Standardized test of 1895

This is a test that was give as a final exam for eighth grade in 1865. During that time to graduate eighth grade was a major accomplishment. Not that many people did it but if you did you were considered a very educated individual, ready to tackle the world and accomplish things. Several sites where this test has been posted have stated that most modern college graduates could not pass this test. Some used it to ridicule the educational system of today. This is not my intent. Rather I use it as an example of the differences in education.

Then, as I had mentioned, most people did not have an eighth grade education. It wasn’t considered necessary. As long as you could read and write, and do basic math it was more than enough to get by. Public education was not a wide spread concept. Schools were few and far between. Most were one room and contained all grades. Older students were expected to help younger ones. Smarter students in one subject were expected to help those who were not as proficient. Those who usually made it this far were the top of the class and probably economically privileged. It was not available to all either because of race, national origin or gender. 

Education was presented as a right and a privilege. It was your right to be educated and no one could take that away from you – if you wanted it (again this was limited access and in some cases it was dangerous for you to be educated.). It was a privilege because you were honored by having the opportunity to advance yourself, your family and your community. To be educated you must learn a body of knowledge that encompassed the practical body of knowledge and the range of theoretical knowledge that was the basis of human thought. It was training and learning how to think – creatively.

I could go on but let the test speak for itself – not as an accusation against modern education, but as an inspiration to what can aspire to if you want to. The following is how it came to others attention.

(PS – The definition of orthography  specifies the correct way of using a specific writing system to write the language. Spelling is only part of orthography. Other elements of the field of orthography are hyphenation, capitalization, word breaks, and punctuation. Orthography describes or defines the set of symbols ( graphemes and diacritics) used, and the rules about how to write these symbols. – from )

The following is an 1895 8th-grade final exam from Salina,
Kansas. It was taken from the original
document on file at the Smoky Valley Genealogical Society and Library in Salina,
Kansas, and reprinted by the Salina

Grammar (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 do, lie, lay and run.

5. Define Case, Illustrate each Case.

6. What is Punctuation? Give rules for principal
marks of Punctuation.

7-10. Write a composition of about 150 words and
show therein that you understand the practical use of the rules of grammar.

Arithmetic (Time, 1.25 hours)

1. Name and define the Fundamental Rules of

2. A wagon box is 2 ft. deep, 10 ft. 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 50 cts. per bu., 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 cost of 6,720 lbs. 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 inch?

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 around which is 640 rods?

10. Write a Bank Check, a Promissory Note, and a

History (Time, 45 minutes)

1. Give the epochs into which U.S. History is

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

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, and 1865?

Orthography (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, super.

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.

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.

Geography (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

4. Describe the mountains of N.A.

5. Name and describe the following: Monrovia,
Odessa, Denver,
Manitoba, Hecla,
Yukon, St. Helena,
Juan Fermandez, Aspinwall and Orinoco.

6. Name and locate the principal trade centers of
the U.S.

7. Name all the republics of Europe
and give 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
inclination of the earth.


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