ICAEW.com works better with JavaScript enabled.

Example questions set for the Preliminary Examination in 1882-1886

The Knowledge guide to ICAEW examination papers has been developed to help you track down the examination papers and their associated publications through the years. On this page we focus on the questions set for the preliminary examination in the 1880s.

In the early days of the Institute the preliminary examination tested the general knowledge of candidates seeking admission to the ICAEW.

The following sample questions provide a glimpse of the type of questions candidates were expected to be able to answer:

English Composition

Write a short essay on one, but not more than one of the following subjects

  • Which of Shakespeare's plays is, in your opinion, the most beautiful? Give your reasons, and the argument of the play.
  • The pleasures of the Sea-side


  • The diameter of a carriage wheel is 50 inches, and the circumference measures 3.14159 times the diameter; find approximately the number of times the wheel revolves in a second, if the carriage travels at the rate of 12 miles per hour.
  • Explain the ordinary rule for finding the Greatest Common Measure of two numbers. Take as example 2431 and 770.


  • If a quadrilateral is inscribed in a circle, the opposite angles are equal to two right angles. Prove this.

History of England and Geography

  • Note the events for which each of the following years is remarkable:- 1264, 1290, 1340, 1347, 1349, 1360, 1381, 1400, 1413, 1420
  • Describe a canoe voyage from the source to the mouth of the Thames, giving the names of the towns passed and the tributaries which join the river.
  • Who were the aspirants to the throne on the death of Edward VI.? Consider the validity of their various claims.
  • Draw a map illustrating the importance of the Suez Canal to England.
  • Who was the Nun of Kent?
  • Give a short account of the massacre of St. Bartholomew's Day.
  • Explain carefully the respective claims of Stephen and Matilda to the crown of England.
  • Who fought and who won at Vinegar Hill, Brandywine, Copenhagen, Corunna, Cape St. Vincent? What were the provisions of the Treaty of Amiens and the Convention of Cintra?
  • Write out twenty Towns, ten Rivers, six States, and five mountains of India.


  • Translate into French:- I am at this moment a ruined man; everything is going from me, -my place in the world, the estate of my family, my father's house, my seat in parliament, the power of living among my countrymen, or indeed of living anywhere; but all this does not oppress me so much as the misery which I have brought upon you.


  • Sulphur is said to be Allotropic. Describe experiments showing how different forms of Sulphur may be obtained.

Animal Physiology

  • What is the evidence that different functions are performed by the anterior and posterior roots of the Spinal Nerves respectively? What are those functions?

Magnetism, Electricity, Light & Heat

  • Why is it that, if a glass tube be held in the hand and rubbed with a silk handkerchief, it exhibits electrical properties, and if the same experiments be performed with a metal tube, no such properties are commonly observed?
  • How may the mean coefficient of expansion of a metallic rod be determined?