The Golden Horseshoe Test
has been administered in West Virginia
each year since 1931 and is the longest running program of its kind in any state. The top-scoring students in each county receive the prestigious award and are inducted as “knights” and “ladies” of the Golden Horseshoe Society
|December 1, 2023 – February 1, 2024
||Counties and schools may register private and home-school students for access to the multiple choice online Golden Horseshoe test.
|January 5, 2024
||Deadline for requesting a braille test.
|Tuesday, March 19, 2024
||Golden Horseshoe Written Essay Test is given state-wide.
|Wednesday, March 29, 2024
||Deadline for Golden Horseshoe written essay tests to be scanned and emailed to the WVDE.
|March 21-April 4, 2024
||Golden Horseshoe Online Multiple Choice Test window.
|April 9, 10, 11, 2024
||Make-Up Multiple Choice Test
|June 11, 2024
||Golden Horseshoe Ceremony
Golden Horseshoe Information
About the WV Golden Horseshoe Award
One of the highlights of the eighth-grade year is the opportunity for a student to become a Knight or Lady of the Golden Horseshoe. This prestigious program takes its name from the golden horseshoes given to the early explorers of West Virginia. In 1716 the Governor of the Virginia colony, Alexander Spotswood, saw the need for exploration of the land west of the Allegheny Mountains, most of which is now West Virginia. The governor organized a party of about 50 men, all of whom adopted the pledge, “Sic jurat transcendere monte,” which means “Thus he swears to cross the mountains.” Governor Spotswood presented each member of his party with a small golden horseshoe to commemorate the bravery of those who crossed the mountains into Western Virginia, beginning the Golden Horseshoe tradition.
This historical tradition was revitalized in the late 1920’s. To promote the study of state history, the idea of forming West Virginia Clubs was proposed by Phil M. Conley, an editor of The West Virginia Review. In late 1929, Mr. Conley took his idea to State Superintendent of Free Schools William C. Cook. Superintendent Cook believed that the State Department of Education should take the lead in promoting a comprehensive study of the state. He proposed expanding Conley’s idea by honoring the highest-achieving students with a state award. In 1930 some 2,736 clubs were organized with more than 48,000 students as members. In the first Golden Horseshoe ceremony, held in 1931, 87 students from 46 counties were honored as Knights and Ladies of the Golden Horseshoe. The Golden Horseshoe became known as a symbol of scholastic achievement to honor students who excel in the study of West Virginia. Since that time approximately 15,000 eighth-grade students have received a golden pin in the shape of a horseshoe, much like those given by Governor Spotswood some three hundred years ago. This pin symbolizes the student’s knowledge and understanding of their state’s proud heritage.
The program of studies in combination with state awards is unique in its statewide recognition of scholastic achievement. Each year approximately 22,000 eighth grade students spend the school year studying a comprehensive West Virginia curriculum. The curriculum engages the students in the intense study of the history, geography, economy and government of the Mountain State. The primary goal of the program is to promote pride in our state, develop intellectual and participatory skills as well as foster attitudes that are necessary for students to participate as effective, involved, and responsible citizens. The State Department of Education, in effect, uses the Golden Horseshoe award to honor “all-state” West Virginia Studies students.
Each year 221 eighth-grade students are honored for their knowledge of the state in a one-day ceremony held in Charleston. The Golden Horseshoe winners have outscored their classmates in school and county wide testing competitions and made top scores on a West Virginia Department of Education test which measures their grasp of West Virginia Studies. Students also write an essay focusing on some aspect of West Virginia current events. A minimum of two students from each county and one student from the West Virginia Schools for the Deaf and Blind at Romney are selected for the award. The other 110 honorees are selected from the 55 counties based on each county’s eighth-grade population.
While in Charleston to celebrate the Golden Horseshoe Day, the honorees are treated to a tour of the Capitol and Cultural Center and a luncheon held in their honor. The high point of the Golden Horseshoe Ceremony is the induction of the students into the Golden Horseshoe Society. The State Superintendent of Schools presides over the induction ceremony. Each student kneels and, with a tap of a sword on the shoulder, is dubbed either a Knight or Lady of the Golden Horseshoe Society. Each student is presented a Golden Horseshoe pin and the 70-year honor and tradition continues.
Facts About the WV Golden Horseshoe Award
The Golden Horseshoe originated in the early 1700s in colonial Virginia when then-Governor Alexander Spotswood saw the need for exploration of the land west of the Allegheny Mountains, most of which is now West Virginia. The governor organized a party of about 50 men to explore the frontier. At the end of the exploration, he presented each member of the party with a golden horseshoe. Translated from Latin, the inscription on each horseshoe read, “Thus it was decided to cross the mountains.” On the other side was written,”Order of the Golden Horseshoe.” Because of this, the recipients became known as “The Knights of the Golden Horseshoe.”
The Golden Horseshoe is probably the most coveted award bestowed upon West Virginia students each year. During the induction ceremony, students kneel and the State Superintendent, using an antique sword, dubs students as “ladies” or “knights” of the Golden Horseshoe.
The Golden Horseshoe Test has been administered in West Virginia since 1931 and is the longest-running program of its kind in any state.
Two hundred twenty-one West Virginia eighth graders receive the award each year. The two top-scoring students from each county are given the award (total of 110), as are another 110 students selected throughout the state based on population. In addition, the top-scoring student from the West Virginia School for the Deaf and Blind is presented the award.
Recipients during the past seven decades include citizens from all walks of life, state Supreme Court justices, legislators, attorneys, business leaders and educators.
In conversations with Department of Education officials, West Virginia native Homer Hickam indicated that his one regret was not winning the Golden Horseshoe award as a student. The author of “October Sky” was presented an honorary Golden Horseshoe award in 1999 because of all the positive reinforcement he has given the state.
Have you Lost Your Golden Horseshoe Pin?
Students who are inducted in to the prestigious society receive what some call one of the most treasured pieces of memorabilia of their school days, the Golden Horseshoe pin. These pins are awarded to eighth grade students who achieve the highest scores on the Golden Horseshoe test in their county.
Realizing that some recipients have lost their pins over the years, the WVDE can help replace them. Anyone who has lost his/her pin can download a form that can be sent in to order a replacement pin.
Request a New Pin Form (Word Format)
Please verify your information and Year as we have it in our database. You can find the database of winners here:
WV Culture Golden Horseshoe Winners
Preparing for the Golden Horseshoe Essay and Multiple Choice Online Test
Visit the Golden Horseshoe Preparation Page
- Released and Practice Test Items
Providing Access to the Golden Horseshoe Online Practice and Actual Tests for your county’s students
All 8th grade students must take the Golden Horseshoe Test. This test is a competition, but also fulfills the social studies testing requirement pursuant to W.Va. State Code §18-2-9. It is not a summative exam. We will be using WebTop to administer the Golden Horseshoe Online Multiple Choice Test. Students who are not familiar with this platform become familiar with it by taking the weekly practice test. We request that all students test their usernames and passwords by January 31, 2024.
Both home and private school students are eligible to take the test. All students must be registered using the Golden Horseshoe Registration form by February 1, 2023. The form must be filled out completely and correctly. If the form is not completely correct, the form will be returned and the student(s) will not be registered.
Public School Students
Public school students do not need to be registered. To access the tests, students will need a username and password for the WebTop. If students do not have the login information, it may be obtained through your building principal and/or county technology specialist. Your county technology specialist can provide you with a new or simplified login if you need one.
Once correctly completed private/homeschool registrations have been received by the WVDE, credentials are generated and sent to the schools.
Homeschool students will need to be registered to take the test. The registration form can only be completed by a teacher, counselor, or school/county administrator where the student would normally have attended public school. Once the student has been registered, we will email the person who submitted the registration with the student’s information and instructions.
NOTE: Homeschool students are required take the exam at the local public school.
Private School Students
Private schools may participate as long as they have a school code and complete the registration form. The school code and county code can be obtained from the Master School Code website, by selecting the county the school is located in and then scrolling through the list of schools.
NOTE: Private schools must take the essay test and online Golden Horseshoe test on the same day as the rest of the county. Private schools should notify the county Golden Horseshoe County Contact that they are participating so that information can be distributed to the school.
If a private school does not have a school code, one can be obtained by contacting the Office of Information Systems at 1-833-627-2833.
Golden Horseshoe Registration Form
Practice Test Information
Practice Test 1 – January 15th – January 26th
Practice Test 2 – January 29th – February 9th
Students are only permitted to take each test once. We do not release practice test scores. The practice test is used to familiarize students to the testing portal.
Students access the practice tests using the same icon in webtop (for public school students) or the same external link (for nonpublic and homeschool students).
Essay Test – March 19, 2024
The essay test is not required and if a student chooses not to complete the essay it does NOT disqualify them from taking the online Golden Horseshoe Test. The essay test is used to break a tie between scores for the online test.
The essay test is scheduled for March 19, 2024. One week prior to the test, we will e-mail the essay question to the Golden Horseshoe County Contact.
We only accept scanned submissions of Golden Horseshoe essays by the county contact. Please collect all essays from schools and scan them into individual PDF files by SCHOOL NAME. We are no longer accepting mailed copies of the essays.
- The essay test CAN be administered by the regular WV studies teacher in a regular 40-45 minute class period.
- The teacher/test administrator will be asked to complete a confidentiality agreement and an absentee roster. The absentee roster should include students who are absent on the day of the essay test and any student who chooses NOT to take the essay test.
Online Test – March 21-April 4, 2024
Please reference the schedule below for testing dates. Each county is assigned a specific date.
- Thursday, March 21: Barbour, Braxton, Doddridge, Fayette, Grant, Hardy, Marion, Mercer, Monongalia, Morgan, Putnam, Tyler
- Tuesday, March 26: Berkeley, Brooke, Gilmer, Jackson, McDowell, Mineral, Raleigh, Randolph, Taylor, Webster, Eastern Panhandle Preparatory Academy
- Wednesday, March 27: Boone, Calhoun, Hampshire, Hancock, Jefferson, Logan, Nicholas, Pocahontas, Preston, Tucker, WVSD/B, Wyoming
- Thursday, March 28: Harrison, Lewis, Monroe, Pendleton, Roane, Summers, Upshur, Wayne
- Tuesday, April 2: Cabell, Mason, Wetzel
- Wednesday, April 3: Clay, Lincoln, Kanawha, Wood, Wirt
- Thursday, April 4: Greenbrier, Marshall, Mingo, Ohio, Pleasants, Ritchie, West Virginia Academy.
Public school students access the testing platform via their WebTop. Home and private-school students will have an external link to access the practice and online tests.
Essay Test Forms:
The online test is a 50 multiple choice question test that can be completed in 40-45 minutes.
- The test proctor/moderator/administrator MUST NOT be the regular classroom teacher for the online Golden Horseshoe Test.
- The test will be turned on at 7 AM each morning and off at 4:00 PM each afternoon.
- The test is timed by the proctors/moderators and students should be allowed 40-45 minutes to take the test.
- If a student has an IEP that requires classroom accommodations, please provide those accommodations. For example, if a student requires extra time, please give that student extra time. If a student requires someone to read to them, please arrange for someone to read the test to the student.
The regular WV Studies teacher may NOT administer the Online Golden Horseshoe Test to the students. The WVDE requires an online confidentiality agreement stating that the test administrator is NOT the regular WV Studies teacher and will keep all information regarding the Golden Horseshoe test confidential. This confidentiality agreement must be signed 3 days prior to the county’s scheduled test day.
Internet Usage Tips on Test Day
- We suggest that you ask all other computer users to refrain from downloading or tying up the broadband.
- If there is an internet slow down, please allow the students enough time to make the test fair.
- If a student is kicked off the Internet, just have them log back in. As long as the student has not submitted the test, he/she can reenter the test
An absentee roster is maintained in each testing room by the test administrator. For the essay part of the Golden Horseshoe, only students who were absent or did not take essay should be recorded on the absentee roster. These rosters need to be emailed to Dustin Lambert.
During the online test, the test administrator needs to use the online test roster to record every student who took the test in the room. Do not record students who were absent. These rosters need to be emailed to Dustin Lambert.
Online Test Forms
Please email your roster and confidentiality agreements to Dustin Lambert.
The number of winners is determined by population, but every county is given a minimum of two winners. The larger the population, the larger the number of winners. The Golden Horseshoe test is a competition within a county NOT within the state. We do not have average scores for the state or counties.
Each year, it is customary to honor selected educators or individuals who have made an outstanding contribution to West Virginia, West Virginia Studies and/or Golden Horseshoe program by naming them as Honorary Knights or Ladies of the Golden Horseshoe. An individual is nominated by the county superintendent only. Each county superintendent may nominate only one person per year. Only 10 persons a year may receive the award. In the event more than 10 nominations are received, a committee will review all nominations and select the ten most deserving nominees. To nominate an individual, please complete the Golden Horseshoe Online Honorary Nomination Form
Dustin Lambert, Coordinator (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Office of Middle/Secondary Learning
1900 Kanawha Boulevard, East
Building 6 Room 221
Charleston, WV 25305