8th Grade Examination from late 1800’s


Remember when our grandparents, great-grandparents, and such stated that they only had an 8th grade education? Well, check this out. – – –

This is the eighth-grade final exam from 1895 in 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.  Students were given 5 hours to complete the test. 


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, lay and run
5. Define Case, Illustrate each Case.
6. What is Punctuation? Give rules for principal marks of Punctuation.
7. 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 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 3942 lbs., what is it worth at 50cts/bushel, deducting 1050lbs. 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 6720 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 meter?
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 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 Americaby 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)
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, sub vocals, 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.

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 & Orinoco.
6. Name and locate the principal trade centers of the U.S.
7. Name all the republics of Europeand give the capital of each.
8. Why is the Atlantic Coastcolder 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.


10 thoughts on “8th Grade Examination from late 1800’s

  1. Can’t say I could comfortably pass this exam, but I’m still unstoppable since I can read at least at a 3rd grade level!

  2. I failed this exam. And I felt shame and embarrassment. Not because I didn’t know all the answers but because of what education has become today and because of the false standards it presently maintains. In other words, the past embarrassed me; it put a light on a level of learning that used to be, and it showed me how today we’ve fallen short and consequently have done a great disservice to our youth.

    Yet, I was surprised there wasn’t more in the exam on the beginnings of our nation and its values, and that there was no mention of The Bill of Rights, our most important document. Got me hoping that all 8th grade final exams of the future would have a few questions something like this:

    >> Name and define all 10 Articles of The Bill of Rights.

    >> In 25 words or less, tell who Sam Whittemore was and what he is remembered for.

    >> Describe the difference between Federalists and Anti-Federalists and name an important victory the Anti-Federalists achieved.

    >> What is the importance of owning and knowing how to properly use a firearm? What are the primary purposes of firearm use?

    >> Give a brief description of how The Common Law works and provide an example of a court case that was resolved in The Common Law Court.

    >> Define tyranny, subjugation, treason, and give an example of each.

    and finally…

    >> In a paragraph or two, explain what it means to you to be an American National and how you interpret the words, LIBERTY BEFORE LIFE.

    Ha, ha ha. I had fun with this. Feel free to add.


    1. I don’t feel shame or embarrassment. Not much a kid can realize or do about their indoctrination. Even though todays standard of education isn’t comparable to back then, the core problems still linger in the educational institutions.
      For one, a good part of the exam tests students on insignificant details, this holds true even today. It’s deceptive because it serves as nothing more than a memory game, especially when the student holds no interest in the subject. It reminds me of what the TV will try to pass as an intellectual hour where contestants answer questions on petty historical accuracies or things like celebrity trivia.

      Then I also think about who education was available to back then. Most kids stopped before high school to go work, even at the height of the Industrial Age. But all long the way education was subverted for the sake of corporate interest. The effects of the Industrial Age later increased the standard of living and afforded the people educational opportunities, now the people were awakening, so they were tricked into some phony ass wars.
      Overall I feel like most of education is a sham after you learn how to read, write, and do arithmetic, everything past that seems redundant and can even discourage kids from learning. (Gotta get ‘em used to the 8 hour workday from young huh?) I believe the most important part of educating is the teachers. A book can tell you what to think, but you need someone to teach you how to think. And you see that people strive for those teachers to help make sense of the world around them. The internet has given the people of the world enlightenment and quite frankly school has been a detriment to this movement.
      Even when being taught to hate communism, school still served its purpose, to avert your attention from that Bill of Rights. That’s really all it ever comes down to, ever since that document was written, every little f!@king thing to bury it was done. You helped me realize this just now Galen, when you said your surprised there’s nothing about the Bill of Rights. They really, really, really, hate that document, don’t they?

      1. We’re bringing it to the forefront, Adrian, and it will shine as the supreme law of the land, and things will slowly get better. I’m keepin’ my eye on what it could be like after the fight and after and during the healing. It will shine for all of us.


    2. Galen, I actually had to pass a test on the Constitution, the Bill of Rights and common law in order to graduate the 8th grade. How times have changed, and not for the better.

      1. Good to hear. I bet we caused some stirrings in the graves of both The Federalists and The Anti-Federalists. 🙂


          1. Epic fail, mostly because I don’t know how to measure in some of those units.

  3. Wow .. I sent this test to many parents, so they grasp how insignificant school curricula has declined. BTW, I failed the tests miserably!!

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