A Brief History of the SAT

May 30, 2017
Rebekkah Adams

Learn about the history of the SAT.

In order to fully master the SAT, learn why it exists in the first place.

Seven times throughout the year (and eight this year), students enter a classroom for the nearly four-hour marathon that is the SAT. Today, this is a rite of passage for students as they move on toward college and adulthood.

Though hard to believe, the test has not always been so entrenched in student life and success. Here is a brief history of the SAT to help you understand its origins and overall purpose.

The first ever SAT test

The first ever Scholastic Aptitude Test was offered in 1926 as a pilot effort to about 8,000 students. The original SAT would be likely unrecognizable and probably quite challenging for the modern student (go ahead and try it out here). This first iteration did not last long, as the test was changed a few times in its first decade.

Controversy surrounding test prep

By 1946, the test given to students in many ways reflected the more recent versions of the SAT, including some question types (notably reading comprehension) that make up the test today.

This was the year the first high school junior prepped with Stanley Kaplan. As the son of immigrants living in Brooklyn, his goal was to give students from all walks of life an equal shot.

However, in 1975, the Federal Trade Commission launched a formal investigation of Stanley H. Kaplan Educational Centers, on the belief that as an aptitude test, the SAT was “uncoachable,” and therefore scores could not be improved through preparation. After years of investigation, the FTC announced that coaching could in fact improve scores, which launched test prep as we know it today.

How the SAT has evolved

For many years, the test changed little pieces at a time, but it became something very familiar in 1994. For the first time, calculators were allowed and non-multiple choice questions were brought back into Math.

Reading comprehension was increasingly emphasized as well. This is also when the College Board changed the name to Scholastic Assessment Test, but then dropped that name shortly after. SAT does not stand for anything today and is the official name of the test.

The SAT has undergone two more changes since then—the first in 2005 and again in 2016. 2005 brought in something new by adding the first ever writing section (which was based on a separate SAT Subject Test). It also moved to a 2400 scale for the first time, breaking from the 1600 tradition.

Today, the SAT has revisited the once-familiar 1600 score, and scores are given for a Math section and an Evidence-Based Reading and Writing section. While this recent change will likely stick around for a while, we’ll probably see changes to the test again in the future.

For decades, Kaplan Test Prep has been helping students succeed on the SAT. Try your hand at the exam and maximize your score with our free daily SAT questions and Turbo Tests.

Rebekkah Adams

Rebekkah Adams Rebekkah Adams has been on the Kaplan team for more than six years in many roles across the organization. Outside of writing, her favorite thing to do is explore New York City with her husband. She also spends her time soaking up the arts, volunteering, and playing with her dog.

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