Friday, April 29, 2011

1869 Harvard Entrance Exam

It's most, uh, impressive.


MikeAT said...

Man, reading this I'm getting flashbacks to the beginning of Star Trek IV

SPOCK: Computer. Resume testing. ...T'plana-Hath, matron of Vulcan philosophy

TEST COMPUTER VOICE: What is the molecular formula of aluminum sulfide crystal?

TEST COMPUTER VOICE: ...White Queen to section five, grid six. Queen takes Knight. Rook takes Queen. White pawn to section five, grid seven, pawn takes rook. Checkmate.

TEST COMPUTER VOICE: ...Correct. What significant contribution to bioengineering was made on the Loonkerian outpost on Klendth?

SPOCK: The universal atmospheric element compensator.

TEST COMPUTER VOICE: Evaluate and conclude. A starship's sensors indicate it is being pursued so closely that it occupies the same space as its pursuer.

TEST COMPUTER VOICE: ...Correct. Identify object and it's cultural significance.

SPOCK: Klingon mummification glyph.

TEST COMPUTER VOICE: What was the principle historical event on the planet Earth in the year nineteen eighty-seven?

What is Kiri-kin-tha's first law of metaphysics?

SPOCK: Nothing unreal exists.

TEST COMPUTER VOICE: ...Correct. Adjust the sine wave of this magnetic envelope so that anti-neutrons can pass through it but anti-gravitons cannot.

TEST COMPUTER VOICE: ...Correct. What is the electronic configuration of gadolinium?

TEST COMPUTER VOICE: ...Correct. How do you feel? ...How do you feel?

KauaiMark said...

So THAT's why I didn't get in!

Anonymous said...

I find it more interesting as an indication of the *direction* and *emphasis* of studies for high achieving high school students back then.

Some items:

1) History seems mostly to have been ancient Greek and Roman history. The test cares about Pericles, Leonidas, Lysander, Gaul, etc. No questions about, for example, the US Revolutionary War or the Napoleonic Wars or China or ...

2) *NO* science questions at all! Not even Newtonian physics.

3) *Lots* of Greek and Latin. This ties in with (1): the focus was on ancient Greece and Rome.

4) The math is interesting. At least one question that a 6th or 7th grader today should be able to answer (184800/1180410). More focus on computation that we would do today (no one learns how to extract a root manually anymore). A very solid focus on Algebra, Proof based Geometry and Trig (seems to compare well to today), but *nothing* on Calculus. My guess is that a good percentage of modern Harvard students take Calculus in high school.

5) No explicit writing section. I guess they figured that it would be covered by the history essay questions.

6) No "modern literature." I don't know if this is tested for today, but it is certainly taught. Did high school kids back in the 1860s read modern (for their time) literature? Dante's Inferno, for example. Or Don Quixote?

-Mark Roulo

Anonymous said...

I teach high school math and can tell you that most of the math questions our students couldn't answer. NCTM Principles and Standards pretty much wiped out extensive geometry proofs in lieu of coordinate geometry. Although my students could calculate the roots manually, we spend a few days on that because it highlights to them the need for pen and paper calculation skills. They have fun with it, we make it a contest of sorts :)