Sure, MIT’s acceptance rate is hovering around a record 10% right now, but back in the late 19th century, it was a different story. The first class of students who registered in 1865 weren’t required to take  formal entrance exams. They just needed to be “properly prepared.” Hm. Fast forward a few years when, in 1869, the MIT Corporation finally decided to add qualifying exams in required subject areas, including English, Geometry, Algebra, and Arithmetic.

Thanks to the folks at MIT Achives and Special Collections, you can give those exams your best shot. Algebra section below:


Check your answers (or get a few hints), and try the English, Geometry, and Arithmetic tests.

Note about answers: Questions have been answered by 20th century persons and won’t always match those that might have been given by 19th century applicants (or 21st century applicants). You are invited to send comments and refutations to