When Evan Colby walked into his AP Latin class at Ravenscroft School on Friday, his classmates applauded. Some asked for his autograph.
The fanfare was well-deserved. Colby, a 17-year-old senior at the Raleigh private school, was the only student in the world last year to earn a perfect score on the Advanced Placement Latin exam, which he took last spring.
“It was kind of overwhelming,” Colby said of his accomplishment. “But it makes me feel like (doing well) on AP exams is doable.”
Advanced Placement exams are administered by the College Board, an organization that oversees some standardized programs and tests for college readiness. The AP program gives high school students the opportunity to earn college credit.
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Colby found out over the summer he scored a 5 – the highest score – on the Latin test, but he didn’t know he got a perfect score until last week.
More than 6,600 students took the AP Latin exam last year, according to the College Board. Only 828 students got a score of 5.
Colby expected to do well on the exam, he said, but he didn’t think he would earn a perfect score. As part of the test, students must write an essay in English that is based on Latin history. Colby’s essay was about the leadership tactics of Julius Caesar and Virgil.
Jonathan Avery, who has taught Colby for two years, said it’s not surprising the teen has become so successful in Latin studies. Ravenscroft students begin learning foreign languages in elementary school.
Colby learned some Spanish and French in elementary school, and he took Latin as a semester-long exploratory course in middle school.
“I really liked Latin,” Colby said of his first class. “It’s different than anything I’d done. I liked the rules that came with it.”
Latin words often change form depending on the part of speech, so the order of words doesn’t matter much, Colby said. It can be confusing, but he said it’s helped him get better at English grammar.
“Evan’s passion and talent for the language was evident from day one,” said his middle school Latin teacher, Colleen Girouard.
Colby is currently in an independent study that joins Honors Latin 6 and Honors Latin 4 into one class. Colby was able to skip Latin 4 and probably could have skipped more, Avery said.
“If he skipped ahead too much, though, we would run out of classes,” Avery said.
Instead, Colby also studied Ancient Greek with Avery last year. Greek is typically taught with Latin in colleges to make up a classics curriculum.
Ultimately, Colby would like to study classics in college and become a Latin teacher. He was recently accepted to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill but hasn’t decided yet where he will attend.
“I’ll always be a little biased toward Latin,” Colby said.