Little Bits of History

Ready for College

Posted in History by patriciahysell on June 17, 2015
SAT scores over time*

SAT scores over time*

June 17, 1901: The first exams of the College Board are administered. The Board is an American private nonprofit corporation which was founded on December 22, 1899 as the College Entrance Examination Board. It was not a group of colleges but did (and continues) to contain a membership of institutions which today has over 6,000 schools, colleges, universities, and other educational organizations. At its founding, there were 12 universities and three high school preparatory academies involved. Their purpose was to both adopt and publish a statement on what exactly should be taught to students hoping to enter university. They also had a plan to test to see if the applicants did, in fact, have a mastery of the topics needed to be successful in college life.

Their first test was given on this day to 973 students in 67 locations in the US as well as two more in Europe. The test takers were from various backgrounds but the majority of them were from New York, New Jersey, or Pennsylvania. They were also mostly from private schools, academies, or endowed institutions. About 60% of those taking the test also applied to Columbia University, one of the members of the College Board. The test was an essay test without any multiple choice questions. The subjects covered were English, French, German, Latin, Greek, history, math, chemistry, and physics. Essays were graded as “excellent”, “good”, “doubtful”, “poor”, or “very poor”. The test changed with time.

On June 23, 1926 a new test was available for the first time, the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) was created by a committee which had been headed by Princeton psychologist Carl Brigham. This new test had sections of definitions, arithmetic, classification, artificial language, antonyms, number series, analogies, logical inference, and paragraph reading. There were now over 300 testing centers available for the more than 8,000 students taking the test. Males numbered about 60% of those taking the test and more than one-fourth of those taking the SAT had applied to either Yale University or Smith College. Those being tested had just 90 minutes to answer 315 multiple choice questions.

The test changed several times in the next few decades and then became a more standardized test with fewer changes adopted. Scores dropped in the 1960s and 70s and the test was recentered to raise the mean score back to 500. There have been more changes with tweaking of the test every few years now. The next changes are due to come out for 2016 and were announced in 2014. Today, they partner with Khan Academy so students can practice test taking online through them and they also provide instructional videos. American College Testing (ACT) came into being in 1959 and is the major competitor to the SAT test.

Examinations are formidable even to the best prepared, for the greatest fool may ask more than the wisest man can answer. – Charles Caleb Colton

It is tiresome to hear education discussed, tiresome to educate, and tiresome to be educated. – William Lamb

There is no end to education. It is not that you read a book, pass an examination, and finish with education. The whole of life, from the moment you are born to the moment you die, is a process of learning. – Jiddu Krishnamurti

What is wrong with a great deal of higher education in America is that it is simply boring. – Harold Taylor

Also on this day: Indian Princess – In 1631, Arjumand Banu Begum died while giving birth to her fourteenth child.
Nicole and Ron – In 1994, OJ Simpson was arrested.
Smoot-Hawley Act – In 1930, this tariff act was signed into law.
Breed’s Hill? – In 1775, the Battle of Bunker Hill was fought.
Statue of Liberty – In 1885, the statue arrived, in pieces, in New York.

* “Historical Average SAT Scores (Vector)” by Erik Jacobsen ( ) – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons –


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