1895 8th Grade Exam: True or False?

**Update** For updated links and more information, see the post Update: 1895 8th Grade Exam: True or False.

**Update** Answers to the 1895 8th Grade Exam can be found on the post Answers to the 1895 8th Grade Exam.

I received an email today forwarded from a friend about the 1895 8th grade exam.  I thought it ironic I should receive it this week as my basic skills test is on Saturday.  I wanted to share my opinion of it, but first like any good teacher – I researched its validity (for anyone who has not read the 1885 8th grade exam, I have copied it at the end of this post).  I found many claims of it being false or being true.  I found the Smokey Valley Genealogical Society’s website with a simple page with the exam information on it.  However, the plainness of the website, coupled with the “home” link invalid, lead me to believe this may be a false website. Check it out for yourself.

A little more digging led me to a creditable domain: .gov.  The Tallgrass Prairie National Reserve (www.nps.gov) details the history behind Lower Fox Creek Schoolhouse in Kansas.  The 1895 8th grade exam is on their website with the attribution of it being copied by the Smokey Valley Genealogical Society and reprinted in the Salina Journal.  It confirms verbatim what is on the Smokey Valley Genealogical Society’s website.  Unable to find a picture of the actual exam means the exam contents cannot be confirmed, but with the existence of the information on a government website, I acknowledge some truth in the exam.  So as the Mythbusters say when they cannot confirm or bust a myth, it’s plausible.

The information on the Tallgrass Prairie National Reserve is quite interesting about education in 1895 in Kansas.  There is a virtual tour with photos from the 1880s as well as modern day photos of the restoration of the schoolhouse to its time period.  There is a long list of the names of the teachers who taught there and their salaries.  In 1884, the first year the school opened, Dora Peer was paid $35 per month.  One heartfelt picture is of two elderly women who attended the school in the 1920s.  “Ann and Josephine remember most about their school days was the strict discipline. There was no giggling, whispering, or talking out loud unless the teacher spoke to you.”

According to NPS’s records:

* Marry or engage in other unseemly conduct during their contract.
* Keep company with men.
* Be away from their domicile between the hours of 8 p.m. and 6 a.m. unless attending a school function.
* Loiter in town ice cream stores.
* Dye their hair.
* Wear face powder, mascara, or lip paint.
* Wear bright colored dresses more than two inches above the ankle.


* Frequent pool halls, public halls, saloons, or taverns.
* Get shaved in a barber shop.
* Take more than one evening per week for courting (unless attending church regularly – in which case two evenings may be used).
Failure to abide by these rules will give reason to suspect one’s worth, intention, honesty, integrity. Faithful performances will result in an increase of twenty-five cents per period providing the board of trustees approves.

Male teachers were allowed to date and females could not? Ouch.  But I do not understand how loitering in the town’s ice cream stores affects one’s intention, honesty, or integrity.  Could have been in that time and place it was suspect to loiter near ice cream.  NPS also has sketched the layout of the schoolroom, of course the girls and boys had their own entrances.

Even more interesting in my research was the comments made in forums – many people believed, based upon this exam, the current education system has been “dumbed down”.  To a point I agree and to another I disagree.  In 1885 there were few (if any) regulations on education as the country was beginning to see a need to set standards.  Teachers taught what they knew and students learned what was necessary for their farming and everyday life.  A basic education was just that: basic.  But one cannot use this 8th grade exam as proof that our education system has been dumbed down.  Many people do not know the answers to the questions as the questions are outdated and people have not recently studied the material.  The brain only retains what it needs to, many memorized facts from high school and college are forgotten in favor of newer knowledge.  The same principle applies to my need to review mathematics for my MTTC exam – I haven’t used some of it in 7 years.  Additionally, some people used the example of the McGuffey readers to show our learning pace has slowed.  The readers are levels, not indicative of grades but rather where the student is in his or her education.  Grade levels were important, but children began and ended their schooling based upon their maturity level and comprehension level, not simply because they reached a certain age.  Diplomas should be awarded on merit not simply passing with 60% or to avoid any notice by the state.  Too many people graduate high school in urban communities and are unable to read their diploma.  Too many students graduate knowing calculus, physics, every detail of American history, but have no idea how to write a check or bake a cake.  High school education has pushed basic life skills aside in favor of a stricter math, physics, and ap courses, which is a shame.  Education should be well rounded and that is what I plan to do – not simply teach To Kill a Mockingbird or Shakespeare, but to see and apply the lessons in the stories to everyday life and to the future.  Break the cycle of history repeating itself.

My grandmother gave me a McGuffey reader, when I have time I’ll read through it and give my review on it.


Smokey Valley Genealogical Society. 13 April, 2010. Web.

Tallgrass National Prairie Reserve. 13 April, 2010. http://www.nps.gov.

Read the 1895 8th Grade Exam:   Curious as to its answers?  I have them right here.

April 13, 1895
J.W. Armstrong, County Superintendent.

Examinations at Salina, New Cambria, Gypsum City, Assaria, Falun, Bavaria, and District No. 74 (in Glendale Twp.)

Reading and Penmanship. – The Examination will be oral, and the Penmanship of Applicants will be graded from the manuscripts.

(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.

(Time, 1 ¼ hour)

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 weights 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 per cent.
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 per cent.
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.

(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, Whtney, Fulton, Bell, Lincoln, Penn, and Howe?
8. Name events connected with the following dates: 1607, 1620, 1800, 1849, and 1865.

(Time, one hour)

1. What is meant by the following: Alphabet, phonetic orthogaphy, 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 ãuä.
5. Give two rules for spelling words with final ãeä. 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, 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.

(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 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 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.

1. Where are the saliva, gastric juice, and bile secreted? What is the use of each in digestion?
2. How does nutrition reach the circulation?
3. What is the function of the liver? Of the kidneys?
4. How would you stop the flow of blood from an artery in the case of laceration?
5. Give some general directions that you think would be beneficial to preserve the human body in a state of health.



1. Teachers each day will fill lamps, clean chimneys.
2. Each teacher will bring a bucket of water and a scuttle of coal for the day’s session.
3. Make your pens carefully. You may whittle nibs to the individual taste of the pupils.
4. After ten hours in school, the teachers may spend the remaining time reading the Bible or other good books.
5. Every teacher should lay aside from each pay a goodly sum of his earnings for his benefit during his declining years so that he will not become a burden on society.



The following document was transcribed from the original document in the collection of the Smoky Valley Genealogy Society, Salina, Kansas. This test is the original eighth-grade final exam for 1895 from Salina, KS. An interesting note is the fact that the county students taking this test were allowed to take the test in the 7th grade, and if they did not pass the test at that time, they were allowed to re-take it again in the 8th grade.

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1895 8th Grade Exam: True or False? — 6 Comments

  1. Thank you for the information you acquired from your extensive research. My “family” faithfully watches Jeopardy! & when I showed my “brainiacs” this exam, we all were skeptical as to its validity. # 1 Question of the day remains…. What are the answers? We were able to answer a handful after some research, but are still stumped. Please help us gain the knowledge before it ends up as a “Jeopardy!” answer.

  2. Pingback: Answers to the 1895 8th Grade Exam - News Articles - articles - Teaching & Technology

  3. Someone I work with visits your blog frequently and recommended it to me to read too. The writing style is great and the content is top-notch. Thanks for the insight you provide the readers!

  4. Pingback: Update: 1895 8th Grade Exam: True or False | Teaching & Technology

  5. Pingback: Answers to the 1895 8th Grade Exam | Teaching & Technology

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