Even the SAT and ACT have histories

September 23, 2010 — by Mac Hyde

Just the mere mention of the SAT and its counterpart, the ACT, conjures images of late night studying and massive prep books. These six letters often guide the future for high schoolers who hope to go to competitive colleges. While we all are familiar with the test, few if any, of us have taken the time to step back and ask, how did these two tests become the gateway to college?

According to College Board, the SAT began humbly enough, in 1901. It was developed by psychologist Carl Brigham, who intended it to rule out bias based on socio-economic backgrounds. The first test would be unrecognizable to the test takers of today. There were nine sections, five of which were languages: English, French, German, Latin and Greek. There were also separate categories of mathematics, history, chemistry and physics. There were no multiple choice questions and essays which were judged much like students judge their text books, on a scale of excellent to very poor.

The SAT we would most recognize entered into use in 1930. The SAT has evolved numerous times since being introduced with sections being dropped and then re-added to lengthen the test. This is a direct contrast to its younger rival, the ACT.

The ACT, when compared with its storied sibling, is a relatively new test. It was first administered in 1959 and was created to primarily serve two purposes: one, to guide students with their choices regarding college and courses and two, providing colleges with a baseline with which they can compare students fairly. The ACT also tends to be the least volatile of the two, remaining roughly the same for the past 50 years, with the addition of an optional writing section in 2005.

Saratoga, to no surprise, has historically done well in the SAT with one perfect score for the class of ’07, two for ’08, three for ’09, and one for the class of 2010. Saratoga students also consistently score above the national average in all areas of the SAT and ACT, averaging 622 on the critical reading section, 664 for mathematics, and 636 for writing versus 500, 513, and 498 for the state average on critical reading, mathematics and writing, respectively. Saratoga scores about five points higher on the ACT than the state average with 27.9 versus 21.7 for English, 29.5 versus 22.9 for mathematics, 27.2 versus 22.3 for reading, 26.4 versus 21.5 for scieProxy-Connection: keep-alive
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e, and 27.9 versus 22.2 for the composite score, according to the official SAT summation provided to the school.

While it may be disheartening to compare one’s scores with other Saratoga students, take pride in the fact that one’s score is on average 400 points above the nation’s average, which was 1509 in 2009.