At the time, the test was surrounded by controversy. Were these questions really a good test of knowledge? Or were they as eccentric as Edison himself? Did Edison really understand the importance of a college education? It was not long before the questions were leaked to newspapers by someone who took the test. The New York Times printed both the list of questions and the answers. As a result, Edison had to change the test more than once.
To Edison, knowing the answers was not as important as being able to answer so many different questions. He wanted employees who could memorize a great deal of information. Such people would be able to make quick business decisions for Edison's company. Ironically Edison's own son, Theodore, failed the test even though he was a gifted student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Even Albert Einstein, who took the test after it was published in the newspapers, failed.
In Edison's time, the job applicant had to write the answer underneath the question, rather than choosing from several possible answers. In the summer of 1998, our interns from Seton Hall Preparatory School selected the following questions from the dozens that were on the original tests and rewrote them as multiple choice questions.
Remember, the correct answer is the one given based on the information available in 1921.
1) What is the lightest wood?
2) Where is Manchuria?
3) What is the highest mountain?
4) Who invented the cotton gin?
5) What country are earthquakes most frequent?
6) How many miles are there between the earth and the sun?
7) Where is Pikes Peak?
8) Which U.S. president started a speech with the words, "Four score and seven years ago..."?
9) Rhode Island is the smallest state. What is the next smallest?
10) Where is the river Volga?
11) From what country did we get Louisiana?
12) Where is the so-called "Bad Lands"?
13) What is the Spanish Armada?
14) What state is the largest in 1921?
15) Where is Copenhagen?
16) Where is Tierra del Fuego?
17) Who was Hannibal?
Last updated: April 8, 2023