History of the Tests

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History of the Tests

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A team of U.S. colleges develops the first standardized admissions test

In the late 1800s, a group of leading American universities was concerned about not having a universal way to determine if students were prepared for college-level course work. They formed the College Entrance Examination Board, and working together they administered the first standardized exam in 1901.

For the first time, students could take one entrance exam for several universities instead of taking a separate exam for each university to which they applied.


Students take the first multiple-choice SAT

When the College Entrance Examination Board introduced the first, essay-only entrance exam, public and private schools were offering their students very different curricula.

The multiple-choice SAT was created to give equal opportunities for all students to demonstrate their skills and knowledge regardless of their economic status and their specific high school curriculum. In 1926, more than 8,000 students took the first SAT.

Get familiar with the multiple-choice format by trying out our online practice tools.


The College Board introduces Achievement Tests, now called SAT Subject Tests™

The first SAT Subject Tests were introduced as Achievement Tests in 1937. Each test allowed students to display their knowledge about an individual subject like biology or world history. When the Achievement Tests were first introduced, students took the SAT in the morning and the Achievement Tests in the afternoon.

Learn more about today’s SAT Subject Tests.


The SAT introduces new machine-scored answer sheets

Although the original SAT was a multiple-choice test, all of the student responses needed to be reviewed and scored by hand. The machine-scored answer sheet, first used by students taking the SAT in 1939, allowed for faster and more accurate scoring.

To learn more about your answer sheet (and other things that you’ll encounter on test day), check out our test day simulator.


The SAT is normalized to make test scores as fair as possible

Because the SAT was administered a few times a year, colleges received SAT scores from several different versions of the test. In order to make sure that the scores from one version of a test could be compared to scores from a different version, the test was normalized in 1941. For the next 50 years, every form of the test was linked back to the 1941 tests.

In 1995, this system was revised again to ensure that today’s scores are as fair as possible.

Because the tests are normalized, you can review your results from one test and discover where you can improve for next time. Check out the Skills Insight™ tool to learn more.


Students see their SAT scores for the first time

Before 1958, students weren’t able to view their own test scores — only high schools and colleges were able to view students’ scores. That changed in 1958 when high schools were given permission to tell students their scores. In 1971, the College Board began to mail scores directly to students’ homes.

Did you already take the SAT? Find out when your score will be available.


The College Board gets involved in the U.S. civil rights movement

During the civil rights movement, the College Board learned that many African American students were being turned away from SAT testing centers. The few students who were given an opportunity to take the SAT were tested separately from their white classmates in basements and other subpar facilities.

In the early 1960s, College Board officials began visiting testing centers to make sure that all students were being tested under equal conditions. If a school district refused to desegregate, the test center was closed and the tests were given at a local military base.

By 1965, the effort was considered a success, and students were given equal opportunity to show what they knew, regardless of race.


The SAT begins offering fee waivers

Students from low-income families received fee waivers for the first time in 1969. The fee-waiver program has since been expanded to make sure that all eligible students who want to apply to college but can’t afford the registration fee have access to the SAT.

Learn more about SAT fee waivers.


Six SAT administrations are held nationwide

In 1977, the number of national SAT administrations grew to six, increasing access for students from coast to coast. The test is now given seven times a year in the United States and six times a year at international test centers.

Find an SAT test center near you.


The College Board hits bookstores

The College Board published two books in 1984 to help familiarize students with the SAT and the Achievement Tests, now known as SAT Subject Tests. Ten SATs and the College Board Achievement Tests — 14 tests in 13 subjects — introduced students to the test format and included actual full-length tests.

Take a free practice test online today.


Calculators are allowed for the SAT

In 1994, the SAT saw some big changes. Antonym questions were removed as a greater focus was placed on reading passages, and the use of calculators was allowed on the math section for the first time. A new SAT Subject Test in Writing that included an essay was introduced, and SAT Subject Tests were added in Asian languages.

What kind of calculator should you bring to the SAT? Find out what you’ll need on test day.


The first SAT website launches

College Board Online launched in 1995, providing students, parents and educators with an online source for information about the SAT and college planning. Over time, the website evolved to include many more interactive features such as timed practice questions, online registration and a test-day simulator.


Changes to the SAT reflect what students are learning in school

Even more changes were made to the SAT in 2005 to better reflect the subjects being taught in high school classrooms. Quantitative comparison and analogy questions were removed, third-year math content was added and a new test section — writing — was introduced.

Learn more and practice for the SAT writing section.


Score Choice™ lets students choose which SAT scores to send to colleges

To help reduce stress and improve the test-day experience, the College Board introduced Score Choice, a new way for students to report their scores to colleges and scholarship programs. Score Choice gives you the option to choose which scores (by test date for the SAT and by individual test for SAT Subject Tests) you send to colleges — in accordance with an institution's stated score-use practice.

Choose which scores colleges see with Score Choice.

SAT Subject Tests

Should you take an SAT Subject Test?

The SAT Subject Tests offer you an additional opportunity to show colleges what you know and what you know you can do.

Many colleges use the SAT Subject Tests for admission, for course placement, and to advise students about course selection. Some colleges specify the SAT Subject Tests that they require for admission or placement; others allow applicants to choose which tests to take.

Choose a subject