April, 1900 Teacher’s Exam, Part Two

I posted the first half of my great, great grandfather’s exam for getting his teaching license here.

Posted below is the second half- why don’t y’all take a stab at answering them in the comments section?


1. Translate into English:
Reinhardt hatte seit seinem Besuch in der Heimat nicht an Elisabeth geschrieben und von ihr keinen Brief mehr erhalten. Auch dieser war nicht von irh; es war die Handschrift seiner Mutter. Reinhardt offnete ibn und las, und bald las en folgendes: “In deinem Alter, mein liebes Kind, hat noch fast jedes Jahr sein eigenes Gesicht; denn die Jugend lasst sich nicht armer machen. Hier ist auch manches anders geworden.” (DHM’s note: this is a transcription and consequently probably rife with my own errors. It seems to be from Immensee, which I know was used in schools at about this time because I own a couple family copies of schoolbooks which include Immensee)

2. Give the principal parts of “hatte geschrieben,” “erhalten,” “war,” “offnete,” “las,” “lasat,” “machen,” “geworden.”

3. Translate by the proper cases of the personal pronouns without prepositions: me, of me, to me, to her, of him, of her, she, to them, they, of them, to you, him.

4. Decline in singular and plural: “Sein eigenes Gesicht,” “mein lileber Reinhardt.”

5. Which prepositions govern the dative?

6. How are the ordinal numbers derived from the cardinals?

7. How are adjectives declined when used as nouns?

8. What is the German equivalent of
I write
you make
I wrote
You have made
I have written
he opens
we read (pres).
he opened
we read (pret)
he has opened
thou receivest
they become
thou receivedst
they have become
thou hast received


1. Give three characteristics of xerophytes.

2. What is a mould? Explain its presence in preserves

3. Why are annual plants devoid of scale leaves?

4. Give the structure of endogenous stems.

5. Describe the root-cap. What is its function?

6. When do the secondary changes take place in a root?

7. What are the three principal tissue systems?

8. What are the medullary rays? How are they formed?

9. Give the principal classes of plants in the subkingdom Bryophyta?

10. Of what use is diastase to germinating seeds?

General History and Civics
(any seven)

1. Write in ten lines some facts in relation to the life of Charlemagne.

2. Who were the Capetian kings?

3. Give some of the causes of the Hundred Years War.

4. Give some of the provisions of the English Reform Bill of 1832.

5. Discuss briefly the Edict of Nantes.

6. How did Germany come into the possession of Silesia?

7. What was the Long Parliament?

8. How are the presidents of France elected?

9. What powers are denied the States by the U.S. Constitution?

10. Write a few lines showing the influence of the Speaker of the House, of the U.S. Congress, upon legislation.

(any five)

There’s no way I wanted to transcribe all this, so… See the picture. If you click on the link it should enlarge the image, and I hope you can read that. For those who can’t, the tasks included Defining basic terms (exponent, similar terms, product, postive and negative…), factoring, extracting a square root, solving equations, completing a series including both fractions and whole numbers, simplifying, etc. Plus a word problem about eggs. My favorite is the word problem but then, I always did favor word problems.

Physical Geography
(any eight, not omitting the 9th and 10th)

1. Discuss the movements of the earth and give results of each movement.

2. Give the causes of earthquakes. What is the nature of the motion caused by the earthquakes?

3. Describe the Japan Stream, and give its effect upon the climate of the western coast of North America.

4. Discuss the distribution of rainfall in the United States.

5. What are diurnal winds? What conditions give rise to them?

6. What are the characteristics of continental islands?

7. Discuss the drainage of North America.

8. What are the effects of altitude and of elevated land masses upon the distribution of plants and animals?

9. What is the relation of physical geography to mathematical and political geography?

10. How would you present the causes of winds?


1. Describe and account for the results obtained by blowing the breath through a tube into a vessel of lime water.

2. What results when sodic stearate is added to lime water?

3. Write the reaction which takes place between copper and nitric acid.

4. Describe the preparation of charcoal.

5. What is the chemical relation of glycerine to alcohol? What to iron rust?

6. What are the special properties of gold that make it useful in the arts? Of zinc? Of tin?

7. Write the reaction which occurs when magnesium ribbon burns.

8. What is the quantitative composition of nitric acid? Of hydro-chloric acid? Of marsh gas?

9. What is the law of definite proportions? Illustrate.

10. For what is carbonate of lead used? What is gravimetric analysis?

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  1. Mother Hen
    Posted December 21, 2005 at 12:11 am | Permalink

    Oh, My!!–I have a headache just reading the questions! What a long way our education system has come…I don’t even know any HS’ers (parents or students) that could do all or a t least a good portion of that exam!

  2. blestwithsons
    Posted December 21, 2005 at 2:25 am | Permalink

    My buddy Iris translated the German for me…

    Since his visit to the homeland, Richard had not written to Elisabeth
    and also hadn’t received a letter from her. Even now this particular
    letter was not from her; it was written by his mother. Richard opened
    the letter and read it, which included the following: “In your age, my
    dear child, every year shows its own unique face; because youth doesn’t
    make itself poorer. Everything here changed as well.”

  3. Gem
    Posted December 21, 2005 at 2:38 am | Permalink

    Ack! I have a bachelor’s degree (in music, admittedly), and I can’t do a lot of that stuff!

    Oh, and TAG — you’re it!

  4. B. Durbin
    Posted December 21, 2005 at 4:57 am | Permalink

    I don’t feel sorry for myself because of this test. I may not be able to do many parts of it, but I sincerely doubt that the writers or takers of this test could:

    1. Find the charge on a point located within a sphere of distributed charge according to some equation, itself placed within another sphere of equally distributed charge (I swear, our physics teacher came up with the most appalling questions!)

    2. Answer questions concerning general relativity after a general physics course;

    3. Speak to the theories of plate techtonics in grade school, and their effects on earthquakes— I first heard the term “alluvial soil” in fourth grade and yes, I *did* grow up in California;

    4. Write music without years of training in music theory, and have it come out correctly due to modernly available tools;

    5. Record that same music in less than a week, including final mixing…

    In short, the nature of necessary knowledge changes. Typing was a highly specialized skill in 1900, one only gradually coming into use. Now, if you don’t know how to type, you’re behind, and the same goes for such things as using a computer or successfully navigating a city, in car or on foot.

    Some of these questions may indeed have been “of course” knowledge. Of course people were taught how to extract cube roots by hand in 1900, as well as use logarithms, but that sort of knowledge is becoming more specialized as calculators become ubiquitous.

    The most telling difference between then and now, however, is in the accessibility of such information. Teachers may have had to know such things by heart because they had no other place to store it— while you or I could find out the answer to any of the above questions in a matter of minutes without even leaving our homes.

    If, I should say, one has the specialized knowledge of how to find things! 🙂

  5. My Boaz's Ruth
    Posted December 21, 2005 at 7:08 am | Permalink

    b.durbin, that is actually a pretty good specialized skill.

    I get quite a few bennies at work simply for being able to FIND things (on the Net, mostly. But occasionally knowing the correct book to go to)

  6. Mama Squirrel
    Posted December 21, 2005 at 1:09 pm | Permalink

    They should give the German exam to that computer that translated the Ola and Einar review on Amazon (as per the discussion on your Books to Read Aloud post). It would probably flunk.

  7. coffeemamma
    Posted December 21, 2005 at 1:57 pm | Permalink

    ::banging head against desk::

    Where’s the chocolate…?

  8. Kate
    Posted December 21, 2005 at 7:46 pm | Permalink

    I probably would be more impressed by these tests if I didn’t know based on past experience and historical research that the contents of these tests rarely changed and the the correct answers to each question were more than likely well known to the groups of potential teachers taking the test. Most of these old tests are not a random sample of the available knowledge on the subject they are a set test that in only revised every several years. It is one thing to be well enough versed in German to translate a random paragraph out of a thousand or more. It is quite another to translate a specific German paragraph that has appeared on the same test taken by many of your friends year after year. Same for almost any math problem. Kate

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