SAT Latin Subject Test Information

All About the SAT Latin Subject Test
Getty Images | D. Agostini W. Buss

Lingua Latina optimum in universo, et utinam possem student singula die. If you know what this Latin phrase means, then perhaps you better showcase that Latin talent and sign up for the SAT Latin Subject Test before you apply to the school of your choice. Want to know more? See below.

Note: This test is not part of the SAT Reasoning Test, the popular college admissions exam. Nope. This is one of the many SAT Subject Tests, exams designed to showcase your particular talents in all sorts of fields.​

SAT Latin Subject Tests Basics

Before you register for this test, (which only pops up twice a year) here are the basics about your testing conditions:

  • 60 minutes
  • 70 - 75 multiple-choice questions
  • 200-800 points possible
  • Macrons appear on the test
  • Variations of Latin words appear in parentheses on the test. For example: iudicium (judicium).
  • Questions following a poetry passage will always include one question requiring you to scan the first four feet of a line of dactylic hexameter verse or determine the number of elisions in a line (just to keep it interesting).

SAT Latin Subject Test Skills

So, what's on this thing? What kinds of skills are required? Here are the skills you'll need in order to master this test.:

  • Choose appropriate grammatical forms of Latin words
  • Choose Latin words from which English words are derived
  • Translate from Latin to English
  • Complete Latin sentences
  • Choose alternative ways of expressing the same thought in Latin
  • Answer a variety of questions based on short passages of prose or poetry

SAT Latin Subject Test Question Breakdown

As you can see, the majority of the test is based on those reading comprehension questions, but other Latin knowledge is tested, too:

Grammar and Syntax: Approximately 21 - 23 questions

Derivatives: Approximately 4 - 5 questions

Reading Comprehension: Approximately 46 – 49 questions

These questions include three to five reading passages and one or two poetry passages.

Why Take the SAT Latin Subject Test?

Since many people believe Latin to be a dead language – no one really speaks it in everyday life – why should you showcase your knowledge of it? In some cases, you'll need to, especially if you're considering choosing Latin as a major in college. In other cases, it's a great idea to take the Latin Subject Test so you can showcase a different skill other than sports or drama club. It shows the college admissions officers that you have more up your sleeve than your GPA. Taking the test, and scoring high on it, demonstrates qualities of a well-rounded applicant. Plus, it can get you out of those entry-level language courses.

How to Prepare for the SAT Latin Subject Test

To ace this thing, you'll need at least two years in Latin during high school, and you'll want to take the test as close to the end of or during your most advanced Latin class you plan to take. Getting your high school Latin teacher to offer you some supplementary materials is always a good idea, too. In addition, you should practice with legitimate practice questions like you'll see on the test.

The College Board offers free practice questions for the SAT Latin Test along with a pdf of the answers, too.

Sample SAT Latin Subject Test Question

This question comes from the College Board's free practice questions. The writers have ranked the questions from 1 to 5 where 1 is the least difficult. The question below is ranked as a 4.

Agricola dīxit sē puellam vīsūrum esse.

(A) that he would see the girl
(B) that he had seen the girl
(C) that the girl would see him
(D) that they will see the girl

Choice (A) is correct. The sentence presents an indirect statement introduced by Agricola dīxit (The farmer said). The underlined indirect statement has the reflexive pronoun sē (referring to Agricola) as its accusative subject, the noun puellam (girl) as its accusative direct object and the future infinitive vīsūrum esse (to be about to see) as its verb.

The use of the masculine future active participle vīsūrum indicates that sē, not the feminine puellam, is the subject of the infinitive. The underlined portion of the sentence may therefore be translated as “that he would see the girl.” Choice (B) mistranslates the future infinitive vīsūrum esse as pluperfect (had seen); choice (C) mistranslates puellam as subject rather than object (the girl would see); and choice (D) mistranslates sē (referring to the singular Agricola) as plural (they). The entire sentence may be translated as "The farmer said that he would see the girl.”

Good Luck!