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Part two: 1895 eighth grade exam

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

The last Postcard featured the first half of an 1895 eighth grade final exam on grammar, arithmetic and U.S. History. 

This time we attempt to pass orthography and geography. I had to look up “orthography,” which is defined in the dictionary – yes, I still use the old-time book called dictionary – as “the writing of words with the proper letters according to standard usage . . . the study of letters and spelling.”

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.

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, 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 and Orinoco.

6. Name and locate the principal trade centers of the U.S. Name all the republics of Europe and give the capital of each.

7. Why is the Atlantic Coast colder than the Pacific in the same latitude?

8. Describe the process by which the water of the ocean returns to the sources of rivers.

9. Describe the movements of the earth. Give the inclination of the earth.

Notice that the exam took five hours to complete.
The exam gives the saying, “He only had an eighth grade education,” a whole new meaning, doesn’t it?! No wonder they dropped out after eighth grade. They already knew more than they needed to know! 

No, I don’t have all the answers. In fact, I don’t know many of the answers. When it comes to school, I discovered a long time ago that I’m not “smarter than a fifth grader.”

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