A Short History of the SAT

SAT Prep

The SAT is one of the tests that many schools administer to students for them to gain entry to college. The test has been around for a while now: 92 years in 2018 to be exact. But did you know that the SAT actually started out as a test for soldiers’ intelligence? Have you ever wondered how this test became a prerequisite for acceptance into tertiary education? Then read on.

The test itself was actually introduced in 1929 by a nonprofit organization known as the College Board: an association of schools, colleges, universities, and other educational institutions, which was formed to expand access to, and promote readiness for, college education. However, the SAT’s roots go back even farther: during the First World War, to be exact. At the time; Robert Yerkes, a prominent member of the “IQ Testing Movement”, convinced the US Army to allow him to test soldiers’ IQ using an instrument called the Army Alpha in 1917: an 8-part test designed to assess intellectual and emotional functionality. One of Yerkes’ assistants; a man named Carl Brigham, then began adapting the Army Alpha as a measure to test students for college admission. Brigham made the questions more difficult, and first used it in 1926 on would-be college applicants.

Then, in 1933, Harvard president James Bryant Conant had a plan to create a scholarship program for deserving college applicants that did not come from the usual Boarding Schools that were the typical sources for Harvard students. He asked Assistant Dean Henry Chauncey to look for a test that could be used for evaluating academically-gifted boys. Chauncey met Carl Brigham and decided to endorse Brigham’s test (now called the SAT, or Scholastic Aptitude Test) to President Conant for use as the scholarship admissions test. In 1938, Chauncey talked to all of the members of the CEEB (now called the College Board), and convinced them to use the SAT as a standardized test for scholarship admission.

When World War 2 broke out, all of the previous admissions exams that the College Board had been using were completely abolished, and the SAT was tasked to fill this admissions testing void; becoming the only admissions exam for those wishing to enter college. The creation of the Educational Testing Service in 1948 further cemented the SAT’s position as the basic admission test for college applicants. In time, the SAT has also undergone several changes: the most recent of which took place in 2016, to become more aligned with high school subjects and curricula.

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