Take the Very First SAT
The first SAT, or Scholastic Aptitude Test, was given in 1926—and it’s been stressing students out ever since. The test replaced the College Entrance Examination, created in 1901 by a group of colleges that made up the College Entrance Examination Board (now just the College Board). “[The SAT] was really an attempt by this same group of colleges, which had then expanded somewhat, to get together and say, look, the current test we've got, the essay test with the Latin and the Greek, works fine for prep school students. But, we'd like to have more than just prep school students show up on our campus," Brian O’Reilly, a 31-year veteran of the College Board, tells Smithsonian. And so the SAT—which could determine if both public and private school kids were ready for college—was born.
The first test was administered to 8000 students on June 23, 1926. Students had 97 minutes to answers 315 questions on nine subtests, including Definitions, Arithmetic, Logic, Artificial Language, and Paragraph Reading. It included questions like “[Blank] is the science of life or living organisms; the study of living matter” and “If a package containing twenty cigarettes costs fifteen cents, how many cigarettes can be bought for ninety cents?” And then there was the Artificial Language section:
According to O’Reilly, students weren’t actually expected to finish the test—to do that, they would have had to answer three questions a minute. Students were encouraged to guess: There were no points taken off for wrong answers (that changed in the 1950s). These days, students have three hours and 45 minutes to take the 170-question test; around 80 percent complete it.
Wondering how you’d fare on the very first SAT? Head on over to Smithsonian, which has five pages of the test and more information from O’Reilly about the differences between that test and the one students take today. If you decide to try your luck on the test, tell us how you think you did in the comments!