A level Latin

Exam Board: OCR

What is the A level about?

The OCR A Level in Latin really does stand out as an impressive qualification to have in any pupil’s repertoire. Pupils will embark on a much more detailed odyssey into the Latin language and literature which has shaped the western civilisation we know so well. This is an A level for the pure classicist who will appreciate the true joy of Latin.

What does the A level consist of?

The final examination (taken at the end of the Upper Sixth Form) consist of four papers:

  • Paper One (Unseen translation - 1 hour 45 minutes - 33% of overall marks);
  • Paper Two (Comprehension - 1 hour 15 minutes - 17% of overall marks);
  • Paper Three (Prose Literature - 2 hours - 20% of overall marks);
  • Paper Four (Verse Literature - 2 hours - 20% of overall marks).

These papers test the appropriate skills in the context of these authors:

  • Ovid;
  • Livy;
  • Cicero;
  • Virgil.

Do I need to have studied the subject at GCSE?

In order to access this demanding course, pupils must have achieved at least a grade 7 in GCSE Latin.

Whom does the subject suit?

Latin A level is for those who have loved GCSE. It is an opportunity to get to know Latin literature in great depth. It is a challenging course, so pupils need to be sure it is for them. Obviously, studying Latin in such detail will be hugely rewarding, but pupils contemplating taking the language for A level must realise that they will have to work hard outside lessons too. Proficiency in a language will not come just from attending the lessons and completing prep: pupils will have to learn their vocabulary, practise their translation skills and read widely in their free time.

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 whether you want to change your life: having another language under your belt will transform your outlook on life for the better.

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?

A Level 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.