Report by Albert Watanabe (Louisiana State University) at CAMWS 2018

In the Spring of 2017, 196 students from 21 colleges and universities took the ninth annual College Greek Exam (CGE), a national exam for students of ancient Greek, typically given in the second semester of a college sequence.  In addition to CGE, the First Annual Intermediate/Advanced Tragedy College Greek Exam was given to 31 students. This paper gives an analysis of the results of the 2017 exams.  I will not be able to cover both exams thoroughly in the time that I have; so, I will be able to only give you the preliminary results from the tragedy exam.


         Since the 2008 pilot exam, students have taken the CGE in March of each year. The exam consists of 40 multiple-choice questions divided into two parts. The first part consists of grammar questions, while the second part asks students questions on a passage. The proportion between the two parts has changed over the years.  From 2008-2013, Part I consisted of 30 grammar questions, while ten questions were asked about the passage.  Since then the number of questions in the second part has increased: the ratio being 28-12 in 2014, 25-15 in 2015 and 20-20 for the last two years.  Thus, over the last few years there has been a gradual shift, where the CGE places more emphasis on testing grammatical knowledge and comprehension in context.  A consequence of the increase in the number of questions on the passage is a corresponding increase in the length of the passage.

         In the tables given on the handout, I list the results for the exams since 2014, i.e. since the number of questions in Pt. 2 has increased.  For those interested in the results from earlier exams, see the 2016 report posted on Willie Major’s site,  In the tables, the number of students and institutions taking the exam is given first. The high score (out of 40) follows; the number of students with this score is given in parentheses. The next two rows give the overall average and median scores. The overall average then is broken down into the average score for the first part and the average score for the second part on the passage.  The last row gives the average for the comprehension questions on the passage with the number of comprehension questions in parentheses.  You can see that the number of comprehension questions has gradually increased such that in 2016 and 2017 there were ten comprehension questions and it is likely that they will stay around this number on future exams.

         You can see that this year’s overall average and median scores fell by about 10% over last year’s score.  These scores are comparable to theoverall average and median for S2014 and 2015 exams.  The 2017 scores are the lowest since the exam began.  The highest scores occurred in 2010 (65.76% and 65) and 2009 (62.06% and 62.55).  For the 2016 exam, we see that the scores for Pt. 2 are pulling up the overall average.  Here there is almost a 15% difference between the two parts. In the first four exams, the averages for the two sections were very close (less than one percentage point in 2011), but starting in 2012, the averages for the two sections diverge. There is an 8 percent difference in 2012 and over 11 percent difference in 2014.  As pointed out in last year’s report, there are a number of firsts for 2016: (1) the biggest difference between the averages for Pt. 1 and Pt. 2 (about 15%) ; (2) the biggest increase in the average of pt. 2 from the previous year; (3) the average for Pt. 2 is the highest in the history of the exam.  The 2016 students clearly understood the passage better than their cohorts in 2017.  The scores for 2017 return to the 2014-15 levels; the students clearly had a more difficult time with the passage than last year’s students did.   The passage for 2017 was from Demosthenes praising the laws that govern the city.

         Overall the distributions of scores for the 2017 CGE can be seen in the table toward the bottom of the first page of the handout. You can see that the majority of the questions fell under 60%.  If one splits up this distribution between the two parts of the exam, you can see that for Pt. 1 seven of the scores were above 60%; the lowest score here was 19.4%.  Whereas for Pt. 2, eight of the scores were above 60%.  The lowest scores here were 15.3% and 15.8%. 


Let us then turn to the analysis of the exam.  As in the past, I focus on the five top and five bottom scores.

The highest score was for Q 11, where students were asked for the best translation of the sentence (on handout): οἱ θεοὶ διδάσκουσι τὸν δῆμον διώκειν τιμὴν διὰ τῆς δικης. Here, 98% saw that the correct translation was: “The gods teach the people to pursue honor through justice.”  This is the only ‘best translation” question from Greek to English on the exam.  A conscious effort had been made to reduce the number of such questions since the 2010 exam where there were ten such questions, because it was thought that it was easier for students to translate from English to Greek than vice versa.  Last year the best translation also was among the highest at 87.5%. 

The next highest score went to Q 17, where 89.8% correctly saw that “heuristic” derived from εὑρίσκω.  For Q 20, 83.7% correctly identified πέμψομεν as future indicative; last year, the same question was asked about πέμψομεν: 82.5% answered correctly. On Q 7, 83.2% saw that derived ἤγαγον from ἄγω.  Finally, on Q 40, a comprehension question, 81% answered that that the last sentence of the passage (on handout) stated that “The city will be full of worthless shameless people” (if the laws are done away with).

The lowest scores, with one exception, come from Pt. II on the passage.  Q 23 asked the students: The verb ἐξετάσαι introduces a(n) (see handout); only 15.3% answered correctly that it introduces an indirect question; 34.2 thought that the answer was a purpose clause; 32.1 an indirect statement.  In the past we have not asked students to identify clauses; for the most part, we have asked about relative clauses, parsing the form or identifying antecedents.

The next lowest score was Q 37, which asked: “infinitive νικᾶν is ____” (see handout Q 40).  Only 15.8% saw that it was dependent on δεῖ in the previous clause; 39.3% thought it was in a result clause; 26.5% that it was indirect discourse; 18. 4% that it was functioning as an imperative.  Again, in the past, we have not had students deal with infinitives that depend on a finite verb in an earlier clause.

The third lowest score asked about the verb ἴσθι; here 17.3% answered correctly that it came from οἶδα; the biggest distractor was ἵστημι (42.3%).  For Q 13 (on the handout), students were asked to replace the underlined words with a participle; 19.4% correctly identified καλέσας (nom aor.) as the participle; 37.7% went with the gen. καλέσαντος (probably thinking that –ος was a nom. ending); 29.6 chose the aorist middle καλεσάμενος. (Pt. 1 question)  This type of question has been asked on previous exams and students have had difficulties with it.  Last year, for example, only 35.9% identified the right participle.

Finally, Q 25 asked about the phrase cited earlier (on handout Q 23) in which Demosthenes imagines (d)“someone wondering what makes democratic institutions flourish.” Here 20.4% chose the right answer. The major distractor was (a) “the reasons that the Assembly, council, and courts work together.” (53.6%)  Students saw this answer (a) first and did not seriously consider the correct answer (d).

Overall, the major factor for the lower scores on the 2017 are connected with Pt. 2 of the exam on the passage.  The students had more difficulties with the passage.  Also, the lowest scores on the exam resulted from types of questions we had not asked before.  Also last year, it was pointed out that the comprehension questions tended to have one clear answer.  This year, as illustrated by the last question, students at times had to make finer distinctions between answers.


Last year was also the year in which 31 students took the First Annual Intermediate/Advanced Tragedy CGE.  I will not be able to give a thorough analysis of this exam.  In the future, perhaps it would be best if a separate report on this exam be given.  I offer here a few general considerations.  As the name of the exam emphasizes, it is an exam for intermediate and advanced students.  It consisted of 40 multiple-choice questions on an unmodified passage from Euripides Herakles, ll. 822-54.  As you can from the table, the overall avg. was 73.55% and the mean 77.5%.  The students seem to have done better on the grammar questions than the comprehension questions.  One can also see the distribution of grades on the last table, where the scores ranged from one 100% down to a question where only 12.9% answered correctly (a comprehension question).  In the time that I have, I can only give you these preliminary results.  Hopefully, in the future, a separate report on the tragedy will do it full justice.