practice tests. The College Board publishes the Official Study Guide for All SAT Subject Tests, which provides good information about the structure of the Latin SAT Test but has only one practice test. Another option is SAT Latin Subject Test by Ronald B. Palma, which contains several practice tests. There are also 29 online Latin SAT practice questions on the College Board Website. The student serious about doing well on the Latin SAT should complete and study all of these practice tests.
3) Latin SAT Tutoring
Of course, many students, particularly if their school’s Latin classes haven’t provided them with sufficient support and/or do not focus enough on any of these elements of Latin success, will need expert supplementary tutorial help. Carmenta, our online tutoring service, has dozens of expert Latin tutors who are highly experienced in teaching all aspects of the Latin SAT Subject Test and guiding students to success.
For a more detailed overview of the elements for success in the Latin language, read my article “How to Get an ‘A’ in Latin”.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Magister Andrew Kuhry-Haeuser has a B.A. (Honors) in Latin from Gonzaga University. He is currently the Founder and Head of both Carmenta Online PhD Tutors and Grey Fox Tutors. Magister Andrew has taught a number of classes for Carmenta, including "Classical Literature" and all levels of Latin, Conversational Latin, and Ancient Greek. He has also tutored a wide range of subjects, including Latin, Ancient Greek, English, Writing, German, Algebra, Geometry, Trigonometry, Calculus, Geology, Physics, Biology, Chemistry, and History.
Click here to see Magister Andrew’s full profile on the Carmenta website.