Preliminary Examination: Modern Languages

Latin inscriptions and Roman letters. (Image credit: Shutterstock).

Latin inscriptions and Roman letters. (Image credit: Shutterstock).

Preliminary Examination: Modern Languages

Below is a brief outline of the syllabus for students taking Option A, with Prelims as their first public examination. This is course lasts three years (four including the year abroad) if you have already studied Ancient Greek and/or Latin to A-level or equivalent, or four years (five including the year abroad), if you take the version with Beginners’ Latin or Greek, which begins with a preliminary year learning one of the languages. For students taking Option B, with Mods as their first public examination, please see Honour Moderations in Classics for an outline of the Mods syllabus.

Qualifying Examination for Classics and Modern Languages (Option A) with Beginners’ Latin or Greek


If you have not previously studied either Ancient Greek or Latin to A-level or equivalent, you spend a preliminary year learning one of the languages, combined with some study of classical literature.

The qualifying examination consists of two written exams: Greek or Latin Language, and Greek or Latin Texts.

After the qualifying examination, you go on to study Modern Languages Prelims as set out below.

Modern Languages Prelims

During your first year (or your second year, if you have taken the preliminary year for students of Classics and Modern Languages with Beginners’ Latin or Greek), you continue to study the language and literature of your chosen classical and modern languages.

For the Preliminary Examination, you take seven exams:

  • Unseen translation from Greek and/or Latin
  • Greek and/or Latin Literature: essay questions
  • Greek and/or Latin Literature: translation and comment
  • four papers in the modern language and its literature

Detailed descriptions of the papers on offer, and information about teaching provision, can be found in the course handbooks available on our website here.  However, please note that handbooks are updated each year, and that the handbooks for the years in which you would sit the qualifying examination, Prelims or Mods, and Finals may not be available yet. In particular, the syllabus for Prelims and Mods is changing from 2025 entry onwards.

Please note that changes may be made to course syllabuses from year to year, and that not all papers may be available in any given year.