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History of the SAT - A Timeline
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Formation of the College Board

Formation of the College Entrance Examination Board in 1900. This organization, set up by presidents of 12 leading universities administers admissions tests. The purpose is to standardize the admissions process administratively and to force New England boarding schools to adopt a uniform curriculum. In 1901, the first College Boards were conducted. Exams were done in essay format for specific subject areas. Sample some questions from the 1901 test.


Invention of the IQ

A French psychologist, Alfred Binet, is credited with inventing the first IQ test, a test that could measure one's intelligence. Binet's intent was to identify slow learners by determining their mental ages.

World War I

Experimentation with army IQ Test

During the first World War, IQ testing advances greatly when Robert Yerkes, a Harvard professor, persuaded the army to let him administer IQ tests to nearly two million recruits. Yerkes wants to use tests to choose officer candidates and help the IQ movement build up a record of statistical evidence. The resulting Alpha and Beta tests mark the first time an IQ test has mass results. The goal of IQ testers is to select the most intelligent people of society, not necessarily to reform education.


Carl Brigham invents the SAT

Carl C. Brigham, who worked with Yerkes on the Army IQ tests, publishes a book, A Study of American Intelligence, on the results. Brigham's book analyzes the findings by race and concludes that American education is declining "and will proceed with an accelerating rate as the racial mixture becomes more and more extensive."

Around this time, Brigham also administers his own objective version of the Army test to Princeton freshmen as well as to applicants to Cooper Union, an all-scholarship technical college in New York City. The College Board then puts him in charge of a committee to develop a test that could be used by a wider group of schools. This test becomes the SAT. In 1926 the SAT is administered to high school students for the first time. Sample some questions from 1926 test.


Conant and the use of SAT for scholarship programs

James Conant is appointed president of Harvard. His assistants, Henry Chauncey and Wilbur Bender are given the task of figuring out a way to select public school students for a Harvard scholarship program. They travel to Princeton in the end of 1933, where they meett Brigham. Starting in 1934, the SAT is used to select students for Harvard scholarships. A year later, Harvard begins requiring all candidates to take the SAT.

In the same year, IBM machines descended from the Markograph are used to score tests for the NY State Regents and Providence, Rhode Island public schools. By the end of the thirties, the SAT was used as a scholarship test for all Ivy League schools.


The SAT, a tool of the meritocracy

On January 24 Brigham dies at age 52.His death removed the main obstacle for the testing field to be more cohesive. On April 2, the Army-Navy College Qualifying Test is administered to at least 316,000 high school seniors all over the country proving that standardized multiple-choice tests can be given to a mass group.

In May, Conant publishes the third in a series of articles for the Atlantic Monthly entitled "Wanted: American Radicals." He wrote that the American radical "believes in equality of opportunity, not equality of rewards."


Creation of Educational Testing Service

Educational Testing Service (ETS), the new testing agency, officially opened for business in Princeton on Jaunary 1st. Henry Chauncey is president and Conant is made chairman of the board. The same year, before ETS is even chartered, a branch office was established in Berkeley, California. Chauncey's hope is to initiate relations with the University of California and get them to adopt the SAT as a requirement.


In 1952, the current structure of questions for the verbal section of the SAT is established: reading comprehension, analogies, antonyms, sentence completion questions.


In 1957, the number of students taking the SAT every year passes half a million.


In 1959, a new testing organization is formed, American College Testing (ACT) becoming ETS' leading rival.


University of California system signs on to the SAT.

The University of California system begins requiring applicants to take the SAT, becoming ETS' biggest client.

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