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Email Responses

The following are some comments people who have taken the Latin ExCET or have experience with the exam have sent via email. To some extent, of course, these responses need to be taken cum grano salis. Memories of exams are not always accurate, and you will note that some of the responses contradict others. Nevertheless, the responses may give you some useful impressions of the exam.

I. The most important thing to emphasize is the ability to read Latin. Anyone who can read Cicero (orations & essays) should have few problems.
    The Study Guide is not misleading, it just uses different passage than those on the test, so the vocabulary is different. Several sections of the test are the cloze format (fill-in-the-blank, which students are not used to). Practice exercises should be useful. The history and culture are very basic. The material in culture sections of the Amsco Review books cover most of it.
    A complaint that I have heard over & over again is the difficulty of the vocabulary. If the passages on the test are from authors that the examinees have not read recently, they are going to have problems. The passages come from the authors commonly read in high school. I believe there is a list in the study guide of those authors.

II. The one thing I still remember very clearly is the sheer amount of readings in the text. My classes as an undergraduate, if I remember correctly, averaged 60-100 lines of text a night. It seemed like five times that all in one test!
    Future test takers need to be warned of the sheer quantity of reading and that they won't have time to hunt and peck or puzzle together the meanings.

III. Prose: Caesar, Cicero, Sallust, Pliny the Younger
      Poetry: Catullus, Vergil, Ovid, Martial
    I recall that the one or two Catullus poems happened to be among those found in Wheelock, either in chapters or in the back of the Text. On all poetry, figures of syntax and rhetoric (as found, e.g., in the back of Pharr's Aeneid text) were covered. Identification of meters came up for Catullus.
    If I were to suggest a corpus of study for someone preparing for this exam, I would suggest all the literature found in the second, third and fourth year texts of Jenney's Latin, just about any edition.
    The College Board's Advanced Placement syllabus for Vergil and Ovid would certainly include what could come up form those authors. Aeneid selections were from I, II, IV, VI.
    Grammatical points covered included nothing more advanced than what you get in Wheelock chapters. You had to know, for example, that the passive periphrastic takes a dative of agent.

IV. The best advice I got was in general test-taking skills and psyching out the answers. Someone told me not to attempt to actually read the difficult passages but to read the questions first to see what kind of information was required. This saved much time and energy.
    My preparation was limited to Cicero, Catullus, Vergil, and Ovid.
    Although I knew that was seriously lacking, I obviously did OK, so I think it would be a waste of time to try to cram unfamiliar authors.

V. I have before me the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th year of Jenney's Latin, the 1984 edition. I believe that the literary selections from this text series will more than adequately prepare a student for the ExCET.

From Charles Jenney's Second Year Latin :

Caesar:     Gallic Wars I-VII

Ovid:        Metamorphoses
                    Daedalus & Icarus 8.183-235
                    Atalanta's Race 10.560-680
                    Creation 1.5-88
                    Flood 1.253-312
                    Pyramus & Thisbe 4.55-166
                    Orpheus & Eurydice 10.1-63

Plautus:     Aulularia & Amphitruo (brief selections)

Nepos:     Life of Alcibiades

From Jenney's Third Year Latin:

Cicero:    Four orations against Catiline
               De imperio Pompeii
               Pro Archia
               In Verrem (selections)
               Epistulae (selections)

Sallust:    Bellum Catilinae (selections)

Pliny:      Epistulae (selections)

Ovid:     Metamorphoses:
                 Deucalion & Pyrrha 1.313-415
                 Phaethon 2.1-328
                 Philemon & Baucis 8.620-724

Later Latin (selections)

From Jenney's Fourth Year Latin:

Vergil:     Aeneid
                   Books I-VI
                   Books VII-XII (selections)
                   Eclogue IV

Ovid:    Autobiography (Tristia 4.10)
            Hard Life at Tomi (Tristia 3.10)
            Dido to Aeneas (Heroides VII)
            Founding of Rome (Fasti 4.809-852)
            Cacus (Fasti 543-582)
            Jason & Medea (Metam. 7.1-158)
            Midas (11.85-145)
            Perseus & Andromeda (Metam. 662-763)

Catullus: 3, 5,31,46,49,61,85,101,64.132-201 (Ariadne's lament)
            (add 1 and 8, which I seem to recall were on the exam)

Horace: Odes: I.5,9,16,21,22,24,34,38;
            Odes II.10,14;
            Odes III.2,5,9,13,30
            Odes IV.7

Martial: Epigrams
            1.61,88,38,10,32; 8.56; 12.18,3,46; 10.47; 9.52; 5.58

(These are not presented in numerical order in Jenney) Meter is important. Be able to tell (multiple choice) how many dactyls a given line of hexameter has and where the caesura falls. For Catullus and Horace be able to identify the most important lyric meters (hendecasyllabic, Sapphic, elegaic couplet-- I think that's plenty).
    Another useful prep tool would be copies of the National Latin
    Examination from the last five or more years, available from the American Classical League. The format for this examination is very much the same as the ExCET.

VI. As far as the history is concerned, I would recommend knowing details about the distant areas in the Roman Empire. But, of course, is it really worth one's time to study in such detail? I would suggest that if someone has the time, and really wants to achieve a score in the upper percentile range, then it would be worth it. Otherwise, it is possible to pass the test reviewing more general information.

VII. I took the exam several years ago. My advice to examinees is to be prepared to translate a large amount of text in a short amount of time. There are only three or four questions about each relatively long passage, so examinees also need to be able to skim passages for key words.

VIII. I found that most passages were from the major authors that are most often read in typical upper level high school classes: Vergil, Horace, Catullus, Caesar, Cicero, and Pliny (his letter about the eruption of Vesuvius, as I recall).
    When the questions are posed the grammatical answer is the correct answer(rather than style). Therefore a correct response (grammatically) will result in a high score regardless of familiarity with the texts.

IX. Vergil, Horace, Cicero, Caesar--these authors I remember, specifically, I know you don't want the passages, but Aeneid, the underworld, the carpe diem poem, and Caesar on the Druids I think I remember (but it has been 6 years)
    Grammar text, with emphasis on subjunctive, sequence of tense, various methods of purpose, cases of gerunds with various Latin words, these I do remember.

X. The sheer volume of the reading might intimidate many, as there are many passages in Latin, and the temptation to carefully read each section might be there. I suggest reading quickly for meaning, and going back to answer with care the questions, in order to conserve energy and fortitude.

XI. There were three questions onthe use of "nonne" and "num". I thought that was a lot for a minor point. There wasn't one on passive paraphrastic with dative of agent--or if there was I missed it and I was looking because that is one I often forget if I am not thinking. Lot of pronoun questions--reflexive or regular. Some Unus Nauta words in genitive and dative. They did have several questions on what kind of clause something was--purpose, etc, and what kind of ablative--agent, etc.

XII. For some strange reason, there were no scansion questions on the exam--not one!

Those things aside, everything else was very similar to what was in the practice tests. Many authors appeared on the test, including Vergil, Cicero, Horace, and Catullus, among others.

I found the most difficult part of the exam to be the section where you have to pick the sentence (in Latin) that best expresses the main idea of a given passage (also in Latin). This section actually appeared at the beginning of the test. To do well here, one must read lots of Latin before the exam. No short cut!

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