March 14, 2011

Could you pass 8th grade in 1895?

Filed under: General — mary @ 11:54 am

Remember when grandparents and great-grandparents stated that they only had an 8th grade education? Well, check this out. Could any of us have passed the 8th grade in 1895?  This is the eighth-grade final exam from 1895 in Salina , Kansas ,USA .. 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.

8th Grade Final Exam: Salina , KS – 1895

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 ‘lie,”play,’ 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 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. 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

U.S. 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.

Orthography [Spelling] (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.’ (HUH?)
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.

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 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. 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.

Notice that the exam took FIVE HOURS to complete.
Gives the saying ‘he only had an 8th grade education’ a whole new meaning, doesn’t it?

**Thanks to our reader Carroll Carey for sending this interesting piece of history!


  1. The answers to those questions are way over my head. Perhaps the following ‘story form’ addition question might be easier to answer. Don’t be scared off by the big numbers. Test your skills of addition.

    If Nick agrees to pay Fred the following listed payments of money, and Nick pays Fred the total amount of the listed payments, what is the total amount of money that Nick will have paid to Fred when Nick makes the final payment?
    1. $4,000,000.00 on July 22, 2009
    2. $1,074,134.02 on February 1, 2010
    3. $1,074,134.02 on August 1, 2010
    4. $1,074,134.02 on February 1, 2011
    5. $1,074,134.02 on August 1, 2011
    6. $1,074,134.02 on February 1, 2012
    7. $1,074,134.02 on August 1, 2012

    Is the answer: A. $8,296,536.08, or
    B. $10,444,804.12, or
    C. Something else

    Comment by Happy Trails — March 14, 2011 @ 6:12 pm

  2. The total amount paid will be $10,444,804.12.

    The only way one could arrive at answer A is if one ignores two of the payments in rows 2 through 7. Fred should scream bloody murder if that happened — unless, of course, Fred and Nick had some kind of a deal going between them. But then, maybe the person doing the cipherin’ was not the brightest bulb on the Christmas tree and had failed at either reading comprehension or cipherin’.

    Comment by Bill — March 14, 2011 @ 8:28 pm

  3. So, Bill, you’re sayin’ they might not a had an eighth grade edgycation?

    Comment by mary — March 14, 2011 @ 8:33 pm

  4. Mary,

    Just as I’ve often complimented Coeur d’Alene Police Sergeant Christie Wood on her marvelous ability to write at the third grade level, so I would say that someone who totals those figures on rows 1 through 7 and comes up with any answer other than B is fully capable of eventually completing the eighth grade in a one-room Kansas school in the 19th century.

    Comment by Bill — March 14, 2011 @ 8:42 pm

  5. I guess I can see how someone could be in a hurry and determine that “A” is the correct answer…at least the first time through. On the other hand, if someone purports to put actual effort and thought into the calculation, actually checks the calculation, and then exclaims “It is entirely unclear” how the answer could be “B”…well, lets just say…that someone is not the sharpest crayon in the box.

    Comment by Happy Trails — March 15, 2011 @ 8:36 am

  6. Happy Trails,

    Part of problem-solving in the real world means reading and understanding clearly exactly which figures are to be included in the arithmetic to arrive at the sum. I could envision your figures included in a narrative, real-world problem which follows the format of the 1895 test questions. The student would have to read and understand the entire problem (not just the numbers but the context), then extract the relevant figures, put them in arithmetic form, then solve the problem. If the student didn’t perform all of those operations satisfactorily, he could not arrive at the correct answer.

    Comment by Bill — March 15, 2011 @ 9:25 am

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