As a friend of mine has pointed out – soon they’ll be giving out degrees for knowing your alphabet and times table!

Read on…

Can you pass this 1898 exam for 11-year-olds?
By Richard Alleyne
(Filed: 26/11/2004)

Critics of modern education standards yesterday seized on a re-discovered Victorian exam paper for 11-year-olds which they claim proves that tests have been “dumbed down”.

The Spectator magazine published entrance exams for King Edward’s School in Birmingham in 1898 which would tax most adults today, let alone children leaving primary school.

The questions covered Latin, details of British history, English grammar, and maths.

They were aimed at the brightest children but nevertheless critics said they showed by how much standards had declined in the last century.

English grammar

  1. Write out in your best handwriting:

    ‘O Mary, go and call the cattle home,
    And call the cattle home,
    And call the cattle home,
    Across the sands o’ Dee.’
    The western wind was wild and dank with foam,
    And all alone went she.
    The western tide crept up along the sand,
    And o’er and o’er the sand,
    And round and round the sand,
    As far as eye could see.
    The rolling mist came down and hid the land –
    And never home came she.

  2. Parse (identify the grammatical form and function of) fully ‘And call the cattle home’.
  3. Explain the meaning of o’ Dee, dank with foam, western tide, round and round the sand, the rolling mist.
  4. Write out separately the simple sentences in the last two lines of the above passage and analyse them.
  5. Write out what you consider to be the meaning of the above passage.


  1. On the outline map provided, mark the position of Carlisle, Canterbury, Plymouth, Hull, Gloucester, Swansea, Southampton, Worcester, Leeds, Leicester and Norwich; Morecambe Bay, The Wash, Solent, Menai Straits and Lyme Bay; St Bees Head, The Naze, Lizard Point; the rivers Trent and Severn; Whernside, the North Downs, and Plinlimmon, and state on a separate paper what the towns named above are noted for.
  2. Where are silver, platinum, tin, wool, wheat, palm oil, furs and cacao got from?
  3. Name the conditions upon which the climate of a country depends, and explain the reason of any one of them.
  4. Name the British possessions in America with the chief town in each.
    Which is the most important?
  5. Where are Omdurman, Wai-Hei-Wai, Crete, Santiago, and West Key, and what are they noted for?


  1. Write in columns the nominative singular, genitive plural, gender, and meaning of: operibus, principe, imperatori, genere, apro, nivem, vires, frondi, muri.
  2. Give the comparative of noxius, acer, male, diu; the superlative of piger, humilis, fortiter, multum; the English and genitive sing. of solus, uter, quisque.
  3. Write these phrases in a column and put opposite to each its Latin: he will go; he may wish; he had; he had been; he will be heard; and give in a column the English of fore, amatum, regendus, monetor.
  4. Give in columns the perfect indic. and active supine of ago, pono, dono, cedo, jungo, claudo. Mention one example each of verbs followed by the nominative, the accusative, the genitive, the dative, the ablative.
  5. Translate into Latin:
    a. The general’s little son was loved by the soldiers.
    b. Let no bodies be buried within this city.
    c. Ask Tullius who found the lions.
    d. He said that the city had been taken, and, the war being finished,
    the forces would return.
  6. Translate into English: Exceptus est imperatoris adventus incredibili honore atque amore: tum primum enim veniebat ab illo Aegypti bello.
    Nihil relinquebatur quod ad ornatum locorum omnium qua iturus erat excogitari posset.

English history

  1. What kings of England began to reign in the years 871, 1135, 1216, 1377, 1422, 1509, 1625, 1685, 1727, 1830?
  2. Give some account of Egbert, William II, Richard III, Robert Blake, Lord Nelson.
  3. State what you know of Henry II’s quarrel with Becket, the taking of Calais by Edward III, the attempt to make Lady Jane Grey queen, the trial of the Seven bishops, the Gordon riots.
  4. What important results followed the raising of the siege of Orleans, the Gunpowder plot, the Scottish rebellion of 1639, the surrender at Yorktown, the battles of Bannockburn, Bosworth, Ethandune, La Hogue, Plassey, and Vittoria?
  5. How are the following persons connected with English History: Harold Hardrada, Saladin, James IV of Scotland, Philip II of Spain, Frederick the Elector Palatine?


  1. Multiply 642035 by 24506.
  2. Add together £132 4s. Id., £243 7s. 2d., £303 16s 2d., and £1,030 5s 3d; and divide the sum by 17. (Two answers to be given).
  3. Five horses and 28 sheep cost £126 14s, and 16 sheep cost £22 8s; find the total cost of 2 horses and 10 sheep.