A Brief(ish) Timeline of the SAT and ACT

1900—twelve university presidents form the College Entrance Examination Board in order to create a uniform college admission test in essay format. This allowed students to take one test for several universities instead of a test for each university. In World War I the first IQ test is given to a large group of Americans—the Army Alpha—administered to identify soldiers qualified to fight.

By 1926—Carl Brigham, a Princeton psychology professor and eugenics advocate, adapts the Army Alpha into the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT).

1934—Harvard president James Bryant Conant first uses the SAT to identify gifted Midwestern scholarship students who did not attend Eastern boarding schools.

1939—after grading tests by hand, the SAT introduces machine scoring to accommodate the 10,000 test takers. At this point, only 1% of high school graduates take the SAT.

1946—Stanley Kaplan begins SAT prep in his parents’ Brooklyn home. Background: Kaplan was an aspiring doctor, but explained that he was rejected from every medical school program because each school had already filled its quota for Jewish students. He strongly believed that each student should be taken on his or her own merit despite any difference of race (despite the needs of any particular school). He also strongly believed that the SAT could be a vehicle for that meritocracy. The idea of an even playing field is central to what many who believe in the test believe in. The SAT was first dubbed an “aptitude” test and touted as a test students could not prepare for. (Wikipedia) Kaplan saw patterns in the test and began to teach strategy.

1957—more than 500,000 students take the test.

1958—High schools begin sharing results with students.

1959— University of Iowa education professor E.F. Lindquist launches the American College Testing Program (ACT).

1960—The University of California begins requiring the SAT for admissions.

1969—The College Board begins to offer fee waivers for low-income students. Bowdoin stops requiring the SAT, becoming a pioneer in the test-optional movement. (93% require)

1979—the FTC determines that Kaplan’s test prep could raise student’s scores, following an investigation into his marketing. At 1st the college board denied that preparation was possible, now they make the best-selling test prep books.

1994—the College Board drops “aptitude” from the SAT’s name. 2005—the SAT adds writing…and makes other changes.

2012—For the first time in history, there are more ACT testers than SAT testers.

2016—the SAT becomes more like the ACT and announces it will have a summer test to replace the January test.

2017—The ACT announces it will have a summer test.

2019—The Rick Springer college admissions scandal.

2020—The ACT announces single-section retakes. This still has not happened. The pandemic hits. The SAT and ACT are cancelled nationwide in April, May, and June. Many universities adopt test-optional policies.

2021—The SAT essay and SAT subject tests are discontinued.

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