History Test Questions a Hundred Years Ago

17-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Thursday, September 19, 1912:  We had a test in General History today. Wasn’t hard at all.

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

I’m glad that the General History test wasn’t difficult for Grandma.

A hundred-year-old book called the Outlines of General History by V. A. Renouf contained information about how to develop good questions:

Different Kinds of Questions

The questions which are most frequently asked in exercises and examinations can be classed somewhat as follows:

 Questions of Fact

  • Personality: Who did a certain thing?
  • Place: Where did a certain event happen? What places were affected by a certain cause or event?
  • Time: When did a certain event happen? How long did a certain period last?

Example Questions

  1. Who built Memphis?
  2. Name all of the countries conquered by Alexander the Great.
  3. What year did Nineveh fall?

Questions of Comparison

  • Comparison with recent or contemporary events or conditions in one’s own country.
  • Comparison with events or periods in the history previously learned.
  • Comparison of historical personalities.

Example Questions

  1. Does a man’s education stop when he has left school? What opportunities did the Athenians have for continuing their education through manhood?
  2. Compare the condition of debtors in early Rome with that of early Athens?
  3. Compare the government of Shih Hwang-ti with that of Darius?

Questions of Cause or Effect

  • Geographical causes
  • Causes lying in certain institutions
  • Effects of certain events

Example Questions

  1. In what way did the natural formation of Greece encourage commerce?
  2. What were the causes of the Peloponnesian war?
  3. Why is the battle of Marathon counted among the decisive battles of the world?

Which types of questions did Grandma’s teacher include in the exam?

It’s been awhile–Where have the years gone?– since I’ve taken a history exam, but I think that many of the types of questions asked on a history test today would still fit into this categorization schema.

But, I bet that there are fewer questions today that ask about dates. It  seems like students were asked to memorize more things back then than they are now.

16 Responses

  1. Glad your grandmother had an easy time with the test!

  2. She didn’t have as much to remember as we do :-). Actually, I know that they had to memorize a lot more then. I am horrible with dates. I have friends that can pull a date out of thin air, but then again they don’t do as well on remembering details of an event like I do. I learned a lot of history during my vacation :-).

  3. History is researched differently now and that has changed the way history is taught. Women studies has become important on the college level and that leads to an indepth look into lives of women in the past. It is not so much about wars and kings but about how the wars and kings effected people lives.

    • One thing I like about posting Grandma’s diary is that it tells the story of an average person. It feels like I’m preserving a bit of social history.

  4. Always enjoyed history until we got to the World Wars

  5. Enjoyed this post, especially about the who, what, when, where, why, and how questions. Use them extensively in adult Literacy training and tutoring, Bible study, and personal writing. Thanks!

  6. I remember a history test when I was in 9th grade. Well, I remember one question, “How many crosses was Charlemagne wearing in the picture on page ___?” It was not an open book test and the teacher had told us before hand that there would be no questions about specifics?!

  7. I always did good at history too, except for the dates..to this day I am bad with dates, but pretty good with the details. I do not think students today get adequate history lessons, everything around here seems to be centered on world cultures instead. My daughter had very little American history in high school and that is a shame.

  8. OK, are you posting the answers tomorrow, LOL, I’ll check back.

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