Friday Fun: Are You as Smart as an 8th Grader?

Wendy Lawton

Blogger: Wendy Lawton
Location: Books & Such Central Valley Office

It’s Friday.

In fact, it’s the Friday after ICRS. <Big Sigh> I think it’s time to just have a little fun. My friend, Crystal Miller sent me this copy of an 1895 eighth grade final examination from Salina, Kansas. It was taken from the original document on file at the Smokey Valley Genealogical Society and Library in Salina, and reprinted by the Salina Journal. It gives a whole new appreciation for all those who “only” had an 8th grade education back then. (Notice that the test took five consecutive hours.)

8th Grade Final Exam: Salina , Kansas – 1895

Time: One Hour

1.  Give nine rules for the use of capital letters.
2.  Name the parts of speech and define those that have no modifications.
3.  Define verse, stanza and paragraph.
4.  What are the principal parts of a verb? Give principal parts of ‘lie’, ‘play,’ and ‘run.’
5.  Define case; illustrate each case.
6.  What is punctuation?
7.  Give rules for principal marks of punctuation.
8.  Write a composition of about 150 words and show therein that you understand the practical use of the rules of grammar.

Time: One Hour, 15 Minutes

1.  Name and define the Fundamental Rules of Arithmetic.
2.  A wagon box is 2 ft Deep, 10 feet long, and 3 ft. Wide. How many bushels of wheat will it hold?
3.  If a load of wheat weighs 3,942 lbs., what is it worth at 50cts/bushel, deducting 1,050 lbs. For tare?
4.  District No 33 has a valuation of $35,000.. What is the necessary levy to carry on a school seven months at $50 per month, and have $104 for incidentals?
5.  Find the cost of 6,720 lbs. of coal at $6.00 per ton.
6.  Find the interest of $512.60 for 8 months and 18 days at 7 percent.
7.  What is the cost of 40 boards 12 inches wide and 16 ft. long at $20 per metre?
8.  Find bank discount on $300 for 90 days (no grace) at 10 percent.
9.  What is the cost of a square farm at $15 per acre, the distance of which is 640 rods?
10. Write a Bank Check, a Promissory Note, and a Receipt.

United States History
Time: 45 Minutes

1.  Give the epochs into which U.S. History is divided.
2.  Give an account of the discovery of  America by Columbus.
3.  Relate the causes and results of the Revolutionary War.
4.  Show the territorial growth of the United States.
5.  Tell what you can of the history of Kansas .
6.  Describe three of the most prominent battles of the Rebellion.
7.  Who were the following: Morse, Whitney, Fulton, Bell, Lincoln, Penn and Howe?
8.  Name events connected with the following dates: 1607, 1620, 1800, 1849, 1865.

Time: One Hour

1.  What is meant by the following: alphabet, phonetic, orthography, etymology, syllabication
2.  What are elementary sounds? How classified?
3.  What are the following, and give examples of each: trigraph, subvocals, diphthong, cognate letters, linguals
4.  Give four substitutes for caret ‘u.’
5.  Give two rules for spelling words with final ‘e.’ Name two exceptions under each rule.
6.  Give two uses of silent letters in spelling.  Illustrate each.
7.  Define the following prefixes and use in connection with a word: bi, dis, mis, pre, semi, post, non, inter, mono, sup.
8.  Mark diacritically and divide into syllables the following, and name the sign that indicates the sound: card, ball, mercy, sir, odd, cell, rise, blood, fare, last.
9.  Use the following correctly in sentences: cite, site, sight, fane, fain, feign, vane , vain, vein, raze, raise, rays.
10. Write 10 words frequently mispronounced and indicate pronunciation by use of diacritical marks and by syllabication.

Time: One Hour

1.  What is climate? Upon what does climate depend?
2.  How do you account for the extremes of climate in Kansas?
3.  Of what use are rivers? Of what use is the ocean?
4.  Describe the mountains of North America.
5.  Name and describe the following: Monrovia, Odessa, Denver, Manitoba, Hecla, Yukon, St. Helena, Juan Fernandez, Aspinwall and Orinoco.
6.  Name and locate the principal trade centers of the U.S.
7.  Name all the republics of Europe and give the capital of each.
8.  Why is the Atlantic Coast colder than the Pacific in the same latitude?
9.  Describe the process by which the water of the ocean returns to the sources of rivers.
10. Describe the movements of the earth. Give the inclination of the earth.

So. . . how well did you do?

13 Responses

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  1. Lee Abbott says:

    Forget my college diploma–I can’t pass 8th grade! Is this what multiple choice and true/false questions have done for us?

  2. I think I would have been in the 8th grade for a few more years!

  3. I feel an inch tall.
    Thanks for that.

    I also feel depressed about the condition of our country. As a pastor, to read yesterday’s sermons makes me realize how shallow we’ve become in the church. How many churches today would sit for one of Spurgeon’s sermons?

  4. A fascinating commentary on the history of education in America.

  5. Sarah Thomas says:

    I love the math section–clearly those were practical problems to solve in Kansas at that time! I also suspect the school wanted to make sure it wasn’t paying too much for coal.

  6. Peter DeHaan says:

    I’m writing a biography of a man who in the 1940s, with only an 8th grade education, was accepted into college.

    If this was his level of knowledge, it suddenly makes more sense to me!

  7. My grandfather only went through the 8th grade but he was a huge fan of Shakespeare. They’d memorized lots of those works in elementary school. And his Spencerian penmanship was impressive. However they didn’t know nearly as much about science as modern kids do, and US history was a lot shorter. Maybe it all evens out.

  8. I’m not sure I could even figure out how many bushels my little red wagon could hold!

  9. Um, wow. I think my SAT’s were easier than that 😛

  10. I’m pretty sure that’s when I’d quit school, okay fail the test, and sell eggs to the neighbors. Wow!

  11. well, talk about an ego deflating trip for this morning. I couldn’t have passed any one of the sections, let alone all of them

    thanks Wendy, what an eye opener.

    Think I’ll go back to reading galleys. I can handle that.
    blessings to all,

  12. Cat Woods says:

    Wow! Finally a test that actually has practical application.

    Thanks for the great history lesson and a real look into how schools worked then versus now.

  13. Lydia says:

    You have just beautifully illustrated why I love The Little House on the Prairie series…and why I mourn our educational regression so far as education occurs in the years since Laura Ingalls Wilder was a teacher.