How to Prepare for the National Latin Exam

For the past three years, my son Andy has been taking the National Latin Exam every spring. It's a short, standardized test designed to assess a student's understanding of the Latin language and culture. I like the test because it's cheap (only $5 to take), but it offers an excellent testing experience for my homeschooler. Andy has taken Latin I (gold medal), Latin II (gold medal), and the Latin III (silver medal) tests. I'm interviewing him today to share his advice for how to prepare and find success on the National Latin Exam.

Andy shared some of his thoughts live in his Facebook group a couple of weeks ago, so if you just want to hear directly from him, you can watch the video below!

What's On the National Latin Exam?

Andy: One aspect I've discovered about the National Latin Exam is that each test follows a similar outline. It starts with questions about Latin grammar. The next section covers Roman culture and mythology as well as some geography. Finally, the test wraps up with a Latin paragraph to read and answer questions about.

Mom: How are the levels different?

Andy: With each level of difficulty, each section I mentioned draws out deeper understanding of the forms in grammar, lesser-known idioms, as well as an awareness of Roman government.

Who Should Take the National Latin Exam?

Andy: Anyone who is currently studying Latin should take the test, but especially those who enjoy it!

Mom: How do you know what level to take?

Andy: There is a nice guide on the NLE website that tells you which test fits your situation.

Mom: What's your favorite part about the National Latin Exam?

Andy: I love taking this test because it allows me to test my knowledge of the language as well as strengthen my logical ability.

Mom: Do you have to take the next level every year?

Andy: You can take the same level as many times as you want. The only limitation is that you can only receive a gold medal on a level once. Since I earned the gold medal on my first two levels, I moved up to the next level. However, I have friends that have taken the same level each year and improved their scores.

How Do I Prepare For the National Latin Exam?

Andy: There are several great tools to help you prepare. Here are some of my favorites:

  • National Latin Exam Previous Year Tests - Here you can print off tests from all the years it's been offered and experience taking the test without affecting your final score. Also, you can see for yourself the types of questions given and how much you need to study.
  • NLE Online Practice App - While not actually an app for your phone, this interactive website allows students to choose the level they are studying for and how many questions they'd like to try. It makes studying like a game! Also, you get immediate feedback on right and wrong answers. When I first started studying with this game, I'd look up Latin words I didn't know even if it didn't relate to the question. It was a huge help in preparing me for the formal exam.
  • Memoria Press Guide - I love the study guides from Memoria Press. There are three options: Introduction, Level 1, and Level II. We got the Level II guide because it covers the information about all three tests.
  • Other Books - I've also really liked some other kids' books to round out my understanding of Roman culture and mythology. My favorite is The Romans because the information is simple and colorful. I also really like the Usborne Romans: Internet Linked book. Those are always really good. Memoria Press's Famous Men of Rome is also a really cool resource for learning Roman history.
  • Practicing Copying Charts - One of the best ways you can prepare for the exam is to work hard in memorizing your forms—especially verb forms. It's such a satisfying feeling to be able to point out veb forms you know in the exam! Here's some FREE charts to help you practice!

Latin Verb Conjugations Free Printable

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    Why Do You Keep Taking the National Latin Exam?

    Andy: I keep taking it because it confirms that I'm working in the right direction. Sometimes it's hard as a homeschooler to know if you're working on the right stuff. Doing well on this test encourages me to keep working hard to learn more.

    In my senior year, I also have the opportunity to apply for a scholarship if I score well on the test. Every little bit helps!

    But what really is the best way to prepare?

    Ultimatley, the best way you can prepare for the Nationial Latin Exam is to keep learning Latin! Join the Latin-learning community, and Andy will take you step-by-step through the concept of Latins to help you feel confident in tackling the National Latin Exam.

    Need help learning Latin at home?

    More Latin Helps:

    Check out some of these other great resources that I think you'll really enjoy!

    So what questions do you have about the National Latin Exam?


    1. ALISHA EADES on February 15, 2019 at 5:20 pm

      How is the test scored? We’re taking practice tests home and I’d like to score them.

    2. Grace Molloy on February 27, 2019 at 4:55 pm

      We are interested in joining the Latin with Andy membership. Does he offer study helps for the National Latin Exam beyond this video above?

      • Betsy on February 28, 2019 at 10:36 am

        Thanks for your interest Grace! We don’t offer more study helps at this time for the NLE. We’ve found that the NLE site itself is the best help in preparing for the exam. Maybe we’ll add some resources in the future!

    3. Candace on October 16, 2022 at 10:35 pm

      What Challenge level were you when you took your first NLE? I have a Challenge A student now and was wondering if he should try the Intro Exam.

      • Andy Strauss on November 30, 2022 at 11:58 am

        I was in Challenge A as well! The intro exam might be a lot of fun for him! The best part of the NLE is they let you retake the same level over several years if you want. They only make you take a higher level exam if you have scored really high on the previous level. I’d definitely recommend it!

    4. Sabrina on March 13, 2024 at 5:22 am

      I’ve been doing latin for 1 and a half years, is that long enough to say that I’ll do okay in the test? I’m also a bit worried about the history and all, I haven’t learnt a single bit. Is there a place where I can practice or memorise?

      • Andy Strauss on April 1, 2024 at 1:26 pm

        Yes of course! There are multiple levels of the nle, so you could totally start with the intro test. They don’t limit the amount of times you take each test (unless you score really high!). So you could take the Intro test this year and again next year if you wanted. I felt the same way about the history when I started. One great resource is going to where you can find and download most of their past exams and practice taking them. I also used to practice all the time. It gives you 10-20 questions you would find on one of their exams and corrects you right away if you got it wrong. 🙂

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