One reader asked if I could post some sample questions from the California high school exit exam, which came under fire in a recent and controversial study, so that readers could get a better sense of how tough the test really is.

I’ve included some math questions and a reading section with some questions. Try them out and see how well you do. I’ll post the answer key this afternoon.

Traditions Clothing Store is having a sale. Shirts that were regularly priced at \$20 are on sale for \$17. What is the percentage of decrease in the price of the shirts?

A 3%

B 15%

C 18%

D 85%

A rectangular field is 363 feet long and 240 feet wide. How many acres is the field? (1 acre = 43,560 square feet)

A 2

B 3

C 4

D 5

Which equation is equivalent to (x+3)/8 = (2x-1)/5 ?

A 5x + 3 = 16x -1

B 5x + 15 = 16x -8

C 8x +3 = 10x -1

D 8x +24 = 10x – 5

A Universal Language

1 Thousands of different languages exist in the world, some spoken by millions of people and some spoken by only a few. Since it is difficult and time-consuming to learn a new language, many people speak only one. Some people have a little knowledge of one or two other languages but aren’t able to put them into practice very often. Travelers to foreign countries often have to rely on a translator or an international dictionary. Wouldn’t it be helpful, then, to have a universal language that everyone could understand?

Dr. Zamenhof and His Belief in the Benefits of a Universal Language

L. L. Zamenhof believed in such a language. A linguist from Warsaw, Poland, he felt that a common language would contribute to better communication and help ease world tensions. Zamenhof wanted to create a language that did not favor speakers from any geographic area and one that would be easy for everyone to learn. He rejected existing languages because they were either too complicated or would put native speakers at an advantage over others.

Zamenhof published his universal language in 1887. It quickly became known as “Esperanto” after his pseudonym, which means “one who is hoping.” He was hoping that his language would become accepted and spread throughout the world.

Zamenhof did not envision his language as one replacing all other languages but instead as one spoken as a second language by people around the world. In addition to travelers, Esperanto could be useful for anyone wanting to learn more about other cultures. In fact, people from all around the world come together at Esperanto conventions, where the communication barrier is broken because everyone speaks the same language.

An Easy Language to Learn

Esperanto is easy to learn. The grammar and other rules of Esperanto are relatively simple, and all words are spelled as they sound. These features make it possible to become fluent in Esperanto much more quickly than in other languages. A knowledge of Esperanto also makes it easier to learn other foreign languages, since Esperanto has its roots in many different languages.

The majority of the words in Esperanto are derived from Latin and Romance languages, and French in particular. The rest of the vocabulary comes from German, English, Russian, Polish, and Greek. The words were chosen to be as easily recognizable as possible.

Most of the letters in Esperanto are pronounced the same way as they are in English. Some of the exceptions are the letter “J,” which is pronounced as we would pronounce a “Y,” and the letter “R,” which is trilled. The letter “G” is always pronounced as in the word “go,” and never as in the word “gentle.”

In Esperanto, it is also easy to identify the different parts of speech. Nouns always end in the letter “o” or “on,” with plural nouns ending in “oj” or “ojn.” Some common nouns are “amiko” for friend, “libro” for book, and “vorto” for word. Adjectives always end in the letter “a.” Some common adjectives in Esperanto are “granda,” which means large, and “bruna,” which means brown.

There are no indefinite articles in Esperanto. The only article used is “la,” which is used like the English word “the.” There is no need to learn different articles for masculine or feminine words, or for any cases.

Another interesting rule of the language is that word order is more flexible than in most languages. For example, an adjective may be placed before or after a noun.

The Future of Esperanto

Although Esperanto is easy to learn, it has not yet achieved widespread usage as a universal language. One reason is that many people simply prefer their own language. They are proud of their country, and their own language is one way to keep that identity.

Another reason is that, while many will agree with the idea of a universal language, they do not have the time or motivation to learn one. Learning a new language can be time-consuming, and many people will not take the time to learn one unless they have an inclination to learn languages or see some personal benefit in doing so. Others, perhaps, have not even heard of Esperanto or are unaware that such a universal language exists.

Despite Esperanto’s seeming lack of popularity, it is estimated that several million people can speak the language. Many magazines are published in Esperanto, and books — from Shakespeare to Dante — have been translated into Esperanto. Esperanto leagues and organizations help maintain the language and provide interested people with information. Perhaps in the future, Esperanto will find its place as a widely used and accepted universal language.

10. Read this sentence from the passage.

Learning a new language can be time-consuming, and many people will not take the time to learn one unless they have an inclination to learn languages or see some personal benefit in doing so.

What does the word inclination mean?

A liking

B voice

C profit

D indifference

11. Based on the passage, which sentence is the BEST conclusion about Zamenhof?

A He wanted the fame that creating a universal language would bring.

B He wanted to make a contribution to world peace and understanding.

C He thought English was the best basis for a universal language.

D He believed that pride in one’s country led to conflicts and wars.

12. How does the passage reflect the themes and concerns of the 21st century?

A It is about global communication.

B It describes a particular language.

C It reinforces the importance of research.

D It focuses on one person’s achievement.

You can check out a longer list of sample questions (including some with graphs and charts that I couldn’t copy into the blog easily) for math here and for English here.

The Stanford University study on the test, which I wrote about today, is making waves across the state. Check out this article in the San Francisco Chronicle, this one in the Los Angeles Times, an opinion piece in the Sacramento Bee, and this piece from KPBS.