8th Grade Final Exam (1895)

Unearthed and passed on to me by a reader, herewith is the 8th Grade Final Exam from Salina, Kansas – 1895.

Anyone who doubts the sorry state of the education provided by our government school system should take a stab... oops, that is violent... try their hand at answering these questions. — TYSK (thanks again, Robert B.)

[See additional information added March 2001]

In 1895 the 8th grade was considered upper level education. Many children quit school as soon as they could master the basic fundamentals of the 3 R's (reading, writing and arithmetic). Most never went past the 3rd or 4th grade. That's all you needed for the farm and most city jobs. Child labor laws were not in existence yet.

Studyin' hard and tryin' to pass - Chuck BerryAdditionally today's education has much more focus on technology and sociology than the grammar and geography of old. It's a different world with different requirements and capabilities needed to succeed.

Could You Have Passed the 8th Grade in 1895?:

This is the eighth grade final exam from 1895 given in Salina, KS. It was taken from the original document on file at the Smoky 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 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 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 50 cts. per bu., deducting 1050 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 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 M?

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 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, 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.

bookstnd.gif (3556 bytes)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, 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 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.


Imagine a college student who went to public or private school trying to pass this test, even if the few outdated questions were modernized. We used to do it with fluency and agility back in 1895. If we could do it again today we could get Americans, student and professor alike, back up to
the 8th Grade level of 1895!

Added insight — March 2001

I received email from a site visitor raising some issues and expressing some displeasure with the above "test". More on that in a bit. However, through that message I was able to locate the source (perhaps) of the above material. I will allow the reader to determine for himself if it is genuine:

As to the issue(s) raised, here is the text of the email in its entirety:

I thought I should tell you that your document at:

Is somewhat misleading. See:


In truth, Ken does not say anything specifically about the test. I must believe, however, that his reference to the "snopes2" link is meant as an expression of his thoughts as well. Therefore the following is my feeling on the import of the "test" and its relevance today. Before going forward, please read the material at the snopes2 link above.

The snopes link questions whether the test was meant for students or, was actually a test to be given to teachers. Relative to the discussion of the current state of the quality of education afforded government school students today, this is immaterial. This is because it is the overall "tone" or thrust of education as much or more than the specific questions being asked of the test taker.

Nineteenth century Kansas was an agrarian society, hence the questions relate to such things as bushels, weight (do you even know what tare means?), and bank loans (which were commonly needed to maintain a farm). Different items would be more appropriate in today's culture, but the concepts would be the same. The math required to calculate the cost of the lumber (arithmatic #7) based on board feet is just as relevant today as a century ago.

Bear in mind that these students (or their teachers) were expected to know how to figure mortgage and loan interest. Today even college graduates have difficulty figuring the correct change for a purchase of $7.59 paid with a ten-dollar bill. Most cannot tell you that a discount of 25% is equal to the mark-up of 33-1/3%.

The assertion that today's teaching candidates are no more stupid (my word) than those of days long ago is certainly nothing to chirp about. It only proves the old saying, "Those that can't do, teach." is just as applicable today as in 1895.

Finally, it is clear from the material presented in the test that the goal was to produce 13-year-old graduates that could add, subtract, multiply (including interest and discount rates), read, write, and speak well. Young people that could go out and function well in their world as it was then. Today a college diploma is considered the bare minimum required to accomplish the same thing. Quite a statement about the decline in what we expect from our highly paid and technologically assisted educators.

(By the way, I am certain that the reason the test did not ask about the three branches of government was simply because that had been covered and considered second nature by the end of the 5th grade.)


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10 jun 2000
updated: 11 mar 2001