The popularized 1895 “Grade 8” exam likely for teacher “applicants.”

I saw this 1895 Grade 8 exam on the blog “Milton Conservative” who gave a Hat Tip to “Church&Sons.” As a Google search will indicate, this so-called exam has been around for a long time. Some say it is fiction. Others say it is true but not for Grade 8s.  As Truth or Fiction presents it:

How many of us could graduate from 8th grade?

Remember when our grandparents, great-grandparents, and such 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 Salina, KS. USA. It was taken from the original document on file at the Smokey Valley Genealogical Society and Library in Salina, KS 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 (Time, one hour) [The study of the English Language]

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.
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.

What I first noticed about this test was that a Google search — using the descriptive phrase “1895 Grade 8 exam” — came up with 100,000+ entries!!!  Here, however, is what “Truth or Fiction” reports:

“TruthOrFiction.com has listed this eRumor as unproven, even though there is a source for it and we have obtained an actual copy of the exam.  There has not been sufficient proof given, in our view, that the exam is what is claimed.  Rather than being for eighth graders, there are several aspects of the exam that raise the question as to whether it was intended for adults, perhaps newly graduated teachers or teacher applicants.”

“The eRumor says the exam is from the Smokey Valley Genealogical Society in Salina, Kansas, and was published in the Salina Journal newspaper.  That is true. Shirley Tower, the volunteer librarian for the Smokey Valley Genealogical Society, found the exam and posted it on their website in 1996 and the Salina Journal’s article appeared the same year.  The exam started circulating on the Internet and became the subject of numerous newspaper articles including in the Washington Post and the Boston Globe.”

If readers click on the  previous Truth or Fiction link, they will also find photo images of the original test referring to “the applicants” and, given one of the math questions, definitely pointing to potential teachers. Meaning, rumours aside, Grade 8s living in Kansas in 1895 were not so smart afterall!