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Could you pass the 1912 high school exam?

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In 1912, students in Bullitt County, Ken. had to pass the Common Exam in order to be accepted into high school. According to the Bullitt County Genealogical Society, this exam was a big deal and students would descend on the courthouse twice a year in order to take the exam. Passing the exam not only granted students access to higher learning, it opened the door to scholarship money. Public school in 1912 did not guarantee access to high school. Rural students might have to travel to another county in order to attend high school. For most farm families, high school was not an option.

The average Bullitt County public school in 1912 was a one-room school house. Preparing for this exam started in the seventh grade. Students would take the Common Exam in the eighth grade. The test was given in hard copy on a long sheet of paper, rolled up like a scroll.

Here is a question from the exam: “Name the last battle of the Civil War, War of 1812, French and Indian War, and the commanders in each battle.” If military history is not your thing try this one: “Define the following forms of government: Democracy, Limited Monarchy, Absolute Monarchy, Republic. Give examples of each.” How about this geography question: “Through what waters would a vessel pass in going from England to Manila?” The grammar section requires students to diagram a sentence and parse out all the words in another sentence.

Could you or your eighth graders pass the test? An online copy of the test and answers is available from the Bullitt County Genealogical Society. A hard copy of the test can be mailed to you for a fee of $10. You can request a copy by sending the fee to the society at the following address:

Bullitt County History Museum

PO Box 206

Shepherdsville, KY 40165

Did you take the exam? How did you do? Leave a comment with your results.

Lynda Altman has homeschooled her 4 children over the last 15 years. She believes that homeschooling is a parent’s G-d given right. Lynda writes a blog called Homeschooling When Mom has Cancer. Get notices when this page is updated by clicking on the subscribe link, by email, or contact Lynda @fusgeyer on Twitter.

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