Take an Army literacy test from 1917


“Are pernicious pedestrians translucent?” Thought it would be easy, didn’t you?

More than 1.7 million Army recruits took the Devens Literacy Test during World War I, when intelligence testing was in its infancy.

American psychologists saw the recruitment of soldiers as an opportunity to test out their theories and gauge the intelligence of a huge number of Americans, historian Daniel J. Kevles has explained. By giving the test, the Army could sort recruits into military occupations.

The examiners were disappointed to learn that the average mental age of an Army recruit was 13 to 14 years.

The questions get more difficult as you go. Click twice on the test to see a larger version. See how to score yourself at the end.


How to score the Devens Test: Subtract the number of wrong answers (or—in this case—questions that you find unanswerable) from the ones you think you got right. Score below 6: Illiterate; 6-20: Primary literacy; 21-25: Grammar school literacy; 26-30: Junior high school; 31-35: Senior high school; 36-42: College level.

How’d you do? It’s a lot easier than that 8th grade test from 1912, don’t you think?

h/t Slate