The Famous Peace Corps Test

In the early days of the Peace Corps there was a Placement Test given to all applicants. Actually, it was two tests. A 30-minute General Aptitude Test and a 30-minute Modern Language Aptitude Test.

The areas of testing were in Verbal Aptitude, Agriculture, English, Health Sciences, Mechanical Skills, Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Mathematics, World History, Literature, United States History and Institutions, and Modern Language Aptitude. One-hour achievements tests in French and Spanish were also offered during the second hour.

The instruction pamphlet that accompanied the tests said that the results would be used “to help find the most appropriate assignment for each applicant.”

For those who missed the opportunity to take the tests, which were given –as best I can remember—from 1961 until around 1967, I am including a few of the questions. Let’s see if you could still get into the Peace Corps.

1. Verbal Aptitude
The question below consists of a word printed in capital letters, followed by five words or phrases lettered A through E. Choose the lettered word or phrase which is most nearly opposite in meaning to the word in capital letters.


(A) stationary
(B) free
(C) automatic
(D) common
(E) easy

2. Agriculture
After a seven year period of drought, an area had so much rain that floods were common. However, farms in these areas were still considered to be drought-stricken because

(A) Farmers had not had time to plant and harvest any crops
(B) The water table had not been raised significantly
(C) The economic losses had not been made up
(D) The floods had washed away the topsoil
(E) The large reservoirs had not yet been filled to capacity

3. Mechanical Skills
In this part solve the problem, using any available space on the page for scratchwork. Then indicate the one correct answer in the appropriate space on the answer sheet.

What does 28 feet of wire weigh, if 154 feet weighs 11 pounds?

(A) 2 lb.
(B) 28/11 lb.
(C) 11/2 lb.
(D) 7 lb.
(E) 14 lb.

4. United States History and Institutions
Upon which of the following did Jefferson base his argument for American independence in the Declaration of Independence?

(A) The rights of the colonists as Englishmen and British subjects
(B) The natural rights of man everywhere
(C) British neglect of the American colonies
(D) The absence of a written British constitution
(E) Britain’s indiscriminate disregard for procedural rights

5a. Literature Test
“The Hero as Divinity, the Hero as Prophet, are productions of old ages; not to be repeated in the new. They presuppose a certain rudeness of conception, which the progress of mere scientific knowledge puts an end to. There needs to be, as it were, a world vacant, or almost vacant of scientific forms, if men in their loving wonder are to fancy their fellow-man either a god or one speaking with the voice of a god.”

On the basis of content and style, the passage can be judged to be the work of:

(A) Swinburne
(B) Arnold
(C) Carlyle
(D) Macaulay
(E) Ruskin

‘Tis late to hearken, late to smile,
But better late than never:
I shall have lived a little while
Before I die for ever.Among other things, in these lines the poet is express-ing his belief that(A) a man should counterfeit cheer in preparing himself  for death
(B) life is bitter, but must be endured
(C) old age makes a man impatient for death
(D) it is never too late to repent one’s misdeeds
(E) there is no life after death
6. Health Sciences
The question below is followed by five suggested answers. Select the one which is best.

Which of the following would be the most satisfactory nutritional substitute for fresh orange juice?

(A) Fresh apple juice
(B) Fresh carrot juice
(C) Bottle prune juice
(D) Canned pineapple juice
(E) Canned grapefruit juice

7. Physics
A helium-filled toy balloon is tied by a 3-foot string to the bottom of a closed box so that the balloon occupies the exact center of the box. The box is then given a sudden shove. While the box is accelerating, the position of the balloon is

(A) in back of its starting position
(B) in front of the center of the box
(C) between the center of the box and its starting position
(D) at the center of the box
(E) at its starting position

8. World History
“The Calvinists were inclined to a democratic outlook by the circumstance that, for the most part, they remained a minority and were thus not able to prescribe the mode of life and religion of a whole region.”

Which of the following was probably among the regions which the author had in mind when he made this statement?

(A) Scotland
(B) France
(C) The Dutch Netherlands
(D) Geneva
(E) New England



1. (E)
2. (B)
3. (A)
4. (B)
6. (E)
7. (B)
8. (B)



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  • From the “Peace Corps Training Blues,” 1965

    Hoyt Smith, Peace Corps Volunteer, Ethiopia VI, Salt Lake City 1965
    As sung by Charlie Ipcar, Ethiopia VI
    Tune: probably one of Bob Dylan’s
    Peace Corps Training Talking Blues

    I signed the application and I took the placement test,
    I was very idealistic, wanted what was best;
    “The best of what?” you ask. Well, I’m sure I don’t know,
    But my folks was ‘gonna throw me out and I had no place to go.

    Now old Jack Vaugh he wrote me and he said “I want your bod’;
    We need you in the Peace Corps, son, so please give us the nod;
    Right here on this dotted line your name you must sign,
    And don’t ask me where you’re going, I just know your luck is fine.”

    Well, I filled out all them Peace Corps forms, nearly blew my mind:
    Dental, mental, passport, info, every other kind;
    I quit my job, broke the lease, even sold the car,
    And I came to Salt Lake City – a town without a bar.

  • I remember taking the test at the Post Office in St. Cloud Minnesota in September of 1962—didn’t know many of the answers then and knew even less when i took the questions in the above.Yet Peace Corps accepted me then and off to India I went as part of India III.
    I doubt PC would accept me now!!!

    • John Chromy, Don Dirnberger EC 22 77-79 Antigua and Barbuda West Indies. How is the world treating you these days? I am with Habitat for Humanity Metro Denver through AmeriCorps. Be safe

      You know anyone who has the triple crown of service?

      Peace Corps EC 22
      Crisis Corps – Response Honduras 99
      AmeriCorps. 21-23

      Just wondering


  • Yep, I remember it well. Went down to the Post Office in Carbondale, IL to take it. The room was full.

  • I think the test was designed to rule out intellectual bores who knew too much to be funny and flexible. Hopefully, those of us who would have gotten about half right would have been just right for the Peace Corps….lol

  • In first Peace Corps training at Camp Crozier in Puerto Rico, February to May 1967, I recall some testing, but it was those weekly sessions with a psychologist (psych) that almost broke me. Some trainees would find pink slips in the mail boxes and that would tell them they were deselected. We started with 96 trainees and at the end of the three-month training program we were 64 to swear-in and go to Honduras as Peace Corps Volunteers.

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