The 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 achievement 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. Lets 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

5. Literature Test
a. “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

b. ‘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 expressing 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

Answers: 1. (E)   2. (B)   3. (A)   4. (B)   5a. (C)   5b. (E)   6. (E)   7. (B)   8. (B)



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  • Yikes, The only two I answered correctly for certain are the physics ( and I scored a D in freshman physics) and the mechanical skills ( and I am hopeless with tools). I think they both were actually math questions, and that I can do.

  • Yikes, I took those tests. I took the language aptitude test and did it as a puzzle. The results much to my distress came out high and then came Amharic which made high school French look like a cake walk.

  • I remember taking a test in the basement of the Post Office in Boulder, Colorado in April of 1963. I cannot believe I actually passed it, unless, it was one of the psychological “games” which early Peace Corps pschologists were so happy to play to select for various programs. I was not selected for any educational program, which would make sense. But, I did receive a telegram some four weeks later inviting me to apply for a training program in Health/Community Development in Colombia. And that, has made all the difference!

    • “And that has made all the difference,” is indeed a conclusion for most if not all of us. That is why I am still teaching French and Arabic, still on my Peace Corps mission.,

  • I do not recall taking any tests before being invited to train. I wrote a letter shortly after JFK inauguration and do not remember learning/hearing anything until spring of 1962, inviting me to train for Colombia 3 (1962)… In my letter I had indicated that I would not be available until my college graduation spring 1962.
    But once in training, then all the psych tests began… and deselection reigned!

  • Hey, I took those tests in September of 1962 at the US post office in St. Cloud, Minnesota My memory is that the tests were more then the thirty minutes, more like two hours (maybe I was in the slow learners’ class )
    I remember leaving quite discouraged, thinking I would never be invited because I did not do well on the tests. Nonetheless, I received a Thanksgiving surprise when a letter and info packet arrived inviting me to join India 3 in early 1963—I guess the PC selection officers liked my farm background and 4-H experience I am eternally grateful, their decision opened the door to a much blessed and very event filled life

  • Well it has been exactly 57 years since the spring of 1964 … understandably I have absolutely no recollection of taking such a test … but then, that just means that I likely did!! Based on how I did on the questions above, thank the gods I got through it at all. I do recall lots of talk in training at San Francisco State College (now University) that we were probably selected for English-speaking Liberia because we had poor language learning aptitude. Thus, I probably did take some sort of test to get on the Liberia list. Thus began the rest of my life.

  • I remember taking the Peace Corps test, sitting in an upstairs room of the Post Office in Bangor, Maine, a big room, spring, maybe February 1964. I do not remember any of the questions, but I should have aced the language test in French. Still teaching French, and – thanks to the Peace Corps – Arabic.

  • I remember taking the tests seated at a large rectangular oak library table in a large hall of the Downtown Chicago Public Library spring 1961 along with maybe a dozen or two other potential peace Corps Volunteers.

    In addition to the two aptitude tests, I recall filling out a ‘popular culture’ questionnaire asking thins like “Which of the following magazines have you read in the past year?” Ant then there were a list of dozens of magazines.

    After completing the tests, I was sure the Peace Corps was indeed seekin only the best and the brightest. So you can imagine my surprise when I was invited to train for Malaya I.

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