A ‘Magnus’ Performance For St. Rose Students On National Latin Exam

SHORT HILLS – Know the difference between “triclinium” and “cubiculum?” If so, you’re on par with four students at St. Rose of Lima Academy in Short Hills, who recently earned certificates for outstanding achievement on the National Latin Exam.

One of the students, seventh grader Emily Goncalves of Elizabeth, earned a perfect score on the Introduction to Latin exam – a first in the eight years that St. Rose students have been taking the national exam.


The annual exam, given each March in several versions based on experience level, has developed an international following, with students in 14 countries from Australia to Zimbabwe now participating. It is offered jointly by the American Classical League and the National Junior Classical League.

In addition to Goncalves, seventh graders Tess Strandberg of South Orange and Caleigh Wozniak of Maplewood received ribbons and certificates of merit for outstanding achievement on the Introduction to Latin exam. Eighth grader Alex Aiello of Maplewood received a cum laude certificate for outstanding achievement on the Latin I exam.

Students at St. Rose of Lima Academy, a private Catholic school in Short Hills, take Spanish as a regular part of the curriculum, but have the option of switching to Latin by the sixth grade if they so choose.

“I had been learning Spanish from kindergarten to fifth grade, so I thought it would be good to switch and learn Latin,” said Goncalves. “Latin helps you better understand English vocabulary and it helps you learn other languages, like Italian, Portuguese and French.”

The St. Rose of Lima Academy students participating in the exam had only a week’s notice about the test date, so they spent several days intensively cramming. “It was pretty stressful,” Goncalves said. “Maybe that’s actually why I did better than I expected – I didn’t have that much time to worry over it.

“I thought I had gotten at least two wrong, so I was amazed when I heard I got a perfect score,” she said.

When she’s not studying her Latin declensions and conjugations, Goncalves finds time to play for the St. Rose of Lima Academy girls’ basketball team, sing in the parish choir, play piano, participate in student council and write for The Blurb, the school’s student newspaper.

The exams are not based on any specific textbook series because there are so many different series available, said Jane Katz, St. Rose of Lima Academy’s Latin teacher. “Since the tests cover what we do in class, we are always preparing for them in one way or another,” she said.

“We have had students do very well on this test for years, but we have never had one who received a perfect score,” said Katz. “I’m proud of the effort all our Latin students put into the preparation for this test which, like Latin itself, is really challenging. It’s gratifying to see so many of them rewarded for those efforts.”

The Latin I exam consists of 40 multiple choice questions, covering several categories, from grammar and comprehension to mythology, Roman life and derivatives – English words derived from Latin sources – as well as questions based on reading a short passage in Latin.
Here are three fairly representative questions from this year’s Intro to Latin test:

Since the street was closed, the children were able to perambulate safely.
A) play outside B) watch the games C) gather together D) walk about

In what room did a Roman sleep?
A) triclinium B) atrium C) cubiculum D) tablinum

Dominus est poeta optimus et _______ habet.
A) multae pecuniae B) multa pecunia C) multam pecuniam D) multarum pecuniarum

(The answers, by the way, are D, C and C.)

“I studied so hard – the test was nerve-wracking,” said Wozniak, laughing. “I started taking Latin at the end of fifth grade because I wanted to try something new and I had heard it would help with increasing your vocabulary. The prefixes and suffixes are almost the same as English, and it helps makes translating Spanish easier too.”

Katz said the number of students choosing to take Latin varies widely from year to year. This year three eighth graders are taking Latin, but seventh grade is more typical, with 13 students choosing to study Latin. The sixth graders had a record number of participants in both the Exploratory Latin Exam and the Mythology Exam. Those who decide to take Latin at St. Rose are required to participate in the National Latin Exam. “That’s my decision, not the American Classical League’s,” Katz said.

The students sense the value in that rigorous, challenging approach. “Even if I switch to a different foreign language later in my education,” Wozniak said, “I know that taking Latin will have helped me prepare for it.”

St. Rose of Lima Academy in Short Hills, N.J. is a fully-accredited co-educational academy, with more than 200 students in Pre-Kindergarten through Grade 8. Established in 1869, it is one of the oldest Roman Catholic elementary schools in New Jersey.

(L to R) National Latin Test award winners from St. Rose of Lima Academy Tess Strandberg, Alex Aiello, Emily Goncalves and Caleigh Wozniak. (Photo courtesy of St. Rose of Lima Academy)

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