1912 Eighth-Grade Exam Stumps 21st-Century Test-Takers

1912 Eighth-Grade Exam Stumps 21st-Century Test-Takers

by Cavan Sieczkowski

Are you smarter than an eighth grader? How about an eighth grader who graduated in 1912? A copy of an eighth-grade exam from that year shows test-taking wasn’t so easy for those early-20th-century students.

Bullitt County History Museum, located in Shepherdsville, Ky., received a copy of a 1912 eighth-grade exam drafted for Bullitt County Schools as a donation. The version was a likely master copy given to schools and then amended by teachers, the museum notes.

One hundred years ago, schools in the rural county were scattered far and wide, according to the museum’s website. Students got together once or twice a year to take the “Common Exam.” This test was a big deal, and students were told to prepare properly. Scholarships were provided to some who passed the exam and went on to high school. (It was rare for farm children to be able to continue their education otherwise.)

David Strange, an executive director at the museum, told The Huffington Post the exam was actually given to the museum last year. (We actually wrote about the test in January in celebration of public education’s 100-year anniversary.) However, the 101-year-old test started gaining popularity again when it was picked up by ABC News this weekend and went viral.

“It is funny for us,” Strange told HuffPost. “We are just a rural county. Our website is used to getting a couple hundred hits but we [recently] got 200,000 [hits]. We’ve had it on the web for about a year or so.”

A renewed interest in the quiz might be the difficult challenge of acing it. Some are likely to get stumped on questions that ask students to define the parts of speech; name and give boundaries of the five zones; compare arteries and veins as to function; and name the inventor of the sewing machine.

“It’s quite a challenging test,” Strange said. “I do try to remind everyone it’s a 1912 test and you need to place yourself in that mindset sometimes. I remember having a similar question [as is on the test] when I was in school. I wouldn’t want to take it again.”

He knows multiple people who have tried to take the exam for fun but doesn’t know their final scores.

“Most everybody says they wouldn’t have passed it,” he said.

Click here for a list of answers.



One thought on “1912 Eighth-Grade Exam Stumps 21st-Century Test-Takers

  1. This is specious. They were testing what they taught. We do not teach the same things any more. I’ll bet those 1912 students had weak computer skills, couldn’t run a video disk player, or perform sports at the level of today’s eighth grade athletes. And for them the Civil War was recent history as close in time as the Viet Nam war is to us, so their perspectives were vastly different. So, get over the ooh and awe of how smart those folks were back then. They were no smarter than us, except that many more kids dropped out of school befor ethe eighth grade than do now.

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