A Level



Course Content

Year One

Students will study both language and literature:

  • Language:  Students will build on their knowledge of the Latin language, specifically working with a wider range of vocabulary than covered at GCSE and with more complex sentence structures. There will be regular exercises in unseen translation and, as confidence increases, unseen comprehension, the aim being to help prepare for the two language exams at the end of the course. Our intention is to start “relatively easy with lots of help” and move to “a bit more tricky with not so much help” as we progress, but it’s not always an exact science.
  • Literature: Students will study a selection from a Roman prose author and a Roman poet. In respect of the former, we’ll be looking at part of Cicero’s Second Philippic, one of his withering attacks on Mark Antony. On the poetry side, we will be studying some of Ovid’s Amores, his whimsical sketches on life and love in Augustan Rome.

Year Two

Again, students will tackle language and literature:

  • Language:  This is essentially a progression from the first year, with perhaps a bit more focus on the authors likely to be selected in the relevant final exam and on the traditionally more difficult poetry translation and unseen comprehensions.
  • Literature:  Another prose author and another poet. Our prose text will come from Book I of Tacitus’ Histories, his account of the last day of the emperor, Galba; the verse will be taken from Book XI of Virgil’s Aeneid, part of the story of how Aeneas led his people to their promised land and set in motion events that would lead to the foundation of Rome.

At the end of the course, students will tackle four externally-assessed exams:

  • Unseen translation – verse and prose
  • Unseen prose comprehension
  • Prose literature
  • Verse literature

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.

Entry Requirements

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

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 could 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.

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 £800.