The SAT and ACT have a rich history. As colleges and college admissions have evolved over the years, so have the objectives of college entrance exams.
The College Boards
The first College Board exam was given in 1899 in an attempt to unify the college entrance process. Until then, most colleges provided their own, individual entrance exam or only accepted students from certified high schools. The College Board was a five day essay exam that covered an extensive amount of curriculum that should have been covered in high school and was deemed necessary to perform well in college. This exam was primarily used by elite colleges in the Northeast. Several other iterations of different exams were used by the army and other organizations until 1926 when the first SAT was administered.
The SAT was a multiple choice test that was considered a psychological exam that determined not whether students had covered the right amount of material to enter college, but whether or not they had the mental capacity to perform well in college. It was given in addition to the College Boards rather than to replace it. The College Boards were used until 1941. At that time the SAT replaced the College Boards as an entrance exam used by most private colleges and universities in the Northeast.
The SAT continued to be the primary form of college entrance exam until 1959. The ACT was introduced in this year and designed as an achievement test rather than a psychological exam. This test examined material covered in curriculum. The idea was that colleges outside the Northeast would be more likely to use this as an entrance exam. To this day, more people take the ACT in the midwest, while students on the coasts are more likely to take the SAT.
Demonstrating College Readiness
Both exams have undergone multiple changes as the organizations that administer them try to find the best way to demonstrate college readiness and potential for success. These exams were introduced to help colleges determine what students would thrive in higher education, and they are still the most common form of entrance exam. The majority of students hoping to enter higher education will take one or both of these exams to boost their admissions possibilities.
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“A (Mostly) Brief History Of The SAT And ACT Tests” https://www.erikthered.com/tutor/sat-act-history.html