National Language Exams: Different Approaches to Success


Emily Walsh

French, Spanish, Chinese, and Latin students take the national exam in their language levels from one to five and AP.

Every year BSM language teachers choose a set amount of students to take the national language exams with the possibility of receiving differing levels of recognition based on their scores. There are tests for each level of Chinese, Latin, Spanish, and French, and students who are selected year after year are able to see their improvement. However, each of the four languages has a different approach to preparing students for the exam.

All students in AP Spanish are required to take the national exam in preparation for the AP test and gauge their understanding of the language. AP Spanish classes have been preparing for the national exam with a similar level of intensity as they are the AP exam, taking multiple practice tests and reviewing the material. “We’ve done practices every week, so it’s helped a lot…I don’t think I could get a really low score based on what we’re doing in class,” AP Spanish student Henna Yeak, said.

We’ve done practices every week, so it’s helped a lot…I don’t think I could get a really low score based on what we’re doing in class

— Yeak

Unlike Spanish courses, French classes do not incorporate the national exam into the curriculum, but those who are selected must prepare on their own instead. “I do the practice test beforehand, so I’m as prepared as I can be. But then again, I’m not fluent in French. So of course there’s going to be questions where I don’t know what it means, and then I’ll just have to end up circling one. I compare it to standardized testing, like the ACT and SAT, where you have to use different strategies throughout it,” French IV student Greta Hall, said.

Latin students are required to take the national exam as part of their curriculum as well, however, little to no preparation is done specifically for the exam. The idea is that students will be able to apply the material they have learned throughout the Latin courses on the exam. “[The exam] has been pretty good. I don’t stress about it because you don’t really study for it. You just kind of go in and use your knowledge that you’ve already gained… I feel like the tests have actually gotten a lot easier as I’ve learned more and gotten more knowledge about the grammar and how Latin works,” Latin IV student Grace Ehrmantraut said.

Across all the language courses, students seem to agree that the national language exams are a great way to track their progress over the years. “It definitely shows where you are in the level. I think the biggest wake up call is going into the national French exam and not knowing what’s on it. And then you kind of get a feel of where you are,” Hall said.

The national language exams give students the opportunity to not only track their progress but also receive recognition for excellence in their language level. Students can receive bronze, silver, and gold medals for high scores and, in advanced levels, can even earn travel scholarships to study abroad. “I think it’s definitely rewarding for those who do really well and receive the gold, silver, or bronze medals. I know people who are super excited to get those,” Hall said.