History of the SAT

The College Board was formed in 1900 with the intent of standardizing the admissions process at elite universities. At around the same time, Alfred Binet developed the first IQ test to measure intelligence. During World War I, Harvard Professor Robert Yerkes persuaded the U.S. Army to let him use the IQ test to best select positions for military recruits. Carl Brigham, a colleague of Yerkes, administered the test at Princeton and Cooper Union in the 1920s.

In the 1930s, the College Board asked Brigham to spearhead a project that would standardize this IQ test to allow it to serve as a college admissions test for high school seniors. This redeveloped test was called the Scholastic Aptitude Test (shortened to SAT, though this acronym now stands for nothing). The test was split into verbal and math sections, a format that remained until 2004. In the ’80s and ’90s, as a result of increased popularity, a greater number of less qualified students began taking the SAT. The College Board decided to recenter the scores potentially to stave off public outcry from parents and students who believed the public school system was declining.

The most recent change to the SAT came in 2005, partially as a result of criticism from the University of California system. The College Board removed analogy questions from the verbal section and quantitative comparison questions from the math portion. The biggest change came from the addition of the writing section, a modification of the SAT Subject Test in writing. The College Board then changed the name of the test yet again to the SAT Reasoning Test, which is the name it still holds today.


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