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Could You Pass Harvard's Entrance Exam From 1869?

samzenpus posted more than 3 years ago | from the learning-for-learning's-sake dept.

Education 741

erfnet writes "The New York Times remembers back to when 'college was a buyer's bazaar' and digs up 19th-century classified ads from Columbia, Harvard, Yale, and others. In competitive efforts to attract students from the limited pool of qualified candidates, applications were taken as late as September for an October freshman class. Vassar offered lush room accommodations. The expectations were high: Latin, Greek, Virgil, Caesar's Commentaries; Harvard's entrance exam from 1869 is posted (PDF). Could any of us pass the exam today?"

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741 comments

Done (1)

Culture20 (968837) | more than 3 years ago | (#35777350)

I'm in. If I could just get my time machine working.

Nope (4, Insightful)

heptapod (243146) | more than 3 years ago | (#35777358)

I doubt they'd be able to pass a modern test either. These people grew up with a different curriculum than those at the latter half of the 20th century / new millennium.

Re:Nope (2)

zach_the_lizard (1317619) | more than 3 years ago | (#35777394)

This is especially true with regards to languages; Greek and Latin are optional, if even available, while it seems as though they were mandatory back then.

Re:Nope (1)

Oxford_Comma_Lover (1679530) | more than 3 years ago | (#35777550)

Especially the Greek. I've never even heard of Greek being taught in high school, outside of a few really expensive places. Maybe a few magnet schools.

Re:Nope (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35777560)

Greek is also taught in a lot of religious schools, which are often not very expensive. And also often not accredited.

Re:Nope (1)

cats-paw (34890) | more than 3 years ago | (#35777434)

all the latin and greek is indeed a problem.

the language of mathematics is, however, universal.

that being said the geometric proofs would give me some trouble.

on the other hand, where's the calculus ?

Re:Nope (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35777438)

Well, I'm a Harvard grad, and I can't answer any of the questions involving Greek and Latin translation on this test. I'm about 50% on the History and Geography section off the top of my head (i.e. without looking anything up), and the math sections look pretty trivial. All this proves is that we don't learn as much History and Geography these days, even at Harvard, and Greek and Latin simply aren't important parts of the average high school (or college) curriculum and are no longer considered mandatory knowledge for an educated gentleman as they were in the 19th century.

Re:Nope (1)

sneakyimp (1161443) | more than 3 years ago | (#35777502)

That would depend on your concentration. Find someone in VES who can do anything on that test.

Re:Nope (1)

msobkow (48369) | more than 3 years ago | (#35777448)

Yet it's interesting to note that they were expected to know Greek and Latin from high school (or equivalent.)

There was also a much greater emphasis on Geography back then. Nowadays that's an optional course.

Re:Nope (3, Interesting)

perpenso (1613749) | more than 3 years ago | (#35777518)

Yet it's interesting to note that they were expected to know Greek and Latin from high school (or equivalent.)

There was also a much greater emphasis on Geography back then. Nowadays that's an optional course.

Math is an optional course today. Last I heard my former HS is only requiring one year to graduate, pathetic.

Re:Nope (2)

Jarik C-Bol (894741) | more than 3 years ago | (#35777556)

if math, geography, greek and latin are optional courses now, what the devil do they learn in school? Oh, thats right, nothing.

Re:Nope (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35777578)

If they don't need the knowledge, then forcing them to memorize it (which they would likely soon forget due to the fact that it isn't important to them) would be rather useless and counterproductive, would it not? I'd say some of the more advanced math classes should indeed be optional because many people won't really use the knowledge.

Re:Nope (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35777636)

Pathetic why? Sure, two years might be better, but for a tremendous number of students the extra math is a collosal waste of time. Shouldn't we be streamlining primarily education to be as efficient and directed as possible?

Put another way, expecting all students to be fully versed in upper-level math is as obtuse as expecting all students to be proficient in classical Latin and Greek. If not more so.

Re:Nope (1)

vieux schnock (146044) | more than 3 years ago | (#35777624)

There are private high schools in Quebec still teaching Latin. Greek however lost favor but my uncle studied it then (c. 1940's). I still have his old Greek primer from high school.

Re:Nope (1)

jdpars (1480913) | more than 3 years ago | (#35777678)

As a future high school Latin teacher, I really hope Latin isn't so weird a subject for high school. The Junior Classical League is the second largest student-led organization in the USA!

Re:Nope (5, Insightful)

PFI_Optix (936301) | more than 3 years ago | (#35777508)

I think the whole thing speaks volumes to the disconnect between academia and reality. While an education in the high points of historical philosophy might be of limited use, much of that is pure nonsense intended to filter out undesirable applicants who, while quite capable of learning and performing, lack the "breeding" to be accepted. It was a great way to ensure that only like-minded people got degrees and continued the cycle.

Colleges have gotten a lot better in the past century, but they still spend a lot of time making sure you think how they want you to think, or at least can pretend to.

Disclaimer: I'm a college opt-out who was accepted to Harvard but didn't go (I applied just because I could). I decided there was a better way into the real world that the bullshit you have to endure at university. Take that how you want.

Re:Nope (4, Insightful)

Garble Snarky (715674) | more than 3 years ago | (#35777568)

Just curious - how did you acquire enough experience to decide not to go to school based on that reasoning, if you never wen in the first place?

Re:Nope (3, Interesting)

PFI_Optix (936301) | more than 3 years ago | (#35777680)

I did go to school, just not Harvard. A year in university before dropping out and going to work, then three more semesters at other schools before deciding I was right to stay away.

Re:Nope (2)

russotto (537200) | more than 3 years ago | (#35777688)

I doubt they'd be able to pass a modern test either. These people grew up with a different curriculum than those at the latter half of the 20th century / new millennium.

The exam was probably a little easier than it appears. The three translation questions are all out of classic literature (Greek, not Latin), and they give you most of the words, so it's likely largely a matter of having memorized the translations of those phrases and (failing that) knowing Latin declensions and conjugations. The various history questions would have been part of the curriculum for a college-bound student as well. Math hasn't changed much; it seems strange that Harvard students are expected to know British currency, though. Presumably log and trig tables were provided. The arithmetical complement of a logarithm is a calculating trick which would presumably be familiar to students then -- instead of subtracting a logarithm, you can take its arithmetical complement (10 minus the logarithm), then subtract 10. This avoids doing subtraction of long hairy decimals.

different time (2)

satsuke (263225) | more than 3 years ago | (#35777376)

Ah yes, the education of that day, based on assumptions that are still present in some form today.

Might have been a more refined age, though for today I'm pretty sure your average CS major needs to be able to quote Dante in his original language about as much as he needs an extra heavy bender prior to the big test.

Re:different time (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35777442)

Yep. If anyone from 1869 shows off with their Latin/Greek prowess, just ask them a question about Turing Completeness.

Latin is not Turing Completeness. (1)

Oxford_Comma_Lover (1679530) | more than 3 years ago | (#35777582)

That's not a rebuttal--knowledge of things developed since 1869 doesn't show anything about the level of education of an individual, it only tells you that individuals are working from a different set of knowledge. Being able to give a brief definition of Turing completeness is both less knowledge and less useful to a modern student than latin and greek taught to a rigorous high school standard as it used to be taught. Latin in particular gives you a better understanding of word roots, as well as a better ability to pick up or read romance languages. It's a hell of a lot easier to teach turing completeness than it is to teach latin.

Re:different time (4, Insightful)

daniel_mcl (77919) | more than 3 years ago | (#35777516)

Please tell me you're kidding. Latin != Italian.

And for that matter, heaven forbid that college should be about getting an education instead of necessary vocational training. Clearly knowledge is worthless except as a bullet on a résumé.

Re:different time (1)

PFI_Optix (936301) | more than 3 years ago | (#35777572)

"Can place ' above e in resume" seems like a useful bullet point.

Did you learn that in college?

Re:different time (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35777638)

He probably learned that from using a Mac, where accents don't require hunting through keymaps or memorizing ascii codes - alt-e for the accent, e again for the e itself, get on with your life.

Re:different time (1)

MoonBuggy (611105) | more than 3 years ago | (#35777630)

And for that matter, heaven forbid that college should be about getting an education instead of necessary vocational training. Clearly knowledge is worthless except as a bullet on a résumé.

Knowledge for its own sake is always a laudable goal, but an entry exam that requires a reasonable swath of fact recitation plus a set of specific grammatical questions in a dead language seems set to accept those who have had a very specific education, not those who have especially high critical thinking skills, motivation, ambition, or any of many other qualities I would suggest single out a truly worthy candidate.

It looks like you'd get people with good memories, as well as the patience and attention to detail to do the number crunching in the mathematical sections, but those alone do not a good student make. Whether entry requirements today are too fuzzy, maybe even too fearful of telling students that they're wrong, is something reasonable to debate, but I'll never accept that the memorisation-centric curriculum of the past is a paragon to be emulated.

This is not a question. (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35777380)

"To circumscribe a circle about a given triangle."

I fail.

Re:This is not a question. (2)

Jarik C-Bol (894741) | more than 3 years ago | (#35777576)

that... that is easy.... locate the center-point of each leg of the triangle with a compass, and plot a line perpendicular to it, locating the center of the triangle, then use the compass to plot the circle, beginning at any point of the triangle. takes like, 10 seconds.

Would they do the same exams again? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35777390)

Too much dead languages, too little science.

Re:Would they do the same exams again? (4, Insightful)

zill (1690130) | more than 3 years ago | (#35777426)

To be fair, there weren't exactly a whole lot of science back then. Plus much of the scientific knowledge in 1869 were available exclusively in Latin, hence the emphasis on the "dead language".

Re:Would they do the same exams again? (2)

seyyah (986027) | more than 3 years ago | (#35777598)

To be fair, there weren't exactly a whole lot of science back then.

Do you really believe that?

Plus much of the scientific knowledge in 1869 were available exclusively in Latin, hence the emphasis on the "dead language".

1869 not 1689.

Re:Would they do the same exams again? (1)

zill (1690130) | more than 3 years ago | (#35777700)

To be fair, there weren't exactly a whole lot of science back then.

Do you really believe that?

I didn't mean to belittle the scientific community back then, but I really do believe that scientific knowledge grows exponentially. It wasn't until the 20th century that things really started to take off.

Apparently the New York Times couldn't pass it... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35777398)

...given that they weren't even able to manage to transcribe the number "1899" from a piece of paper to a web page.

Apparently you fail in reading comprehension (4, Informative)

Calibax (151875) | more than 3 years ago | (#35777470)

True, the ink stamp on the documents is 1899, which is likely to be the date they were added to the Harvard library. You will note it is stamped on top of the content on each page and is clearly not part of the original page.

However, at the bottom of each page it gives the date as 1869. This date appears to be part of the original page.

Apparently you failed to read each page completely. One fundamental rule of all examinations: read the questions fully. That hasn't changed.

hmm... (5, Funny)

ShiftyOne (1594705) | more than 3 years ago | (#35777404)

I wonder if they were allowed to use calculators?

Re:hmm... (1)

perpenso (1613749) | more than 3 years ago | (#35777460)

I wonder if they were allowed to use calculators?

I don't think servants were allowed to assist you during the exam. Calculators were people back in those days. :-)

Re:hmm... (2)

MaskedSlacker (911878) | more than 3 years ago | (#35777676)

What was Soylent Green then?

Slide Rules (1)

Oxford_Comma_Lover (1679530) | more than 3 years ago | (#35777626)

I wonder if they were allowed to use slide rules.

Although you don't really need one--it's really only relevant to one or two questions.

Re:hmm... (1)

beadfulthings (975812) | more than 3 years ago | (#35777640)

Ummm. I have a book of logarithmic tables that was published somewhere around 1890 and used by my grandfather and his three brothers. None of them went to Harvard, but they all went to the University of Virginia. Obviously it was passed down from older brother to younger brother. My grandfather would have been in college somewhere around 1912-1915. I suspect these kinds of tables were considered OK as references, just as the next generation or two would have used slide rules. High school and college math classrooms were decorated with gigantic simple yellow slide rules that hung above the boards so that the instructor could use them for demonstration. My own college math text had similar sets of tables in the back, though we were taught at least the basics of using a slide rule. I received my degree in 1974, though it was in languages, not in math. When I returned to school about twelve years after graduating--because I needed a little more math--calculators had become the order of the day. In one of the corridors I saw two large trash cans, each stuffed with those giant yellow slide rules. They had outlived their usefulness completely.

lol@Exam [hint:joke] (4, Funny)

buchner.johannes (1139593) | more than 3 years ago | (#35777408)

Man, if the examiner had been smart he'd written page 3-4 in LaTeX and saved himself a lot of handwriting!!!!

re Maybe (1, Insightful)

jelizondo (183861) | more than 3 years ago | (#35777410)

I would if instead of Greek and Latin the languages were English and Spanish...

I must note that English is not my maternal tongue...

Maybe English and Mandarin? Different times, different places, different requirements...

What use is Latin and Greek today?

Could a Harvard graduate from the era be able to send an email from a laptop? Would he know how to even turn-on the laptop?

What is this? Slow-news Sunday?

Re:re Maybe (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35777452)

well, if you wish to learn to think critically, and you wish to examine the history of critical thinking in the west, greek and latin is a good place to start. or even in translation, you f*cking ignoramus.

Re:re Maybe (1)

PFI_Optix (936301) | more than 3 years ago | (#35777606)

One does not need to learn a foreign language to learn critical thinking. For that matter, the history of critical thinking is optional. CT is a process; knowing how that process was developed might help in understanding it, but it can be executed without any history as it can be arrived at independently of that history.

Re:re Maybe (2)

antifoidulus (807088) | more than 3 years ago | (#35777458)

Could a Harvard graduate from the era be able to send an email from a laptop? Would he know how to even turn-on the laptop?

I guess it would all depend on the time scale. If you set a laptop down in front of him(and they were all males back then) and said, "Send me an email in the next 5 minutes stating your name and major" then yes, he would fail. However if you gave him a day and allowed him unlimited access to the laptop then he might be able send one. Critical thinking skills are pretty timeless, and unfortunately seem to be lacking in today's college environments.....

Monty Burns is to old fashion to run a PC (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35777574)

Monty Burns is to old fashion to run a PC much less a phone.

Re:re Maybe (1)

jelizondo (183861) | more than 3 years ago | (#35777618)

I quite like the tack you've taken on the problem.

Indeed, critical thinking and the capacity to analyze data are sorely lacking, but that is a constant.

I don't remember who said the intelligence is constant while the population is increasing...

Of course, as in any test, there would be a reasonable time limit, say one hour.

But the point is, TFA is bull, the curricula is irrelevant, we are not smarter or stupider today than 142 years ago.

Re:re Maybe (1)

guyminuslife (1349809) | more than 3 years ago | (#35777632)

That entrance exam seems to suggest that critical thinking skills weren't particularly well-regarded then, either. "Where is the source of [list of rivers]?" There are a few questions worth asking---"compare Athens to Sparta"---but generally most of that stuff is about rote memorization.

Latin is critical to the web today ... (4, Insightful)

perpenso (1613749) | more than 3 years ago | (#35777488)

What use is Latin and Greek today?

Latin is very important today, especially with respect to the web. Have you tried to come up with a short decent sounding company name that is both trademark-able and has an available .com domain? I found it easier to accomplish with Latin than English, Perpenso [perpenso.com] .

Re:Latin is critical to the web today ... (2)

PFI_Optix (936301) | more than 3 years ago | (#35777654)

Not to mention the incessant use of Latin by people who spend far too much time arguing on the internet. Some people seem to think that the use of Latin somehow validates their point.

Re:Latin is critical to the web today ... (0)

jelizondo (183861) | more than 3 years ago | (#35777668)

Well, I did have a company named Musarkisus (Musarkisus S.A. de C.V.) which is today unfortunately defunct but in its day it was a supplier of many different things, and the name is neither Greek nor Latin. (it is left as an exercise to the reader to figure out the origin of the name.)

Today I own a company that is called Yaax Maya S.A. de C.V. (meaning "green language" in Mayan) which sells natural products and the name is neither Latin nor Greek.

Other than a self-serving advertisement for your product, what was your point?

Re:Latin is critical to the web today ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35777672)

Have you tried to come up with a short decent sounding company name
No, I can't say I make a habit or hobby of coming up with lots of names for companies, nor can I think of anyone else who does. Is this really a frequent web activity? I thought frequent web activities were posting blog entries, commenting on message boards, looking up information, and the like.
If I just need to know a single word now and then (like trying to name a company), I'll get a dictionary. If I'm going to learn a language, I'll get more mileage out of learning something like Mandarin or Hindi.

Re:re Maybe (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35777528)

Could a Harvard graduate from the era be able to send an email from a laptop? Would he know how to even turn-on the laptop?

Easy, he could just google how to do it.

In true fashion no one actually read the test (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35777544)

  Amazing how many people respond here show their complete ineptitude even to read the whole test.
Besides Greek, and Latin, did you even bother scrolling pass the first few page to see math, geometry, and geography. Since you are
so "superior" in your intellect as we know now "so much more" go ahead, and show me that you were able to solve a SINGLE problem from
that test on those subject matter. You wouldn't know how to - and that is the point. Stop making excuses for your stupidity.

Re:re Maybe (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35777552)

What use is Latin and Greek today?

The latinos and grecians would like to have a word with you.

Re:re Maybe (4, Informative)

zill (1690130) | more than 3 years ago | (#35777650)

PROTIP: Latin America does not speak Latin.

Re:re Maybe (1)

zanian (1621285) | more than 3 years ago | (#35777594)

The article is not trying to demonstrate that the average person knows different things throughout history. The question it is trying to answer is: Were the standards higher in the mid-19th century than today, relative to the times?

Also, Latin and Greek were not a given in the mid-19th century like they were shortly after the Renaissance, so the test would have been pretty demanding.

Re:re Maybe (1)

Gadget_Guy (627405) | more than 3 years ago | (#35777646)

What use is Latin and Greek today?

I think that you are taking this far too seriously. This is just an interesting historical snapshot aimed at those who want to learn new things. Latin and Greek may be of less use today, but the desire to learn is just as important at college today as it was back then.

Could a Harvard graduate from the era be able to send an email from a laptop?

Obviously not. The computers from that era operated on entirely different principles. They were large units that were powered by foot pedals. The software was loaded on rolls of paper with holes punched in them, while the output handled was by mechanically manipulating the manual keyboard input device. That must have been quite confusing.

The addition of string based sound cards on the Pianola brand computers meant that an early use of this device was to download and play music. Interestingly, the musicians of the time also predicted that this would destroy the music industry. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Too hard... I want to take the one... (1)

ibsteve2u (1184603) | more than 3 years ago | (#35777414)

Dubya took.

Re:Too hard... I want to take the one... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35777462)

You mean the one where you get in on account of being from a Big Oil family? I think you failed before even applying...

Re:Too hard... I want to take the one... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35777506)

It would probably be easier to take the one Gore took. Although he didn't last long at Vanderbilt and washed out there as well.

http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/news/763182/posts

"Gore's undergraduate transcript from Harvard is riddled with C's, including a C-minus in introductory economics, a D in one science course, and a C-plus in another. "In his sophomore year at Harvard," the Post reported, "Gore's grades were lower than any semester recorded on Bush's transcript from Yale."

Re:Too hard... I want to take the one... (1)

sneakyimp (1161443) | more than 3 years ago | (#35777532)

Dubya didn't go to Harvard as an undergrad. You can blame Yale for that. He did, however, go to Harvard B-School which would be a different test.

Re:Too hard... I want to take the one... (1)

MaskedSlacker (911878) | more than 3 years ago | (#35777690)

It's doing a keg stand while the crowd shouts "MBA! MBA! MBA!"

My opinion... (1)

Dan East (318230) | more than 3 years ago | (#35777418)

Could any of us pass the exam today?

My opinion is that, fortunately, most people today could not pass this test. I say that is fortunate because a great deal of the knowledge they required is not of practical use in the 21st century. In fact, besides some of the math, I daresay it wasn't practical in the 19th century either.

Not impossible (1)

gman003 (1693318) | more than 3 years ago | (#35777420)

I skimmed through the test. I think I'd do OK at the Latin, ace the mathematics, but completely fail the Greek and history sections. I guess history isn't nearly as constant as math is.

Re:Not impossible (1)

mrmeval (662166) | more than 3 years ago | (#35777596)

Geeks who don't understand history will be ruled by those that do. -- paraphrasing Kevyn Andreyasn of http://www.schlockmercenary.com/ [schlockmercenary.com]

Re:Not impossible (1)

Life2Short (593815) | more than 3 years ago | (#35777660)

I couldn't get past "Romanes eunt Domus."

No (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35777422)

Its impossible for anyone to pass a test. What a stupid question...

Yes (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35777424)

Just as long as you are not black, asian, Jewish, or latin.

Educational standards (5, Insightful)

girlintraining (1395911) | more than 3 years ago | (#35777430)

Could any of us pass the exam today?

Well, the theory of relativity, evolution, anything about computers, most modern medicine, etc., would be straight out because they didn't exist then. And I doubt many people here would disagree that knowing how to use a computer and a basic understanding of physics something every college would want in its students. It's no use trying to test ourselves according to the standards of over a hundred years ago... we know so much more about the world it's not even fair. The smartest person of that era would look like a total idiot today just trying to get by with what we take for granted -- driving a car, using a cell phone, browsing the internet, etc.

Re:Educational standards (4, Informative)

daniel_mcl (77919) | more than 3 years ago | (#35777566)

If your idea is that the average person alive today -- never mind the average high school student -- has any knowledge at all of relativistic mechanics, evolutionary biology, computer science/engineering, medical science, etc., I think you'll find you're sadly mistaken. Yes, the average teenager knows how to use a cell phone. Clearly this is an insurmountable obstacle, and Isaac Newton himself would be unable to figure out my Nokia.

At any rate, the material on the "arithmetic" and "algebra" sections is still taught and used in schools today, and I'll outright guarantee you that if I printed those out and took them to a Calculus III section at the local university I'd be unlikely to get a very high pass rate, despite the fact that most of them have memorized how to take dozens of integrals or apply Lagrange multipliers.

Knowledge isn't worth as much as people seem to think; at its heart, it's just trivia. What matters is the ability to think, and that doesn't change from generation to generation.

Re:Educational standards (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35777602)

You didnt even read the whole test. Your are so superior? Please solve a SINGLE problem from Arithmetic, Geometry, Geography, or Algebra section.
In fact you are an idiot comparing to those educated people back in the day. You know shit for knowledge because education is so highly diluted now a days
that it makes you feel smart because it is so "dumbed" down. Comparing your monkey skills in using a mouse and a keyboard on a computer, to actually knowing and being able to describe mathematically how the mouse works, and how the computer is build is different. You are an idiot -- because technology has substituted any need for you to learn anything, but you are too stupid to understand it.

  Yeah, go ahead solve a SINGLE problem without "your internet" -- you stupid monkey,

You got it (1)

Sycraft-fu (314770) | more than 3 years ago | (#35777648)

Also people seem to forget that the number of people who attended university has gone up. Back in the day, university was something almost nobody did, even those that were smart. It was only for those who wanted to devote their life to theoretical pursuits and become a professor or as a polish to an already fine education. Hence very high requirements.

Now many people go to university, a secondary education is becoming required for many things. That means that they aren't going to try to find trivial shit to keep people out with.

Please understand that the knowledge of ancient languages was trivial shit. It was not tested for because you really needed that to succeed in university, it was because they needed ways to weed out most people, and because they wanted people were interested in pure academic pursuits.

That's fine, but that isn't what we want today. The world is no longer a place where most people are labourers and an elementary education is all that is needed (if that). It is a complex, information based, place where people need to know more. That means more schooling for all.

Re:Educational standards (1)

Doctorer (1017662) | more than 3 years ago | (#35777702)

You clearly haven't looked at the paper. This is for people who want to begin university studies, not end them.

Then there's the fact that the internal combustion engine (driving a car) is based upon entirely 19th century physical principles - unless you're using that new Mass Effect car from India.

Quite frankly, people of average intelligence back then look far more intelligent by our standards because they had to learn everything without the tools we have today - no typed essays, no wikipedia, no sound recording, no calculators. Just scroll down past the Latin, Greek and History sections to the mathematics and tell me if you can work all that out by hand. They hand-wrote and memorised everything, something I think nobody under 50 could do today (even with a doctorate).

What's passing? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35777444)

I could do the Latin when I was interested in applying to a University. Not the Greek, though. I could then (and can now) do most of the math. The geographical and historical questions are so imprecisely stated that it's hard to say.

PDF Files? (5, Funny)

LazloHollyfeld (99908) | more than 3 years ago | (#35777454)

I find it hard to believe they had PDF files in 1869.

Re:PDF Files? (1)

ibsteve2u (1184603) | more than 3 years ago | (#35777486)

I think PDF in 1869 meant "Patient Dispensation: Fatality".

Re:PDF Files? (1)

ibsteve2u (1184603) | more than 3 years ago | (#35777490)

lolll...make that "disposition".

Re:PDF Files? (1)

meowris (1988866) | more than 3 years ago | (#35777496)

I am still wondering how is it possible for them to upload this exam to /. Hmm.

Re:PDF Files? (1)

sneakyimp (1161443) | more than 3 years ago | (#35777536)

Mod this up.

My grandpa could have passed this; I don't need to (2)

Sarten-X (1102295) | more than 3 years ago | (#35777476)

After utterly failing the Latin and Greek sections, I think I'd get a pretty bad reputation with any reviewer, even though I could do the rest just fine with a slide rule. Of course, I could follow up the geometry section with a lovely essay relating the theories of computability, genetics, and medicine, and the reviewer would be equally confused.

The parts that are important in modern innovation are still certainly appropriate for an entrance exam. The only difference I see between this and a modern exam is that the Latin and Greek sections have been replaced by English tests and some basic science questions. After all, the purpose for knowing Latin was that is was supposed to be the universal language of scholars, and during the burst of scientific progress following WWII, English took a firm grasp of that role.

If you ain't moving.... (4, Insightful)

Wintermancer (134128) | more than 3 years ago | (#35777482)

With the exception of the arithmetic, logarithms and trigonometry, algebra and plane geometry, not a chance in Hell.

Now, how well would a prospective applicant fare with some of today's knowledge? Introductory quantum mechanics can be taught at the high-school level. Now someone out Victorian era and give them the mathematical equations and they would fail due to not having the conceptual foundation to understand it.

Hold onto your seat for the big reveal: Knowledge advances over time, but correspondingly, some knowledge is made obsolescent. How well would any of do at knapping flint knives and spears? You might make a passable one, but not one that would qualify as a quality tool in the Paleolithic era.

Progress, folks. It's a good thing.

Damn, should have gone for classics in high school (1)

ZackSchil (560462) | more than 3 years ago | (#35777494)

While the Greek and Latin sections were frightening, the math section looked comfortingly familiar. Noticed a partial fractions question, a bunch of moderate geometric proofs. It's nice to see problems that look basically identical to something I'd have seen on a test just a few years ago.

I couldn't understand some of the questions that weren't questions though! They didn't end with question marks and didn't ask anything in particular.

"To circumscribe a circle about a given triangle."

Uh... alright. So, like, define the center point and radius in terms of (x_1,y_1),(x_2,y_2),(x_3,y_3) or what?

Re:Damn, should have gone for classics in high sch (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35777612)

Re:Damn, should have gone for classics in high sch (2)

Jarik C-Bol (894741) | more than 3 years ago | (#35777658)

"To circumscribe a circle about a given triangle."

locate the center-point of each leg of the triangle with a compass, and plot a line perpendicular to each, thus locating the center of the triangle at the intersection of these lines. Then, use the compass to plot the circle the center-point of the circle being the same as that of the triangle, and the radius of the circle being the distance from that pont to a Vertex of the triangle. beginning at any Vertex of the triangle, circumscribe the circle about the triangle, returning to the same vertex the circle began on.

more or less. its a word problem, with a word answer, perhaps a diagram would be expected to be drawn along with the answer.

Give me my iphone and I could ace it (1)

m0nkyman (7101) | more than 3 years ago | (#35777510)

Could I pass it? Yes, assuming that I had an iphone with me. There's nothing there that requires anything more than either access to a web browser or rote memorization. I'm pretty sure that current testing requires more application of intelligence; taking knowledge and applying it than this test of the ability to memorize data and regurgitate it.

About half and half (1)

tylersoze (789256) | more than 3 years ago | (#35777520)

A very interesting historical artifact. History/geography and most of the math questions would still be good for a modern day entrance exam, but translating into Latin and manual numeric math problems (cube root by hand, et al), who gives a shit?

Dead batteries ... (1)

perpenso (1613749) | more than 3 years ago | (#35777590)

... manual numeric math problems (cube root by hand, et al), who gives a shit?

Someone with dead batteries during an exam? :-)

Why no translations from Latin/Greek? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35777546)

The Latin and Greek are almost entirely grammar, with the only translations from English into Latin/Greek (with the vocabulary given!) As the only reason for learning Latin and Greek is to read texts in these languages, it seems their curriculum was back to front. It would have been better to have given some passages in the original languages and asked for translations. (I did learn Latin and Greek at school but I have since forgotten most of it).

Define "pass". (1)

bersl2 (689221) | more than 3 years ago | (#35777548)

What's a passing grade in this case? 60% Yes, I could get 60% on this test. I studied Latin for 6.5 years and still have many books I read on the subject. I have done basic Ancient Greek informally, so I'd do sorta OK on that. The history is, in some cases, subjective, but I remember enough of that. Math is straightforward.

Distorted idea of the University (2)

Doctorer (1017662) | more than 3 years ago | (#35777558)

A lot of the comments so far are of the tack that "Greek and Latin are useless" or "CS majors don't need to quote Dante". I respond that they have no idea what a university education was for over its thousand year history. If you think you only go to university to learn how to write programmes and get a job in an industry, the 19th (and even 12th) century university man would tell you to get an apprenticeship - the early 20th century university man would tell you to go to a technical school.

Greek and Latin are still the most useful languages available for educated speakers of English because they allow you to decode almost any term in the English language, especially technical terms. Quoting Dante's Mediaeval Italian may make you as good a computer scientist as quoting Shakespeare's Elizabethan English, but the you will also be just as cultured - and I don't think anyone who understands what a university is for can claim that a cultured CS (all other things notwithstanding) is worse than an uncultured one.

reminds of an entrance exam i took (1)

steak (145650) | more than 3 years ago | (#35777580)

reminds me an entrance exam i took to try to get into some private high school. the common theme being that they expected me to already know the material they were going to teach me over the next four years.

Universities change slowly (1)

Calibax (151875) | more than 3 years ago | (#35777586)

I recall that graduation ceremonies at Cambridge University in the UK (and many formal speeches) were in Latin back in the 1960s. Complete with the De Brevitate Vitae for accompanying music.

I wonder if that's changed.

Lot of missing the point in this thread. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35777608)

The B-student in computer science who speaks Latin and Greek is worth five A-students who can't communicate in English.

Test (1)

Konster (252488) | more than 3 years ago | (#35777614)

That 1 test is 2 really hard 3 to read with all 4 those 5 numbers thrown 6 about.

Math (1)

Fallen Kell (165468) | more than 3 years ago | (#35777642)

I don't think 99% of public school students in the USA would be able to answer question #2 in the arithmetic section, especially without a calculator.

Then of course there is question #9 and #10.

The algebra at least is something that college bound students should be able to pass, and maybe some of the geometry proofs.

Latin at least was a little more well taught back then, with the Roman Catholic Church still using it completely in their Mass and rituals. I would have had more of it myself had the state not ruled that you needed to have at least 2 years of a foreign language, but Latin did not count. Taking more Latin would have meant that I would not have been able to double up on my math classes sophomore year ("geometry" and "algebra 2/trig"), which would have barred me from taking a dual credit calculus course (it was taught by the same professor as a local college, and counted a full credits at that college for calculus 1... the only difference is that we took all year to cover the material, while at the college, they would have done it in 15 weeks).

hoax? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35777656)

A document that well typeset from 1869 ... right justified? [looks much like a latex produced document] Ok, so it might have been more recently typeset, but then, an attempt to put a rubber stamp (dated 1899) ... I might be out of sync here, but that too, looks out of time.

I am skeptical ...

Well (1)

93 Escort Wagon (326346) | more than 3 years ago | (#35777682)

Given that about half the test was about being able to translate to/from Latin and Greek - no, I couldn't pass that. Nor would I be particularly impressed by someone who could, although they'd certainly deserve a few points worth of geek cred.

I glanced at the rest of the test, and I think I'd do okay even without studying.

Tricky, but aimed at a specific type of knowledge (5, Interesting)

parmadil (811515) | more than 3 years ago | (#35777686)

I'm two weeks away from a master's degree in Ancient Greek. I'm not sure I'd pass the Greek portion of the exam. Why? Because it focuses on extremely rigorous memorization of obscure details (and I'm talking obscure details of an arcane dead language, mind you). I can read even difficult Greek pretty well, but that doesn't mean I can decline 'trirs' (a noun in a highly unusual declension), or form the correctly-accented participles of 'histmi', or decline much of anything in the unusual dual number, off the top of my head and without consulting a grammar. Nor, I think, could most of my colleagues. The translation *into* Greek, however, is quite easy. It's a hard test for college freshmen, to be sure, but it's also testing based on a very different sort of educational objective. Passing the Greek section requires more memorization than actual competence in the language.

Latin answers (3, Informative)

dsanfte (443781) | more than 3 years ago | (#35777692)

Translation:

1. Me non refero quam divitem esse Gygen. (Unsure how to decline 'Gyges' but we'll go with that for accusative. I guess it's a Greek paradigm.)

2. Quis clarior Graeciae quam Themostecles? Quis, cum in exilium expelleretur, injuriam suae patriae ingratae non tulit, sed idem quod ante viginti annos Coriolanus fecisset?

3. Primo veris venit consul ad Ephesum, et militibus ab Scipio acceptis apud milites contionem habuit, in qua, virtute sua collaudata, adhortabatur ad novum bellum cum Gallis suspicandum, qui (ut inquit) Antiochum auxiliis iuverunt. (I left in 'ut inquit' and 'in qua' although they were meant to be omitted. I wondered if the last bit should be infinitive/accusative construction due to indirect speech, however I think 'ut' demands the indicative.)

Grammar:

You could copy this out of Wheelock so I don't see the point of reproducing it here.

insecurity (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35777696)

It's funny how many of the posts so far are defensive and beligerent. For the love of God, isn't it obvious that the test would be so different due to age that it's unlikely for anyone to pass it now? Isn't it just as obvious how little that reflects how knowledgable, intelligent, smart, or just plain egotistical you are? It seems to serve as an indicator of insecurity though. Bah.

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