Also Seen: Latin Exams

From an opinion piece in the Evening Standard:

My grandfather, who tutored classics to secondary school pupils after he retired, was horrified to discover that at a top boys’ school, GCSE Latin candidates were advised to learn an English translation of their set texts off by heart, rather than translate the passage from the Latin on the day. What a way to squeeze all the joy out of Pliny and Ovid in favour of a mere test of short-term memory. At my girls’ school, minimal attention was given to debate or deeper learning; we stuck rigidly to a narrow curriculum – if it wasn’t going to come up, we didn’t need to know it. At times, I felt like a Haribo-fuelled drone whose sole purpose was to pass exams.

To be well-examined is not the same as to be well-educated. Come August, rather than whingeing that exams “ain’t what they used to be”, we should instead ask how they came to be quite so important.

2 thoughts on “Also Seen: Latin Exams

  1. When I took frit year Latin in University (about 8 years ago), our final exam both a passage that had been memorized before hand, *and* a passage, of about equal length, to translate without having seen it before. We were also asked to parse various parts of sentences, congugate verbs in various forms, translate short sentences back and forth, etc. etc. As it was a three hour exam, there was plenty of opportunity to have us do different things. I remember actually *enjoying* the exam, for what that’s worth.

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