As teens study and strive towards their best SAT scores, they probably imagine that the SAT has been around forever, designed specifically to torture and torment anxious high school students. The SAT actually has a fascinating and complex history; understanding its roots might make preparing for the test a bit easier. Read on for six of the most important moments in SAT history.
The College Entrance Examination Board was founded, consisting of twelve colleges and universities: mostly elite institutions in the northeastern U.S. The founders had been worrying that the lack of uniform testing for colleges and the current “admission by certificate” system gave high schools too much control. In this system, inspectors were sent to high schools around the country to ensure students were receiving appropriate coursework to prepare them for the rigors of university classes. The founders also believed that this certification system was funneling students into the middle states and not focusing their attention to northeastern colleges. This reasoning later indirectly contributed to the founding of the ACT, which was created in response to the stronghold the SAT had among colleges in the Northeast and, later, the West Coast.
The first SAT was administered to 8,000 students. The number of students applying to colleges was growing and the colleges needed a better way to evaluate the incoming students. The SAT itself was modeled after the IQ test, first administered in 1905, used to evaluate army recruits and prospective soldiers in WWI. Most students today would bomb the original SAT!
A great year for test prep organizations… the College Board released a study confirming that scores can be influenced positively by test prep materials and classes. Before this admission, the prevailing wisdom was that test scores were based on innate intelligence and could not be influenced by test preparation and studying. No wonder the College Board eventually changed what SAT stood for (again and again)!
Students are allowed to use calculators for the first time on the Math section of the SAT. (Parents let your kids know that, in your day, you weren’t allowed the luxury of a calculator!)
The SAT is substantially revised, partially in response to criticism from the President of the University of California. In response, the College Board added a Writing section with an essay, while removing troublesome questions types like Analogies and Quantitative Comparisons. This new test combined three scores for Critical Reading, Math, and Writing for a perfect score of 2400, rather than the traditional 2400. Unfortunately for the College Board, these changes opened the door for the ACT to gain in popularity.
The SAT will undergo another major overhaul. In addition to a slew of changes to every section of the test, this new SAT is tied tightly to the controversial Common Core and includes a variety of subscores and cross-test scores targeted more towards state testing than college admissions. The College Board has also partnered with Khan Academy to provide free test prep. Will this be enough to lift the SAT back to its former position of preeminence? After nearly a century, the SAT continues to demand our attention and, perhaps grudgingly, our respect.