Are You Smarter Than a 19th Century 8th Grader?

I love old books and enjoy collecting them. I spend a lot of time at this cute little used book store in town, and get absolutely giddy when I find a new bunch of really old books there. I love the way people wrote back in the day. I especially love when I find a book that has someone’s handwriting inside the cover or notes in the margins. The penmanship of long ago is just so elegant and graceful. You don’t see that today. In fact, many schools no longer even teach cursive, favoring keyboarding classes in its place. Seeing a name penned inside a book makes me wonder about that person. Who were they? How did they die? When did they receive the book? To whom was it passed?

I enjoy reading biographies about people who lived in different times. I just finished one written by the nanny of the Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret which was interesting. I loved that there were some pages of photographs in that book as well. I also enjoy looking at old school texts; I have a couple school books in my collection, including a fifth reader from 1896 and a book on words, their definitions, spellings, and applications from 1903.

I also have a copy of an 8th grade exam from 1895. I wonder how many 8th graders would pass it today. Heck, I wonder how many adults would pass it today. Working in a middle school, my first thought was that education has really gone downhill in the past 100+ years, as I’m certain that not one of my students would pass this. Although I still feel that education has slipped, I think that it’s changed more than gone completely downhill. For example, kids in 1895 didn’t know how to create a power point presentation; kids today do. Kids in 1895 didn’t know how complete a research paper online; kids today do.

Anyway, take this 8th grade test with your kids. Did they pass? Did you?

  • I LOVE old books! 1 of 10
    I LOVE old books!
    I collect old books. Here are a few of them. I'm fascinated by biographies and old school books. It amazes me how different education is today,
  • Fifth Reader 2 of 10
    Fifth Reader
    This book is from 1896. It's a school book full of excerpts from the best literature of the time. I truly cannot imagine 5th and 6th graders reading and comprehending these stories today and it makes me a little sad.
  • Words 3 of 10
    This book is from 1903. It's a little like a dictionary, but designed for the business student. There are vocabularies specifically designed for the fields of agriculture, medical, aeronautics, etc. Most adults I know couldn't spell 80% of these words, I'm afraid.
  • Spelling 4 of 10
    This is the spelling portion of the 8th grade exam. Read these words to your kids and have them spell them.
  • Arithmetic 5 of 10
    If you can look past the archaic terms "cord of wood" and "kalsoming the walls", could you answer these questions correctly?
  • Grammar 6 of 10
    How would you do with the grammar portion of the exam? I'm pretty sure most adults would fail this. In fact, I think most adults would fail a test that simply required one to write a single grammatically correct sentence, but I could be wrong.
  • Geography 7 of 10
    This section doesn't look too difficult. Although I'm pretty sure I can hear Jeff Foxworthy reading these questions as I look at them.
  • Physiology 8 of 10
    How would you do on the health part of the exam? Do you know what the liver secretes?
  • Civil Government 9 of 10
    Civil Government
    I'm sorry to say that I would surely fail this portion of the test. How about you? Can you name 5 county officers and the principal duties of each?
  • History 10 of 10
    I'd certainly fail this part of the test as well. Number 8 alone would get me. How are you with 8th grade history?

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