Latin GCSE

Exam Board: OCR

What is the GCSE about?

The OCR GCSE in Latin is aimed at giving pupils the opportunity to achieve a respected qualification in a difficult subject which carries a great deal of kudos. The GCSE forms a very good stepping stone to A level. The GCSE is highly respected by universities as a challenging benchmark qualification.

What does the GCSE consist of?

The final examination (taken at the end of the Fifth Form) consists of three papers:

  • Paper One (Language - 1 hour and 30 minutes - 50% of overall marks);
  • Paper Three (Prose Literature B - 1 hour - 25% of overall marks);
  • Paper Five (Verse Literature B - 1 hour - 25% of overall marks).

These papers test linguistic and analytical skills in the following ways:

  • Language: unseen prose translation into English and comprehension;
  • Prose Literature: seen translation, comprehension and analysis of texts selected from the works of Tacitus, Pliny the Younger, Apuleius, Cicero, Caesar, Sallust and Pliny the Elder;
  • Verse Literature: seen translation, comprehension and analysis of texts taken from a book of Virgil’s Aeneid.

Do I need to have studied the subject before?

Pupils should have at least three years’ experience of learning Latin before embarking on the GCSE course.

Whom does the subject suit?

Latin GCSE is a course for the language connoisseur. It is challenging and not for the faint-hearted. However, for those who have been bitten by the Latin bug, it is incredibly rewarding. The course is intensive: pupils will learn to be strict with their grammar and picky with their translations. One of the greatest rewards is being able to read some of the wonders of classical literature in the original, so pupils develop an understanding of how the author intended the text to be seen and heard.

What skills should I have?

Pupils will also have to have a keen eye for detail and be willing to learn from their mistakes. They should be highly motivated and ready to work hard to meet the challenge of the course.

What might the subject lead to?

Studying Latin shows others you are intellectual and that you are able to function at a high academic level. Pupils will automatically stand out from the crowd, since relatively few pupils across the country study the subject. It is an ideal subject to take alongside a modern language or mathematics: subjects which have a good deal of cross-over with elements of Latin.

Like with a modern language, universities look kindly on applicants who have studied Latin: they consider it a distinct advantage over other candidates in the application process.

What trips are involved?

There are regular cultural trips to watch Latin plays in London or Oxford as the opportunities present themselves. We recently led our first trip to Rome and the Bay of Naples, where we had the chance to visit the amazing remains of the Roman empire in Rome and at Pompeii. It was very successful and we look forward to running another trip soon.

What else should I consider before choosing?

Consider if you can afford not to know Latin well: the opportunity may not present itself again!

What books should I read?

Pupils will benefit from reading any of the wonders of classical literature - in English might be a good starting point. Virgil’s Aeneid is a seminal text which every cultured person should have read at least once. The works of Cicero, Tactitus, Suetonius and Ovid are really worth dipping into as well: most of these authors figure on the A level syllabus. Read Caesar if you must, but do not blame us if you end up despising him and his way of writing!

Who will teach me?

GCSE Latin is taught by Mrs Berkeley and Mr Williams (Head of Languages).

Mrs Berkeley (Head of Sixth Form and Teacher of Classics – BA Exeter) has brought the teaching of Latin to life with her enthusiasm and dedication over the last five years. She has a passion for Virgil, academic rigour and tasteful classroom displays.

Mr Williams (Head of Languages – BA Manchester) has taught Latin in some of the leading independent schools in the country. He has a passion for Virgil too, a love-hate relationship with Caesar and an obsession with grammar.