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Top Tips for Success in Latin Common Entrance Exams
By Nicholas Oulton
05 Oct

Of all the years to be preparing for school entrance exams, this has to be one of the strangest. For many pupils, the new school year has begun with parents (working) at home during the day, keen to help with actual or remote learning being offered by Covid-affected classrooms - but also keen to get on with their own work undisturbed. And while helping with subjects where you have a degree or a particular interest is one thing, there will be many where you feel somewhat out of your depth. Latin is typically one of those subjects, and not everybody’s cup of tea. I remember, many years ago, discussing the merits of Latin with the late Chelsea and England midfielder Ray “Butch” Wilkins, whose daughter I taught at the time. His views on the importance of Latin were colourful, to say the least, but let’s just say that they were at odds with my own!

So, what can you do to help a child who is learning Latin? How best to help them succeed? Well, I have always taken the view that Latin is great fun, and that it is both a privilege and an adventure to spend time finding out about this wonderful, ancient language. I believe that there is a sense of excitement to be enjoyed in deciphering the code, in being able to read even small snippets of Latin, in churches and museums, on statues and monuments. And enthusing about this, encouraging it and taking pride in it, is an important step towards helping the pupil succeed. If a child sees that you are impressed with what they are doing, and value it, then their journey will be significantly easier and more rewarding.

But of course, to do well in any subject, you have to master certain skills. And in Latin, as in many other subjects, accuracy and attention to detail are critical. I have a large number of lessons on my So You Really Want to Learn Latin YouTube channel, and you may find these useful as a supplement to the books being used at school. It can be soul-destroying for a child to find their work coming back covered in red ink, so here are some tips for helping avoid that. But better still, you may find your child goes on to achieve real success in Latin.

  1. Use common sense. This is absolutely not the same as guessing, but Latin was a real language and the person writing in Latin was simply trying to express their ideas using the words and structures available at the time. They weren’t trying to trip you up.
  2. Look for ways in which Latin is similar to English. Hundreds and hundreds of words that a pupil comes across in their Latin lessons are easily recognizable from their English derivative. Annus gives us annual, pater gives us paternal, hostis gives us hostile, and so on. With a little care, words that the child thinks they don’t know can be worked out by thinking about English words that are similar to them.
  3. Remember how Latin is different from English, and look out for ways in which this will affect your understanding. For example, in Latin the verb generally comes at the end of a sentence, so always go to the end first to find out what is happening. In particular, remember that the ending on the verb always tells us WHO was doing the verb, and WHEN they were doing it.
  4. Similarly, nouns in Latin have endings to tell us whether they are singular or plural, and whether they are the subject or the object (or something else) in the sentence. It takes a bit of practice, but use this to your advantage, and be sure always to pay attention to these endings. It is satisfying to get the detail right.
  5. Learn the grammar properly! It is easy and fun to learn the noun tables and verb tables off by heart. It’s like learning your tables in maths. If you don’t know how puella goes, or how rego goes, you will always be struggling to work out what feminarum means, or ducunt. But if you learn the tables, and they are all laid out neatly in the Latin for Common Entrance 13+ Revision Guide, the steps above will all fall neatly into place. And even if you don’t know much Latin, you can certainly hold the book and ask the child to recite the grammar they need to know, and check they are getting it right.

So my advice for helping your child in their Latin Common Entrance revision would be to encourage the child, make them realise that the language they are learning is an ancient one, which educated people have used for hundreds of years, and tell them how lucky they are to be able to read and write it. The more they learn, the better their command of English will become, the easier they will find it to learn modern languages, and the more analytical they will become in all their other subjects. And if a little success in Latin leads to even greater success in their other subjects, that’s not a bad result!

Nicholas Oulton taught Latin and Greek for 10 years before writing the So You Really Want to Learn Latin course and founding Galore Park in 1998. Learn more about Nicholas here. Nicholas has also created a short video featuring his top tips for helping your child with their Latin entrance exam revision which you can watch here.

The So You Really Want to Learn Latin course has been updated for entrance exams and is now made up of three textbooks and exam practice resources in the form of the Latin for Common Entrance 13+ Revision Guide and Exam Practice Questions and Answers. To help with exam practice, Galore Park also exclusively offers ISEB Latin Common Entrance past papers – a vital stage in the Latin revision journey and a great tool for building confidence and honing exam technique.

Latin 13+ Revision GuideLatin Exam Practice Questions Level 1Latin Exam Practice Questions Level 2Latin Exam Practice Questions Level 3

Plus, there are also fantastic resources on Greeks and Romans.

Greeks and RomansAn Introduction to Classical Greek

Tags: 13+, 13+ Common Entrance, 13+ Latin, 13+ Revision, 13 plus, Common Entrance, Entrance exams, Exam Preparation, Exam tips, home schooling, independent schools, Key Stage 3, Latin, Parents, revision, revision prep, school entrance exams

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