How to Take an AP Latin Exam

            I’m about three months away from turning 17. I have just about as much life experience as any kid my age, which doesn’t really amount to that much. I don’t have to make my own living, and my mom still washes my clothes. And feeds me. And, well, basically does everything for me. In a position such as my own, I don’t think I have the right or capability, really, to give too much “life” advice out to anyone. There is one suggestion I can make though: Never, ever, take AP Latin.

            As much as I’d like to draw the line there, I know that that is not always possible. Mom is a language teacher and insists that you continue Latin until the very last day of your senior year. Dad believes that it may be your only ticket into Harvard, his alma mater. Even suggesting this to your guidance counselor may result in an hour of him/her lecturing you about how colleges frown upon inconsistency. So, in an attempt to avoid disappointing your family, you figure, “What they hey!” and enroll in AP Latin IV. Big mistake.

            From the very first day of class, you are stuck with kids who are either very into Latin, or kids that will utilize this period as their naptime. Your teacher is weird because unfortunately it isn’t possible to find a normal Latin teacher. (Anyone who elects to teach students the difference between dative and ablative case, since they have the SAME ending and it is so confusing, has to have at least unus (one!) screw loose.) And then you spend a full year translating 50 lines of Latin each and every day. This miserable course culminates with a three-hour exam given in the second week of May.

            So, on the night before the exam, you realize that you know absolutely no Latin and will probably get a * or a 1 on the test, these being the lowers scores you can achieve. A 1 demonstrates knowledge of exclusively simple conversation. Basically, you can ask someone his or her name, Quid est nomen tibi? And that’s it. Receiving a * on the AP Latin exam reveals your ability to say “Hello”. I mean… Salve?  This upsetting fact concerning your minimal knowledge of a language you have taken for six years takes a few minutes to settle in, but then you are faced with the problem of how to spend those three hours of your life!

            On the morning of the test, you should prepare the materials that you will bring. Along with your pens and pencils, you should try to snag your brother’s asthma inhaler. Carpe one that has a lot of parts. When you’re bored, one of the most entertaining things you can do is take an inhaler apart, clean out its insides, inspect how it actually works and then put it back together. Think of it as if you’re translating a sentence (if you know how). You have to break it down and find the verb, subject and direct object all separately. With the inhaler, you’re breaking it apart and finding the location that it untwists, the spring and the drugs… all separately. Repeat over and over. (Note: The inhaler can also be used as a device for spitballs when all else fails. When your proctor yells at you to stop, shout out that you’re reenacting the Trojan War with your pencils and pens acting as Greeks and Trojans, respectively. That’ll shut her up.)

The first thing you should do when you arrive at the test is to situate yourself all the way in the back of the room. Chances are you will have a proctor who is senile and will not be able to see past their nose, let alone hear anything at all. This way, if you mess around, nemo will know!

            Before the test begins, you should also find an extra chair to put in front of your desk. This way, you can sit back and relax. Almost like Jupiter did every single time his jealous wife decided to condemn his many girlfriends to Hades. Also, there is a good chance that you will fall asleep, so it will be nice to have a leg rest.

            Section I of the test consists of fifty multiple-choice questions to be completed in an hour. There is a 1/5 chance of getting a problem right, so you may as well try. If you really do not want to put forth any effort, bubble in the answer choices to create a picture or a word. I suggest a smiley face or a heart because they take the least amount of effort. However, a picture of a deer would really impress your exam grader. Vergil didn’t compare Dido to a deer in the Aeneid and then refer back to the metaphor approximately two hundred times for no reason at all. Plus, your scorer will have something interesting to look at. Can you smell brownie points!?

            After this section, you will have a fifteen-minute break. Run to the cafeteria and buy as many bags of chips that you can. Your goal for the next two hours will be to annoy as many people as you can without getting caught by the proctor or your peers. It seems mean, yes. But let’s be honest here. No one in that room actually wants to be taking the exam, and will probably welcome your tasteless and immature behavior. Bags of chips are perfect for “accidental” noises that drive people crazy. If you are wearing sandals or shoes that have clips on them, such as Birkenstocks, click the metal parts together to produce an irritating high-pitched sound. Odds are that the person next to you will get in trouble for flipping out at you. And that’s always fun.

            During Section II of the test, you will be required to translate two passages (ha!), write a well-developed essay and then answer two short answer questions. The essays/short answer questions will address issues such as the heroism and faults of the characters. I suggest trying your best for the translations. After all, you must have some Latin background if you made it all the way to AP. For the long essay, I recommend going on a philosophical or religious rant. In the final two writing response questions, write about your experience as a Latin student and disregard the questions altogether. If you have the guts, compare yourself to a character from The Aeneid itself! If you are an arrogant boy that just doesn’t get it, Aeneas would probably be your best match. It took that moron ten years before he realized that it was his job to found the city Rome.

            Once you finish bullshitting, you will probably have about an hour left of the test. Spend approximately five minutes reflecting on how you should not take Latin class cum grano salis and definitely pay attention next year. Being prepared is not overrated, and may lead to future success instead of the joke that was your AP Latin exam.

            After you’ve pondered your stupidity, it is time to go crazy.

If possible, grab the attention of the person sitting next to you (snaps or coughs will usually attract them). You can either converse about how ridiculous the test is or play games such as Sloth. It’s pretty doubtful that there were sloths in Rome, so you can rename the game Lupus, since it was a wolf that nursed Romulus and Remus, two later founders of Rome. To play Lupus, each person takes their three middle fingers and holds them up to their face. Then, they bend their fingers and relax their face muscles. Whoever laughs first at the other person loses. A staring game would also be an acceptable alternative.

Next, raise your hand and ask if you can go to the bathroom. Wet your face and hair. Give no explanation for it when the proctor walks you back into the testing room. If your friends ask, tell them you were visiting the ancient bathhouses.

Try whistling next. There is no better way to irritate the people proctoring your exam. They will probably walk around making empty threats claiming that, “If we find out, you’re gonna be in BIG trouble!” Right. Of course we will.

            Fake sneeze every 120 seconds. No one will know how accurate your intervals are, but at least you will have something to do. Eventually walk to the front of the room and ask for tissues. When your proctor points to their location, pretend you have absolutely no idea what they are talking about. Confused people are very entertaining.

            A couple final ideas are using your test paper to make origami or sticking your AP number labels all over your face. The latter will scare anyone who glances your way and the former can be used as a present for your proctor.

Overall, this test-taking experience should be a lesson for you. Despite all the seemingly fun things you engage yourself in, you will still be very bored. If you had studied and prepared yourself for this college level exam, you would have been occupied for the whole test and not been forced to find ways of escaping this boredom. Nevertheless, anyone who has heard the famous jingle (“Latin is a language/as dead as dead can be/it killed the Ancient Romans/and now it’s killing me!”) knows that Latin is a useless language, and it is important to have fun every once in a while. At least, I’m pretty sure it is. After all, I’m not yet 17.