What Was the First SAT Like?

The first SAT, in 1926, was very different from today's SAT.

Flickr user simpleinsomnia

Over 90 years ago, college-bound students worried about their SAT, just like you how you worried about your SAT.  Back in 1926, students knew the SAT as the Scholastic Aptitude Test. Evolved from the 1901 essay exams and original IQ tests, the SAT tested your knowledge before college. It also made the application process and testing systems similar among different universities.

If you were taking the SAT back then, here are a few things you would have to expect.

Less Time

Right now, in 2017, students have nearly three hours to complete their entire SAT exam. This includes 154 questions. If you opt to take the essay, it can run up to four hours including the two breaks.

However, back in 1926, students only had about 2 hours to complete over 300 questions! Unlike today though, proctors did not expect students to complete the entire SAT. Time management would have been a bit more difficult back then!

Different Subjects

 Most students heading into their SAT exams know the subjects included: reading, writing and language, math, and the optional essay. With the changes that came about in 2016, it’s even more streamlined, with each subject having its own section and time limit.

In 1926, students didn’t have three subjects to cover on their SAT; they had nine! They included arithmetic, definitions, classification, antonyms, number series, analogies, logical inference, paragraph reading, and artificial language. If you’re not a fan of math though, you may have favored the first-ever SAT. Students only answered questions on basic arithmetic. No calculator required. (Also a good thing! Jack Kilby didn’t invent the first handheld calculators until 1967!)

No Practice Exams

 Many colleges and high schools now recommend taking the PSAT and taking advantage of other practice materials to help you prepare for the real deal. How would you get ready for the SAT if you didn’t have the practice test?

When the first SAT was created, there were no practice or prior exams available to students. The closest thing available would have been the 1901 essay exams, but they tested students on different subjects and the new SAT didn’t include an essay. The first-ever test date of the SAT took place on June 23rd,1926.

While the Scholastic Aptitude Test of 1926 was presented to students, schools, and colleges for the same reasons as today’s SAT exam, the original was extremely different regarding the formatting and time limit as well as the questions and subject matter. However, if you’re worried about your SAT exam coming up in just a few months, just remember students entering college in 1926 were just as worried as you are.

If you’re interested in seeing or taking the first-ever SAT exam, you can do so right online! Check out the entire test on the Washington Post, but you won’t be able to find the answer keys. They are lost to history.

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