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Test time!

Are you smarter than a fifth grader? How about a first-year student in 1869? This exam, like others, was printed as an appendix in the university calendar, a practice that acted as a public assurance of Dalhousie’s academic credibility. Daily classes in rhetoric, classics and mathematics made up the first-year curriculum, followed in second year by the addition of chemistry, logic and psychology.

If you made it to your third year, you could expect to continue with mathematics and classics, and tag on additional classes in experimental and mathematical physics, metaphysics, Greek or chemistry, and French or German. Fourth-year students had a slightly reduced class load, which included astronomy, experimental physics, Latin, ethics, political economy, history, and French or German. Professor James DeMille, the examiner, was rigorous in his belief that the study of rhetoric was central to education, both to cultivate a pure love of study and to train students in the more utilitarian arts of elocution and persuasive argument. Out of the 13 undergraduates enrolled in his class in 1869, only eight passed the exam. You have four hours. Time starts now.

Examples of past exams


  • 1869 Rhetoric
  • 1894 English examination
  • 1915 English examination
  • 1932 English examination
  • 1951 English examination
  • 1981 English examination
  • English classroom post war