A Level



Studying Latin involves ... studying Latin. Students will build on their knowledge of the language gained at GCSE to cover a wider range of vocabulary and more complex sentence structures. Further, they will study a more extensive range of verse and prose set texts where, in addition to working out what the Latin means (and more importantly how it comes to mean it), students will study the literary merits of the texts and the context in which they came to be written.

Entry Requirements

5 GCSEs at grade 4 or above, including Maths and English plus at least Grade 5 or above in Latin GCSE.

Course Content

The two qualifications comprise the following exams:

Year 1:

  • Language: This paper is divided into two sections – first, translation of a passage of unseen Latin prose into English; and second a series of comprehension questions based on a passage of unseen Latin prose.
  • Literature: Students are examined on their detailed study of two set texts, one verse and one prose. Questions will include comprehension questions, translation, analysis of the literary merits and a short essay based on the text as a whole. Students in their first year will study a selection from Horace's Satires and from Cicero's Second Philippic, his withering attack on Mark Antony.

At the end of the first year, there will be an exam on these two units.

Year 2:

  • Unseen Translation: Two passages to translate – one of prose, one of verse; plus a couple of lines of scansion for those who know what this is.
  • Prose Comprehension: Students will tackle a short translation and answer comprehension and grammar questions based on a passage of unseen Latin prose.
  • Prose Literature: This paper comprises three sections. Section A and B are made up of comprehension, translation and analysis questions based on a short passage taken from each of the set texts.  These will compromise the Cicero text studied in the first year and a selection from Tacitus’ Histories, chroniciling the political turmoil following the death of the emperor, Nero which would be studied in the second. Section C comprises an essay based on the Tacitus Latin text studied during the second year, together with more from the same text looked at in translation.
  • Verse Literature: As for Prose Literature … only read “Verse”.  In addition to the Horace studied in Year One, students will study extracts from Book 11 of Virgil’s Aeneid on which the Section C essay will also be based.

Financial Implications

Each student will be provided with essential reading material to support their study, either on paper or by way of the subject intranet. We also hope to be able to lend students essential grammar books and lexicons for use whilst on the course. In addition to their own materials for note-taking, tackling unseens and essay writing, students will be expected to provide their own copies of the set texts (plus they may wish to acquire translations of the whole work) – these are not always the cheapest, although we will aim to use “value for money” editions, designed specifically to be particularly student friendly. The college has a Student Support Fund which may be able to help students in financial difficulty. Students looking to extend their reading in the subject will be welcome to borrow through College a range of texts and commentaries. Subject to their taking place, students of Latin would be invited to join the Classical Civilisation trips to Italy or Greece – these would be of particular interest to students looking to take a Classics‑oriented course at university. Such trips cost in the region of £790.

Methods of Teaching

Students will work as a class, in small groups and individually. The “Language” aspects of the course will mainly be delivered, particularly at first, using a didactic approach – in short, we will look to explain how the language works, not just what particular words mean. Increasingly as they become confident in the language, students will be helped to produce their own translations of “unseen” passages, whilst there should also be some scope for translating English into Latin. The “Literature” aspects will comprise a mixture of didactic to ensure students understand the texts, but also teacher-led discussion of them as pieces of literature rather than as a chunk of a foreign language for translation. Here students will be actively encouraged to offer their own personal responses to the material. We place great emphasis on students’ taking responsibility for their own workload.

Methods & Patterns of Assessment

Latin is not the easiest subject a student can choose in that there aren’t too many convenient short cuts. It does require a good power of recall and loads of discipline as grammar and vocabulary are committed to memory. There will be regular exercises to test this – think Hermione Granger! Further, students will practice the type of questions they will face in each of the units; where appropriate, such questions will be assessed according to the guidelines laid down by A level subject examiners.

Where Could It Take Me?

Latin is widely accepted (and in many cases positively admired) for university entrance whether or not students continue their studies in it or related subjects – in short, it is seen to be an academically challenging subject. Whilst there are few, if any, careers which will enable students to make direct use of their Latin, the skills and disciplines needed to succeed in the subject are widely admired by a diverse range of potential employers.