“To avoid the expense of a useless journey …”

Today I have a special challenge for our readers. You may wonder what this blog post’s title has to do with ISU. The quoted phrase comes from an 1872 report from the Board of Trustees to the Governor, and it pertains to examinations given to prospective students:


The rejected applicants with no funds to return home probably formed a peculiar underclass, blighting the fair streets of Ames before adopting the ways of the hobo.

I found the sample exam interesting enough to share. Unfortunately, we do not have an answer key. Nevertheless, the boldest minds among you are invited to test their worthiness!

Page 16

Biennial report of the Iowa State College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts (1872).


Page 17

Regarding question 6, do you suppose the “office” of the participle is its function? Regarding the spelling portion: did you know the word “erysipelas” (a skin disease)?


Page 18

If you’re not in deep trouble yet, my hat is off to you. I hope it was possible to get partial points for an answer, as opposed to nothing.


Page 19

The last page of the sample exam.


I would not score the required 75/100. I might not even be admitted as a remedial student.

What do you think about the exam? As freshmen in 1872 would we have met in the remedial courses? Could you pass the test so as to “avoid the expense of a useless journey” to and from your family’s farm? Did you remember to bring your own straw tick, as instructed? I look forward to your comments!

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