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SAT History - The evolution of the SAT

The SAT: you know the role that the test plays in the college admissions process, but you may not know the history of this exam. Interested in learning about the SAT's history? Read on!

SAT History

Did you know that what began as a series of Army IQ tests eventually evolved into what is now known as the SAT? In the early 1900s, many of the country's leading universities and colleges sought a way to standardize the admissions process. Though the first College Boards were administered in 1901, the invention of the IQ test in 1905 and the results of IQ tests administered to Army recruits during World War I prompted the College Entrance Examination Board to explore how these tests could be adapted for use in the college admissions process. In 1926 the first group of high school students took the SAT, beginning a rite of passage that continues to this day.

Though the SAT has gone through several format changes over the years, the most recent changes occurred in 2016. Featuring some of the most dramatic changes to the test structure in several years, the “New SAT” debuted in March 2016, and included changes to the score range, section structure, length of the test, total number of questions, and scoring policy. The old SAT featured three main sections: Critical Reading, Writing & Essay, and Math. The New SAT combined reading and writing into one section called “Evidence-Based Reading and Writing”, with a separate, optional essay section. On the New SAT, students could earn a maximum of 800 point on each of the two sections, for a total max score of 1600 on the exam. Previously, students could score up to 2400, with an 800 on each of the three sections. The new test is also shorter, comprised of 154 questions with a time limit of 3 hours (without the essay). Finally, students are not penalized for guessing on the New SAT. On the previous version of the test, students lost ¼ point for each incorrect answer..

In 2009 the College Board rolled out its new score reporting policy to include Score Choice. This policy change allows students to pick and choose which scores to send to colleges, giving students more control over how and when colleges receive their scores. While students now have the choice to submit their best SAT scores, some popular colleges and universities, such as Cornell, still ask that students send all test scores. You can find a full list of college score-use practices on the College Board website.

More than two million students take the SAT each year, and though a growing number of colleges and universities have made the submission of standardized test scores optional for applicants, the vast majority of schools still require and utilize these scores as part of the admissions process.

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