Special Report

Document Deep Dive: What Was on the First SAT?

Explore the exam that has been stressing out college-bound high school students since 1926

smithsonian.com
Editor's Note, May 16, 2019: It has been announced that the College Board plans to assign an "adversity score" to SAT test takers and share that score with any of 150 institutions participating in the program this fall. The score, calculated based on 15 factors, is an attempt to capture the student's social and economic background for college admissions.

Taking the SAT is a rite of passage and has been ever since the first exam was offered in 1926 as a way to eliminate the prep school bias of the college admissions process.

The very first SAT, excerpted below, looks quite different from today’s three-hour (or three-hour-and-50-minute, with the optional essay) version. Students who took the original SAT on June 23, 1926, tackled nine sub-tests totaling 315 questions in just 97 minutes.

I recently spoke with Brian O’Reilly, a 31-year veteran of the College Board, about the 1926 exam. How well would you fare? Quiz yourself, and as you do, click on the yellow tabs, within the document, to learn more about the various types of questions.

(Homepage billboard photo by Alberto G.)

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