The course is designed to take the student from the rudiments of Latin through to complex syntactical constructions. The books cater specifically for 13+ scholarship examinations, but contain every element of the Common Entrance, Common Academic Scholarship and GCSE syllabuses. Indeed all but three of the topics required for the AS language specification (deliberative questions, oratio obliqua and consecutive clauses with quam ut) are met. It is hoped, therefore, that Variatio be as appropriate for use in senior schools as in prep school departments.
The intention behind this course has largely been to address the lack of rigorous, grammatical textbooks available to Latin teachers today. The key tenet of the books is that the student should never translate a sentence without understanding why it means what it means. Topics are introduced in a logical order, and gradated exercises allow a complete understanding of each element of syntax and accidence.
The title, meanwhile, alludes to the wide range of exercises available – sentences, unseen translations, prose compositions, comprehensions, verbs for parsing, grammatical questions and derivations. This prepares the student for the various formats of examinations, while also affording a range of resources to the teacher. Both volumes contain two-way dictionaries, and summaries of topics are given at the end of each section (in addition to vocabulary summaries and an outline of accidence in Book I).
It was reviewed in the 33rd edition of the Journal of Classics Teaching, and a piece by the author on the thinking behind its creation featured in the Autumn 2016 edition of the SATIPS Classics broadsheet.
In addition to other online reviews, both volumes of Variatio have universal five-star ratings on Amazon.
The course has also been endorsed by Bob Bass, the author of the Latin Practice Sentences series and chief exam setter for ISEB, who remarks:
mensa is back! – and this in itself summarises the Variatio approach: traditional, thorough and gimmick-free... This non-syllabus-specific course will appeal to anyone, from early teens to mature students, who wants a no-nonsense approach to getting stuck into this challenging but rewarding language.
A number of top senior schools have given their support as well, and a collection of past papers is included in an appendix to Book II, reprinted with their kind permission. They include Eton, KCS, Marlborough, Radley, RGS Guildford, Tonbridge and Westminster.
Most recently the books found favour with Boris Johnson, who recommended their use for the charity Classics for All.
Part I covers the following: all declensions of nouns and adjectives, including irregular nouns; all conjugations of active verbs and sum; personal, demonstrative and reflexive pronouns; numerals, time, place and space.
Part II begins with the passive voice and from there on covers the following topics: instrument and agent; comparison of adjectives and adverbs; demonstrative pronouns; the relative pronoun; deponent and semi-deponent verbs; irregular verbs; participles; ablative absolutes; the indirect statement and infinitives; the subjunctive mood; jussive subjunctives; cum clauses, temporal and causal; concessive clauses; final clauses; consecutive clauses; prolative infinitives and indirect commands; interrogatives; indirect questions; sub-clauses in indirect speech; verbs of fearing; conditional clauses; the relative pronoun within final clauses; the supine; gerunds; gerundives; the historic infinitive; inverse cum clauses; usage of cases.
The answer book to Variatio I will be released later this year, with a key to Variatio II to follow in due course.