1. Give the past tense and past participle of each of the following verbs, dividing them into strong and weak; add explanations: tell, wake, buy, eat, lay, lie
2. Mark by an acute accent the accented syllable in each of the following words: subjected, hyperbole, microscopical, photography, contemplative, confident, confidant, pusillanimity, gangrene, tureen
3. Write down the abstract nouns connected with the following adjectives and verbs: precise, adhere, apt, predominate, optimistic, crystallise, negligent, hate, attain, detain, betray, ingenious, seize, charitable, zealous
4. Embody each of the following words in a sentence, in such a way as to shew that you clearly apprehend its meaning: commence, comment, commend, recommend; incredible, incredulous
5. Correct or justify four of the following sentences, giving your reasons:
a) I hope you are determined to seriously improve.
b) Comparing Shakespeare with Aeschylus, the former is by no means inferior to the latter.
c) I admit that I was willing to have made peace with you.
d) The statement was incorrect, as any one familiar with the spot, and who was acquainted with the facts, will admit.
e) It has the largest circulation of any paper in England.
f) The lyrical gifts of Shakespeare are woven into the actual language of the characters.
Write an essay on one of the following subjects:
a) The effect of political movements upon nineteenth century literature in England
b) English Pre-Raffaellitism
c) Elizabethan travel and discovery
d) The Indian Mutiny
e) The development of local self-government
e) Matthew Arnold
Make a phonetic transcription of each of the following passages, illustrating in the case of the passage (a) a careful pronunciation, in the case of (b) the pronunciation of educated persons in ordinary conversation:
a) But, whatever be the profession or trade chosen, the advantages are many and important, compared with the state of a mere literary man, who in any degree depends on the sale of his works for the necessaries and comforts of life. In the former a man lives in sympathy with the world in which he lives. At least he acquires a better and quicker tact for the knowledge of that with which men in general can sympathise. He learns to manage his genius more prudently and efficaciously. His powers and acquirements gain him likewise more real admiration; for they surpass the legitimate expectations of others. He is something besides an author, and is not therefore considered merely an author. The hearts of men are open to him as to one of their own class; and whether he exerts himself or not in the conversational circles of his acquaintance, his silence is not attributed to pride, nor his communicativeness to vanity.
b) “Ah, Mr Holmes. I am delighted to see you.”
“Good morning, Lanner. You will not think me an intruder, I am sure. Have you heard of the events which led up to this affair?”
“Yes, I heard something of them.”
‘Have you formed any opinion?”
“As far as I can see, the man has been driven out of his senses by fright. The bed has been well slept in, you see. There is his impression deep enough.”
“Noticed anything peculiar about the room?”
“Found a screwdriver and some screws on the wash-hand stand. Seems to have smoked heavily during the night, too. Here are four cigar ends that I picked out of the fire-place.”
“Hum! Have you got his cigar-holder?”
“No, I have seen none.”
“His cigar case then?”
“Yes, it was in his coat pocket.”
2. Describe fully the articulation of the various vowel sounds in the (ordinary) spelling of which the letter ‘o’ is used (alone or in combination) in the above passages.
3. Explain the terms: ‘glide’, ‘narrow vowel’, ‘semi-vowel’, and give two examples of each in both phonetic and ordinary spelling.
4. How would you teach a pupil the correct pronunciation of the vowel sounds in fare, fate, fat, fall, far?
5. Discuss carefully the articulation of the consonants in quite, huge, dreary
So, how did you do? Did you, like me, struggle dutifully with the grammar section (not that I think I would have passed), base your essay on Elizabethan times around what you can remember from the second Blackadder series, and then utterly abandon the test when you reached the phonology section? Good, I’m glad I’m not alone on that!
This, amazingly, isn’t an early version of the DELTA end of course exam, but rather the 1913 Cambridge Proficiency Exam. That’s right, non-native speakers were expected to be able to answer these questions. This leads me to the question… what the hell happened to our knowledge of language?
What does this exam tell us?
There are several interesting points that this exam raises.
Firstly, we can see that the differentiation between grammar and lexis was not as great as we imagined it to be at this point in history. Question three is clearly based around collocational knowledge of particular words, while question four works as a textbook example of asking what it means to know a word.
Secondly, we can see that not only was content based learning alive at the time but it was also thoroughly kicking. I dare say that those grading the essays would be looking for appropriate subject knowledge just as much as they would for accurate use of the language.
Finally, what the hell’s with all the phonetics? Why, I wonder, was it so much more important then than it is now.
1) We’re all getting dumber. Gordon notes:
The test is a good example of how our society has been dumbed down. Have a look at some old textbooks and you’ll see. I looked at a grade 4 British textbook from 1920 and it was equal to or more complex than my textbooks from university in the 90′s. What do you envision our tests will look like in 2100? Will anyone be able to handwrite or spell? Will we even teach languages or will it all be translated automatically? Will we even have more than 300 languages left by then?
2) Such testing is no longer relevant. spiral78 explains:
It’s not that we’re stupid; it is that some of the stuff they were testing for back then simply isn’t a priority in the modern world.
3) The people who knew this stuff died in the war. mmcmorrow (who shared this on the ELT World forum) notes:
I wonder how many of these examinees found themselves in opposing trenches a couple of years later? I hear that mustard gas plays havoc with your fricatives.
I would have done horribly if I’d had to take this exam, but then again I would have been the product of a drastically different education system. It begs the question of where we’ll be in a hundred year’s time.
Pleas etake the time to check out Martin ‘mmcmorrow’ McMorrow’s wonderful podcast site.
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