A (Mostly) Brief History Of The SAT And ACT Tests

Last Updated: 2022-08-11
Average Scores

SAT (1952–present)
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ACT (1970–present)
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By the end of the 19th century, tests for admission to U.S. colleges are specific to each school. (The arithmetic portion of Harvard's 1869 entrance exam can be seen here. The corresponding portion of MIT's 1869 exam can be seen here. These portions of the two tests are quite different in difficulty.) The content of the tests varies widely and can be highly dependent on the interests of the faculty conducting the exams. It is not unusual for a college to administer exams on campus a week or two before classes begin. As an alternative to testing, many colleges, especially in the midwestern U.S., use "admission by certificate": a high school would be certified by inspectors from the colleges to have an appropriately preparatory curriculum for college work, and students graduated from such a high school would be considered to be adequate without testing. By 1900, however, inspections are infrequent and college faculty are often not present.

The College Entrance Examination Board (or "College Board") is founded in December, consisting of a non-profit membership of twelve colleges and universities. The membership is comprised mostly of elite institutions in the northeastern U.S., including Columbia, Cornell, Vassar, Barnard, and New York University. The founders are worried that the lack of uniform admissions testing and the certificate system places too much control of college admissions with the high schools. Also, the certificate system is thought to be conducing students away from the northeastern colleges.

The purpose of the Board is primarily to administer annual examinations in a variety of subjects thought to be important for college-level work. The members of the Board could then use the test scores however they chose. The fee for the test is expected to be $5 (about $136 in 2012 dollars).

At this time, roughly 4% of high school graduates go on to college.

The "College Boards" are administered in June for the first time to fewer than 1000 students. Roughly 75% of these students are applicants to Columbia University or Barnard College, hence the practical effect of these tests is to distinguish excellent students from elite students. The essay tests, which require five days to complete, are curriculum-based achievement exams, designed to assess a student's mastery of nine subjects, including Greek, Latin, and physics. For the price of ten cents, an examinee could find out from the College Board, before taking the test, the area of knowledge that each subject test would focus on. (For example, the student could learn that this year's Greek test would cover the first three books of Homer's Iliad.) Scoring is done by hand and consists of five ratings for each subject, from "Excellent" to "Very Poor", with "Doubtful" in the middle.

An intelligence test developed by Robert Yerkes and other psychologists is administered to more than 1.5 million U.S. Army recruits. The test, called the Army "Alpha" exam, uses multiple-choice questions (invented two years prior) and is designed to help the Army make rapid placement decisions for prospective soldiers entering World War I.

Columbia University begins allowing prospective students to substitute the results of an intelligence test (the Thorndike test for "Mental Alertness") for its regular entrance exams.

By this time, about 20,000 prospective freshmen take the College Board's exams each year. However, this figure represents only about 10 percent of the number of students entering college in the U.S. Most colleges continue either to admit by certificate or use their own entrance exams.

In April, the College Board appoints a commission, headed by Carl Brigham, to develop a new test designed to measure general intelligence.

The first Scholastic Aptitude Test (or "SAT") is administered on June 23 to 8,040 students, 40% of whom are women. (About 85% of these students are taking the traditional boards as well, which themselves are being taken by nearly 22,000 students in total.) Carl Brigham, a psychologist who helped to develop aptitude tests for the U.S. Army during World War I, is influential in the development of the 1926 test. The SAT is considered a "new psychological test" and a supplement to, but not a replacement of, the existing College Boards. Due to the completely different nature of the SAT compared to the boards, all students are required to take a practice test before the actual SAT (sample questions below). Five of the nine scored sub-tests of the first SAT are taken directly or with minor revisions from Brigham's 1925 "Princeton Psychological Examination", which itself was derived from the Army Alpha intelligence tests.

Unlike the College Boards, the SAT (administered in June) is designed primarily to assess aptitude for learning rather than mastery of subjects already learned. For some college officials, an aptitude test, which is presumed to measure intelligence, is appealing since at this time intelligence and ethnic origin are thought to be connected, and therefore the results of such a test could be used to limit the admissions of particularly undesirable ethnicities. The test is designed to assess ability independently of any particular secondary school curriculum, which has a more mainstream appeal: college admissions testing via the SAT is uniformly applicable across a wide range of high school students, and the test is firmly in the control of college officials.

The instructions for the test include the following: The pencil is preferable to the fountain pen for use in this sort of test. The test is comprised of nine sub-tests: two math tests (Arithmetical Problems, and Number Series), and seven verbal tests (Definitions, Classification, Artificial Language, Antonyms, Analogies, Logical Inference, and Paragraph Reading).

The mandatory practice test given to students taking the 1926 SAT includes the following six-choice antonym question (there are six possible pairs of numbers as answers):
  • Which two of the following four words are opposite or nearly the opposite:
    1) obedient; 2) sincere; 3) dissembling; 4) torpid.
An example of a "classification" question is below (there are twenty possible answers):
  • Which three of the following words are most closely related?
    1) bean; 2) potato; 3) carrot; 4) beet; 5) lettuce; 6) cabbage.
1925 Princeton Test

Five of the nine sub-tests of the 1926 SAT were minor revisions or verbatim versions of portions of Carl Brigham's test given to incoming freshmen at Princeton University in September, 1925. The test, officially called the "Princeton Psychological Examination", owed much of its content to the Army Alpha test and other contemporary intelligence examinations.

The Analogies sub-test of the 1926 SAT is taken directly from Test 3 of the 1925 Princeton test. (See the table below for details of the content of the first SAT.) Except for the years 1930 to 1935, analogies will be used on the SAT until 2005. Each analogy question asks the student to identify a pair of words with the same relationship as a given pair of words. An example from the 1926 SAT reads:
  • Epilepsy is to carpenter as stuttering is to: 1) tongue; 2) minister; 3) cure; 4) stammering; 5) fluttering.
A typical "number series" math question on the 1926 SAT asks the student to complete the sequence given by filling in two numbers at the end. A difficult example from the 1926 practice test:
  • Which two numbers come next in the sequence: 1/8, 1/8, 1/4, 3/4, 3, ?, ?
Other math questions are open-ended arithmetic word problems, such as the following:
  • A boat that can make forty miles an hour in still water makes a trip of one hundred miles down a certain stream. If this trip takes two hours, how long will the return trip take?
(Answers to all of the test questions above appear at the end of this timeline.)

The original 1926 SAT and successive tests have an "experimental" section which is used to test new questions and question types. The section does not count toward the student's score, but it is not identified as the experimental section, requiring the test taker to apply himself or herself fully to this part of the test as well. The experimental section is 30 minutes in length until 2005, when it is reduced to 25 minutes. The structure of the 1926 SAT is shown below. (For a PDF file of each sub-test of the 1926 SAT, use the title links in the table below.)

Questions are from the 1926 SAT, form A1. Practice samples are from the 1926 SAT practice test.
Content and Format of the 1926 Scholastic Aptitude Test
Sub-TestTitleQuestionsTime (mins.)Origin
1Definitions309A minor revision of sub-test 1 of the 1925 Princeton Test.
2Arithmetic208A minor revision of sub-test 7 of the 1925 Princeton Test.
3Classification 406Developed and standardized by C. L. Stone at Dartmouth College.
4Artificial Language 209A minor revision of sub-test 4 of the 1925 Princeton Test. Each question was worth from three to six points, for 74 points total.
5010A minor revision of sub-test 2 of the 1925 Princeton Test, which included both synonyms and antonyms. Two items in this sub-test were not scored.
6Number Series Completion
259 Developed and standardized by C. L. Stone at Dartmouth College, this type of question was widely used in other tests, including the Army Alpha test 6.
7Analogies406Except for question order, identical to sub-test 3 of the 1925 Princeton Test.
8Logical Inference
4010Developed by D. C. Rogers at Smith College.
9Paragraph Reading
5030Developed at Yale for the 1926 SAT and based on J. C. Chapman's work in elementary school tests.
10Experimental Section7530These questions were being tested for inclusion in future SATs and did not count toward the student's score.

Raw scores on all of the sub-tests are combined into a single scaled SAT score ranging from 200 to 800. The raw scores are scaled so that the resulting average score is 500 and the standard deviation is 100. Using this scoring method means that an unusually strong group of students taking the test could push an otherwise average student's score down. For example, a student obtaining a score of 500 in 1926 could be significantly weaker than a student obtaining a score of 500 in 1927, if the group of test takers in 1927 happened to be particularly good students overall compared to 1926. (After 1941, the SAT will become "standardized", meaning that, in the hypothetical case described above, the average student's test score would not be affected and that a score in one year will be comparable to a score in any other year.)

Scoring of the 1926 SAT is done by hand; the College Board enlists about 30 Princeton and Columbia undergraduates (all men) to do the scoring. Score reports for more than 99% of test takers are mailed to colleges within about two weeks of the test day. Although the goal is to make the overall average score equal to 500, the need to begin mailing score reports before scoring is complete will result in a final average score of 501. The average score for men taking the 1926 test is 494; the average score for the women is 513. (The full report on the administration and scoring of the 1926 SAT is available here.)

The first SAT is very hard for most students to finish: the scored portion of the test contains 315 questions to be completed in 97 minutes, or about 20 seconds to answer each one. (With 30 minutes for the experimental section and 22 total minutes of rest time between sub-tests, the total time of the test is about 2.5 hours.) On average, students taking the 1926 exam correctly answer only 173 questions. However, by 1929, the scored portion of the test will contain only six sub-tests and lasts 115 minutes (2 hours 40 minutes total with the experimental section and rest breaks). Subsequent changes to the test over the next 30 years will continue to make the verbal portion of the test less "speeded". By 1958, the scored portion of the SAT will be 2.5 hours in length, with a 30 minute experimental section, for a total time of 3 hours.

The Artificial Language and Logical Inference sections are dropped from this year's SAT (never to appear again). Both math sections are removed from the test as well; the Number Series Completion section in particular will never return. The commission designing the SAT feels that the math sections are measuring something separate from what the verbal sections are measuring, and so they should probably be a separate component with its own reported score. In addition, using data correlating the 1926 and 1927 SAT scores and corresponding first-semester college grades for test takers, the commission wants to keep the sections most predictive of success at liberal-arts colleges: Antonyms and Paragraph Reading. (Brigham, A Study of Error, pg. 351-355.)

In this year, juniors (students not expected to enter college until the following year) are allowed to take the SAT. This change results in 529 juniors taking the SAT in June out of roughly 8300 total test takers.

Free-response math questions reappear for the 1930 test as a single sub-test; test takers are expected to solve 100 math questions in 75 minutes (increasing to 80 minutes in 1933). Also, analogies are dropped from the verbal section, so that the verbal portion of the SAT at this time consists of only three sub-tests: antonyms, "double definitions", in which sentences are completed by filling in two blanks from a list of word choices, and paragraph reading.

Previously, the scores for math sub-tests and verbal sub-tests were combined into a single final score. Starting in this year, a score on a 200 to 800 scale is reported separately for both "verbal aptitude" and "math aptitude". These scores are not sent to either the student or to his or her high school: only colleges and universities receive scores at this time.

Eight years after rejecting the SAT for use in admissions, Harvard begins requiring all prospective scholarship students to take the SAT. The president of the university, James Conant, feels that the test provides an accurate assessment of a student's intelligence. (Conant reasons that the SAT could then be used by Harvard to select scholarship candidates from among students other than those from well-known East Coast private schools.) By 1938, all of the College Board member schools will be using the SAT to evaluate scholarship applicants.

Math is once again removed from the SAT. (Math ability will be tested separately and independently on the experimental "Mathematics Attainment Test" from 1936 until 1941.) Analogies are returned to the verbal section.

The rapidly increasing number of applicants to competitive graduate schools leads William Learned of the Carnegie Foundation and Ben Wood of the Cooperative Test Service to develop the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) for use in graduate school admissions. With Carl Brigham's and the College Board's support, the GRE incorporates the SAT as a portion of the new exam. The test is first used for 1457 applicants in October 1937 to the graduate schools of Columbia, Harvard, Princeton and Yale. Like the SAT at the time, the GRE is considered additional information for the admissions process and is provided on a voluntary basis by the applicant.

The College Board's Achievement Tests (officially called "Scholarship Tests") are administered for the first time to about 2000 students in April. Each hour-long test is a multiple-choice format assessment of proficiency in single subjects such as biology, chemistry, Spanish, and social studies, among others. A student can choose to take one, two, or three of the tests; the exams are developed by the Cooperative Test Service and funded by the Carnegie Foundation.

In conjunction with these subject tests, taken in the afternoon, the students take an SAT in the morning, making this SAT the first to be nationally administered in April. An April SAT date is appealing to colleges that want to notify applicants of their admission status earlier than late July, the earliest practical notification date with the June exams. The success of the Scholarship Tests will lead the College Board to offer an April SAT for admission purposes beginning in 1939.

Secondary schools are given the SAT scores of their students for the first time starting in this year; whether or not students can learn their own test scores is up to the high school.

At this time, the test fee for the SAT alone is $10 (about $155 in 2012 dollars). However, for the same fee, the traditional boards can be taken along with the SAT in June. (You can see how the SAT test fee has changed over the years in this chart.)

The successful introduction of the GRE leads Ben Wood and William Learned, among others, to call for a national testing organization that could consolidate the activities of the various agencies developing standardized tests. The College Board decides not to participate (effectively quashing the idea), in part due to the viewpoint of Carl Brigham. Brigham (in a letter written to James Conant) says that "premature standardization" would result in the perpetuation of flawed tests and that sales or marketing concerns would come to dominate over the scientific desire to experiment with and improve the tests themselves.

After a slow growth in acceptance of the SAT during the 1930s, the number of test takers exceeds 10,000 for the first time in April. (The total number of U.S. high school graduates in 1940 is roughly 1.1 million, meaning that only about 1% of these graduates take the SAT.)

The verbal portion of the SAT in this year is curved to an average score of 500 with a standard deviation of 100. To make a score in one year comparable to a score in another year, all future verbal SAT scores will be linked to this reference curve, via a process called "equating". For example, a student obtaining a score of 600 in one year would be considered equivalent in ability to a student obtaining a score of 600 in any other year. The same reference curve will be used until March, 1995. One requirement of equating is the necessity of keeping the SAT content and question types generally the same from one year to the next going forward. A side effect of equating is that average SAT scores are no longer fixed to be 500.

In December, administration of the original College Board examinations is suspended. The next month, the College Board will announce the discontinuation of the essay-based exams. At this point, the SAT is the standard admissions test for almost all of the private colleges and universities in the northeastern United States.

From this time forward, the SAT is entirely machine scored, using a technique that measures electrical conductivity in the marks made by pencils.

Math returns to the SAT in April, in the form of multiple-choice questions with five-choice answers. To make a score in one year comparable to a score in another year, all SAT math scores on future exams will be linked to the curve used on the math section of this year's April exam. The same reference curve will be used until March, 1995.

The College Board administers an SAT-like test to 316,000 high school seniors in order to find young men suited to technical jobs in the U.S. Navy. The single-day administration is larger than any prior one by a factor of 40.

The G.I. bill for U.S. veterans of World War II is passed into law. Among other things, the law provides cash assistance to the veterans for college tuition and board. Over the next 12 years, more than two million veterans will use these benefits to attend colleges or universities. At the height of the program in 1947, veterans will account for 49 percent of college admissions. The large increase in prospective college students and the lack of a significant competitor in admissions testing will help lead to a factor of eight increase in SAT test-takers during the 1940s and an additional factor of ten increase during the 1950s.

The SAT verbal section is changed to consist of antonyms, analogies, sentence completion, and reading comprehension, with somewhat less emphasis on "puzzle-like" reasoning questions and more emphasis on reading skills. This basic format will remain essentially the same for almost the next 60 years. The reading comprehension portions of the test are specifically considered to be "probably non-coachable".

In Brooklyn, New York, Stanley Kaplan begins teaching SAT prep classes. Each class consists of 4 hours of instruction per week for 16 weeks, at a cost of $128 per student. (About $1500 in 2012 dollars.)

At this time, the SAT test fee is $5 (about $58 in 2012 dollars).

The Educational Testing Service (ETS) is founded to consolidate development and administration of a variety of tests, including the Carnegie Foundation's Graduate Record Examination (GRE), the AAMC's Medical College Admission Test (MCAT), and the College Board's LSAT (Law School Admission Test) and SAT. The ETS assumes the testing activities of the College Board and other related organizations, but the College Board retains ownership and control of the SAT. The ETS will continue to develop the SAT until the test is revised in 2015. To this day, the ETS administers the SAT as a contractor for the College Board. (The ETS continues to develop and administer the College Board's AP tests. The company now owns the GRE but is no longer involved with the MCAT or the LSAT.)

Starting with the April SAT, the number of antonym questions on the verbal section is significantly reduced to make the test less "speeded" and to discourage vocabulary "cramming".

The ETS, on behalf of the U.S. Selective Service System, administers an intelligence test to hundreds of thousands of college students. Those who score high enough will be deferred from the Korean war draft. Although there is some criticism of using such a test for draft deferment, the successful administration of the test establishes a favorable public perception of the ETS and puts it on solid financial ground.

Antonym questions on the SAT are changed to multiple-choice form with five possible answers. At this time the SAT consists of five scored sections: two sections of five-choice math questions, and three sections consisting of analogies, antonyms, sentence completions, and reading comprehension questions. About half of the testing time allotted to the verbal section is devoted to reading questions at this point. The College Board begins to compute annual average SAT scores among all test takers at this time.

A guessing penalty is instituted for the scoring of the SAT. Prior to this time, the instructions for the test stated that the test taker should "work steadily and as quickly as is consistent with accuracy". The instructions will now include: "In this test a percentage of the wrong answers will be subtracted from the number of right answers as a correction for haphazard guessing."

The number of verbal questions on the SAT is reduced from 107 to 90. This change is the final step to move the SAT away from a test that was designed so that few students could finish. The scored portion of the test now consists of 150 questions and lasts 150 minutes, resulting in one minute alloted per question. Reading comprehension makes up about 40% of the test at this time.

Students are allowed to view their own SAT scores for the first time.

The University of California decides to require admitted freshman, starting in the fall of 1960, to take the SAT. The requirement is a two-year experiment by the university to determine if the SAT would be a useful predictor of success in students' first year of college. The study reflects the concerns among university leadership that high school grade inflation is producing too many eligible applicants based on high-school GPA.

In the summer, the American College Testing (ACT) Program is founded by Ted McCarrel and E. F. Lindquist. Lindquist suggests that there is a need for a new regional or national test for college-bound high school students, for several reasons: 1) the SAT is used primarily by selective colleges in the northeastern U.S., but not by most public institutions as well as by universities in other regions of the country; 2) the new test should be used not just for admissions but placement as well; and, 3) the test should primarily be useful as an indicator of academic preparation, i.e., it should be an achievement test.

In November, the ACT Assessment is administered for the first time to 75,406 high school students, and scheduled to be administered four times per year (in February, April, June, and November) starting in 1960. Based on
1959 ACT Logo
Original 1959 ACT Logo
the Iowa Tests of Educational Development (in fact, all the ACT exam questions for the first test had been pre-tested on a previous ITED), the test is comprised of four sections: English, mathematics, social studies, and natural sciences. Each section is 45 minutes long, for a total test time of 3 hours. Scores are reported on a scale of 1 to 36 for the test as a whole and for each sub-section. The test administration is primarily limited to the midwestern U.S at this time; the student's test fee is $3 (about $23 in 2012 dollars). The first ACT test and all successive administrations are scored by computers using optical mark recognition, at rates of thousands of test sheets per hour. (Lindquist developed optical mark reader machines which were in use for scoring the ITED by 1955.)

1959 ACT

From the first test on, ACT scores are reported directly to the students as well as to the colleges. (An example score report from the 1959 test is shown above; the student name has been blurred for privacy.) According to the post-test booklet given to students along with their results, "these few digits, which represent your scores on ACT, may help you make decisions that will affect many aspects of your future." However, taking the ACT more than once is not allowed except under unusual circumstances such as physical illness during the exam administration.

A new SAT math question type, "data sufficiency", is added. Each question is accompanied by two statements, and has five possible answers. A sample question:
Given triangle PQR, can the size of angle P be determined?

(1)  PQ=PR
(2)  The measure of angle Q is 40 degrees.

AStatement (1) ALONE is sufficient but statement (2) alone is not sufficient to answer the question;
BStatement (2) ALONE is sufficient but statement (1) alone is not sufficient to answer the question;
CBOTH statements (1) and (2) TOGETHER are sufficient to answer the question, but NEITHER statement ALONE is sufficient;
DEACH statement is sufficient by itself to answer the question;
EStatements (1) and (2) TOGETHER are NOT sufficient to answer the question and additional data specific to the problem are needed.
(The answer appears at the end of this timeline.)

The first Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test (PSAT) is administered in the fall of this year. The test is a shortened form of the SAT and is designed to help students become familiar with the question types and format of the full exam.

At this time, the SAT test fee is $6 (about $47 in 2012 dollars).

The number of students taking the SAT this year is more than 800,000, roughly ten times the number taking the test in 1951. The number of students taking the ACT this year is about 300,000. (For comparison, the total number of U.S. high school graduates in 1960 is roughly 1.9 million.)

Concluding its two-year experiment, in December the University of California says that "... Scholastic Aptitude Test scores add little or nothing to the precision with which the existing admissions requirements are predictive of success in the University." The university instead decides to raise minimum high school GPA requirements for student eligibility.

The College Board publishes "Effects of Coaching on Scholastic Aptitude Test Scores", also known informally as the "little green book". The book states that coaching for the SAT produces insignificant score increases. (The average increase attributable to coaching is said to be fewer than ten points per section.)

The number of students taking the ACT in the 1967-68 school year reaches about 950,000, more than seven times the number taking the test in 1959-60, the first ACT testing year.

The University of California begins requiring all applicants to submit SAT scores. (For admission purposes, however, scores will only be used for the few students whose high school GPAs are at least 3.0 and less than 3.1.) Previously, the university used only high school track records to determine admission for in-state applicants and rejected the use of the SAT once before in 1961. However, by the mid 1960s, the post-World War II population boom made it necessary to reduce the size of the university's eligibility pool, and at this time an SAT requirement is seen as the most effective way to do this.

Starting this year, reported SAT scores are rounded to the nearest number divisible by ten. Previously, it was possible for students to receive scaled scores such as 501 or 789, for example.

The National Merit Scholarship Corporation begins co-sponsoring the PSAT, which is now also called the National Merit Scholarship Qualification Test (NMSQT). Scores on the PSAT will be used to determine which students will receive recognition of scholarship and/or scholarship money.

The College Board releases a report on a study done by ETS researchers to determine the effects, if any, of coaching on SAT math question types. The researchers found that a 21-hour course of coaching in 7 weeks "produces both statistically and practically significant score gains on each of the three mathematics aptitude item formats." The average effective score gains are "conservatively estimated at about 33 SAT-M [SAT Math] points."

At this time, about 1 million students take the ACT each year. The test is administered five times per year (including a late July test date), and the test fee is $6 (about $32 in 2012 dollars).

Beginning with the October test, several significant changes are made to the SAT. The number of reading comprehension questions is reduced to about 30% of the verbal portion of the SAT, in favor of more antonym and analogy questions.

In the math portion of the SAT, data sufficiency questions are replaced with "quantitative comparison" questions, which have four possible answers. The quantitative comparison questions ask the student to determine whether two quantities are equal, different (and which is larger), or indeterminate. The new questions are thought to be as effective as the data sufficiency questions, but less complicated and less time consuming. A sample question:
x percent of y is z , z > 0
Column AColumn B
100xy / z
Aif the quantity in Column A is greater;
Bif the quantity in Column B is greater;
Cif the two quantities are equal;
Dif the relationship cannot be determined from the information given.
(The answer appears at the end of this timeline.)

The total time of the SAT verbal and math portions is reduced from 3 hours to 2.5 hours in order to accommodate the half-hour Test of Standard Written English (TSWE) that is newly added to the SAT. The TSWE is scored on a separate scale (20-60) and consists of multiple-choice questions designed to evaluate grammar and writing skills. The results of the TSWE are expected to be used by colleges for the appropriate placement of the test taker in freshman English class.

In order to reduce the possibility of a student cheating by copying the answers of a nearby student, changes are made in how the test booklets are distributed. Previously, the five-section SAT had two section arrangements for each test date, distributed in two booklets. However, each test administration site would receive only one of the two arrangements. Starting with the October test, the new six-section SAT has six section arrangements, distributed in six booklets, in a procedure called "scrambling". The booklets that each test site receives are "spiraled": the first student receives the first arrangement, the second student receives the second arrangement, and so forth. However, by October, 1980, the number of arrangements (and the number of different booklets needed) will be reduced to three for each test administration. (See After The Test for information about how the 2005-2015 version of the SAT was arranged and distributed.)

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) begins an investigation into the Kaplan Educational Center, a test preparation company. The FTC is investigating whether Kaplan is making false claims in its advertising. The Kaplan advertisements running in Boston say that, on average, Kaplan students raised their (combined verbal and math) SAT test scores by 100 points.

The number of seniors taking the SAT increases to 996,452 students, which is about 32% of all graduating seniors at this time. The percent of seniors taking the SAT at least once will increase to 42% by 1993-94 and reach a peak of about 49% for the senior class of 2004-05.

The senior class of 1975 is the first in which more girls than boys take the SAT. Girls will continue to be the majority of SAT test takers from this point forward. (As of 2015, 53.2% of senior class SAT test takers are girls.)

The number of dates on which SAT tests are administered nationally per year in the U.S. increases to six.

The College Board begins including an entire sample SAT in its handbook (called "Taking The SAT") given to students. This particular sample test is the first complete SAT to be made public. The previous handbook (called "About The SAT") included sample questions, but not an entire test.

At this time, the test fee for the SAT is $8 (about $28 in 2012 dollars).

The FTC releases the final report of its investigation of the ETS, Kaplan, and other test preparation companies. The report suggests that coaching can improve SAT scores on average by 50 points (combined math and verbal). In a re-analysis of the FTC data, the ETS suggests that the result could be due in whole or part to the increased motivation and desire of students who choose to be coached, compared to those who do not.

In July, New York State passes the Standardized Testing Act as part of the Admissions Testing Law, often called the "Truth-In-Testing" law. The law, to take effect in January, 1980, requires that students taking standardized tests in New York be allowed to see actual copies of any of their tests and answer sheets.

In December, the ETS announces that copies of some previously administered SATs will be released to students nationally, on an ongoing basis.

Citing a decline in the preparation of its admitted students for college-level work, the University of California system begins requiring the SAT for admission for all applicants, regardless of their high school GPA. However, GPA will continue to be weighted more heavily in the university's admission decisions.

The College Board begins selling previously administered SAT tests directly to students, with the release of the booklet "4 SATs", to be followed by "5 SATs" in 1981 and "6 SATs" in 1982. In 1983, the College Board will begin regularly publishing tests in books, available nationally in book stores, called "5 SATs" and "10 SATs".

To comply with the New York truth-in-testing law, the College Board reduces the total number of SAT administrations in that state from eight to four, and increases the SAT fee from $8.25 to $10 for New York students. Each student can receive a copy of the test with his or her answers and the correct answers, for an additional $4.65.

The number of administrations of the GRE and ACT is also reduced in New York. In response to the truth-in-testing law, the AAMC decides to have no administrations of the MCAT in the state. However, by 1996, the law (New York Education Law, Title 1, Article 7-A, Section 342) will require only four SAT administrations per year to be disclosed. Similar exceptions will be made for the TOEFL and GRE tests, but not for the ACT test. The MCAT is also excepted and the AAMC is required to disclose only one test every four years.

The College Board raises the math scores of nearly a quarter million students who took the PSAT administered in October, 1980. This PSAT is the first to be released to the test takers; a student notices that the ETS answer to one of the math questions (dealing with pyramids) is incorrect.

In March, the College Board decides to provide all students nationally with copies of their SAT exams and answers, for at least some test administrations, for a fee of $9.25 (about $25 in 2012 dollars). The new policy will take effect in the 1981-82 testing year.

In the summer, ACT publishes a 56-page student preparation handbook (titled "Preparing for the ACT Assessment") which includes a complete sample test for the first time.

In the 1985-1986 school year, nine students out of about 1.7 million test takers (roughly one in 200,000) receive a perfect score of 1600 on the SAT.

The College Board begins its "New Possibilities Project", a multi-year endeavor to propose and study changes to the Board's testing program, including the SAT and the Achievement Tests.

In October, a new version of the ACT (called the "Enhanced ACT") is administered, replacing the previous version of the test. Two major changes are made: the "Natural Science" sub-test of the ACT is replaced with a "Science Reasoning" sub-test, and the "Social Studies" sub-test is replaced with a "Reading" sub-test. The new reading sub-test is designed to be a better assessment of "pure" reading ability and comprehension, whereas the social studies sub-test contained items testing, among other things, specific knowledge of U.S. history. The new science sub-test de-emphasizes specific scientific knowledge while primarily assessing analytical and problem-solving skills using reading material, charts, graphs, and tables drawn from scientific literature.

In addition, changes are made to the existing ACT mathematics and English sections. The math section will now include trigonometry as well as pre-algebra (arithmetic) content; the English section will place less emphasis on grammar and increase content related to testing of writing skills. The total time of the ACT test will increase from 2 hours and 40 minutes to 2 hours and 55 minutes.

With these changes, the scaled scores on the new ACT test are also "recentered". Although new scores will still be reported on the same 1-36 scale that has been used since the first ACT test in 1959, the recentering means that the scores for the previous test will not be directly comparable to scores for the new test. The change increases the average composite score from 18.6 for 1989 seniors (old scale) to 20.6 for 1990 seniors (new scale):

SeniorsAverage ACT Scores
Class YearCompositeMathematicsEnglish

At this time, roughly one million students (juniors and seniors) take the ACT each year, whereas about 1.2 million students take the SAT. (For comparison, the total number of U.S. high school graduates in 1990 is roughly 2.5 million. About 40% of all high-school graduates in the U.S. take the SAT in this year.)

In this year, ten students out of 1.2 million test takers (roughly one in 120,000 students) get perfect scores of 1600 on the SAT.

At this time, the test fee for the SAT is $16 (about $28 in 2012 dollars).

In October, a report is released by a commission established by the College Board to review the proposed changes to be made to the SAT as part of the Board's "New Possibilities Project". The commission recommends that the SAT should: "do more than predict college grades", "reinforce the growth of sound high school curricula", and "approximate more closely the skills used in college and high school work". The commission also recommends that the acronym "SAT" used for the testing program be changed from "Scholastic Aptitude Test" to "Scholastic Assessment Test", in order to "convey a breadth sufficient to encompass the changes in format and purpose". The commission does not recommend adding a written essay to the SAT, as was expected, but instead advises that a mandatory essay be made part of a new writing Achievement test (to be called "SAT II - Writing").

In June, calculators are allowed for the first time on a new version of the Math Level II Achievement Test, which is called the "Math Level IIC Achievement Test". Students are given the option of taking the standard (non-calculator) Level II Test; the Level I Test remains a non-calculator test. The scaled score range for the Level IIC test is the same (200-800) as the Level II test, even though scores from the II and IIC exams are not comparable. (In other words, a score of 500 on the Level II test does not reflect the same skill level in math as a score of 500 on the Level IIC test. According to the College Board, "the abilities and skills measured by the two tests are not identical".)

The SAT is renamed from "Scholastic Aptitude Test" to "SAT I: Reasoning Test", and the Achievement Tests are renamed "SAT II: Subject Tests". The first renamed tests will be administered in March, 1994. Collectively, according to the College Board, these tests are to be known as "Scholastic Assessment Tests" (plural), and the acronym "SAT" is no longer considered to stand for anything. Donald M. Stewart, the president of the College Board, says that the renaming is designed "to correct the impression among some people that the SAT measures something that is innate and impervious to change regardless of effort or instruction."

However, for at least the next three years, the Reasoning Test is commonly called the "Scholastic Assessment Test" (singular), and Stewart himself will use this phrase to refer to the SAT in a letter to the New York Times in 1995.

Significant changes are made to the SAT starting with the March test. Antonyms are removed from the verbal section to make rote memorization of vocabulary less useful. (For a list of the antonym words used in 45 SAT tests from 1977 to 1990, see this PDF file.) The percent of content devoted to passage-based reading material is increased from about 30% to about 50%, and the reading comprehension sub-sections are renamed "Critical Reading". The reading passages are chosen to be more like typical college-level reading material, compared to previous SAT reading passages.

The TSWE is dropped from the SAT at this time; this test reappears as part of the SAT II Writing Test, which also includes a short essay. The time allocated to the math and verbal portions increases by 15 minutes each, keeping the SAT three hours in length and decreasing the impact of speed on test performance.

Three major changes are made to the math section of the SAT: the tested math content is expanded, free-response questions are added, and students are now allowed to use calculators. These changes are made in response to the suggestions of the NCTM, which in an influential 1989 report had emphasized the use of the "real-world" problems, probability and statistics, and calculators in the K-12 math curriculum. At this time, the tested math material is expanded to include: questions with more than one correct answer (via the free-response section); data interpretation, including pie charts, bar graphs, and scatterplots; slopes of lines; probability; the concepts of median and mode; logic problems; and, counting and ordering problems.

Starting with the April SAT, scaled scores are "recentered". By the early 1990s, the average SAT verbal scores were about 425 and the average SAT math scores were about 475. The table below shows average SAT scores for seniors graduating in the listed class year:

SeniorsAverage SAT Score
Class YearMathVerbal

(For all of the yearly average SAT scores from 1952 to the present, including SAT scores on the original (pre-1995) scale, see this PDF file for the data and this PDF file for a plot.) The recentering is done in order to return the average scores of the verbal and math sections closer to each other and closer to the midpoint of the scale (500), as seen in the last line of the table above. Although new scores will still be reported on the same 200-800 scale, the recentering means that the old test scores (prior to April 1995) will not be directly comparable to later scores. For example, a May 1995 score of 600 in math will not reflect the same ability level as a May 1994 score of 600 in math.

The primary problem with the pre-1995 scale is that test scores are still linked to the 1941 and 1942 reference groups of students, and the test-taking population changed significantly in the decades after World War II. Mathematically, this meant that it was not unusual, especially for verbal section scales, to have a perfect raw score correspond to a scaled score of less than 800. (The scoring policy, however, was to award an 800 for a perfect raw score.) A group of about one million seniors in the class of 1990 is chosen to be the reference group for the new scale.

Another effect of the recentering of SAT scores is a significant increase in the number of students achieving a perfect score of 1600. Previous to the new scaling, a single mistake or question left blank would result in a score of less than 1600. Starting with the April, 1995, SAT test, students can miss as many as four questions and still get a perfect 1600. In 1994, 25 students got perfect scores out of about 1.25 million (about 1 in 50,000 students). The first recentered SAT in April has 137 perfect scores out of about 200,000 test takers (about 1 in 1,400 students).

The number of dates on which SAT tests are administered nationally per year in the U.S. increases to seven when the October test date is made available in all states. (The dates of all past regular SAT administrations can be found in this PDF file.)

In September, the ACT (both the test and the company) is renamed so that "ACT" is no longer an acronym: the letters "ACT" no longer stand for anything.

Starting in October, calculators are allowed for use by students on the math section of the ACT test.

The College Board, in an attempt to clear up confusion about the naming of the SAT, says that the SAT by itself is not properly called the "Scholastic Assessment Test". Instead, the term "SAT" is not to be considered an acronym: the letters "SAT" no longer stand for anything.

In the fall, the PSAT/NMSQT is updated to include a 30-minute, multiple-choice writing skills section based in part on the now-discontinued TSWE. The four additional sections on the PSAT are decreased in time from 30 minutes to 25 minutes in order to keep the length of the test roughly the same. PSAT scores remain on a scale of 20 to 80, and three scores are now reported: Verbal, Math, and Writing. The National Merit qualifying scores are now calculated using the sum of the three scores, with a top score of 240. (Previously, the verbal score was doubled and added to the math score resulting in the same top score.)

Online registration for the ACT test via the Internet is made available.

At this time, the test fee for the SAT is $23 (about $31 in 2012 dollars).

Concerned that the SAT is not nearly as good a predictor of college success as either high-school grades or the SAT II Subject Tests, the president of the University of California suggests dropping the SAT I as a consideration in UC admissions. Criticisms of the SAT at this time also include the apparent disconnection between what high-school students are learning in their course work and "esoteric" items on the SAT such as verbal analogies and quantitative comparison questions.

Timeline of Mandated ACT/SAT Testing

Below is the list of states that require all high-school juniors to take either the SAT or ACT test. Key: red text is for the ACT only, blue text is for the SAT only, purple text is for either test, and "+" or "-" means that the state added or dropped the test, respectively. For a visualization of the data, see the chart.

2001: +IL +CO 2006: +ME
2007: +MI 2008: +WY +KY
2010: +TN +ND 2011: +DE
2012: +NC 2013: +MT +LA +HI
2014: +UT +AL +ID 2015: +NV +WI +SC +MO +MS +MN
2016: -MN -MI -CO +MI +CO +NH +CT 2017: -TN -IL +NE +IL +RI +TN +OH
2018: -SC -HI -MO +WV +SC +OK 2019: +HI -SC
2022: -ND

In the spring, Colorado and Illinois begin requiring all high school 11th graders (juniors) to take the ACT test. In Illinois, a passing score will be implemented and whether the student passed or not will be noted on the student's transcript. In both states, students do not have to pay the typical fee for taking the test: the cost is borne by the state. By 2022 (see box above for details), twenty-five states will require high school juniors to take either the ACT or SAT. (In some of the mandatory test states, school districts are given the choice of which test to administer.). Several other states provide the SAT or ACT test free of charge to all juniors as an optional test.

Beginning with the October test date, "Score Choice" for the SAT II Subject Tests is dropped. Previously (since 1993), a student could decide whether a Subject Test score would be sent to a college or university. After the change, all scores of any tests taken are sent, matching the policy of the SAT I.

The last version of the "10 SATs" books (the third edition of "10 Real SATs") is published by the College Board. A similar book (containing previously administered SATs) won't be published again until 2018, when the official SAT study guide will contain four previously administered SATs. (Two years later, the 2020 version will include two more; both the 2018 and 2020 guides also include other non-administered tests made up of actual questions from older tests).

The College Board awards Pearson Educational Measurement with a contract to scan answer sheets and grade the essay on the new SAT (announced in 2002). The Pearson contract, along with the new SAT, will begin in 2005.

The SAT is again renamed, dropping the roman numerals, so that the official names are "SAT Reasoning Test" and the "SAT Subject Tests".

Beginning with the March SAT, the content of the test is changed, at least partly in response to the UC criticisms. The "Verbal Reasoning" section of the SAT is renamed "Critical Reading", and the verbal analogy questions are dropped. The new reading section includes short passages (fewer than 20 lines) as well as the traditional longer reading selections. Newly added is a writing skills section, with essay, based on the now discontinued SAT Subject Writing Test. Three SAT scores, for Critical Reading, Math, and Writing, each on a scale of 200-800, are reported, making the perfect score 2400 instead of 1600.

In SAT Math, quantitative comparison questions are dropped. Several new topics are added: exponential growth; absolute value; functional notation; equations of lines; rational and radical equations; and, manipulation of fractional and negative exponents. (The rational and radical equations as well as the fractional and negative exponents are added to reflect content from typical third-year high-school algebra courses.) Greater emphasis is placed on linear functions, and properties of tangent lines.

To accommodate the new writing section and essay, the total time of the SAT (including a 25-minute equating section) increases to 3 hours and 45 minutes. The test fee for the SAT increases to $41.50 (about $47 in 2012 dollars), from $29.50 just two years before. (You can see how the SAT test fee has changed over the years in this chart.)

About 300,000 students take the first "new" SAT in March, with 107 of them (roughly 1 in 2,800 students) receiving a perfect score of 2400.

The ACT test adds a 30-minute writing section, beginning with the February administration; the section is optional for test takers. With the writing section, the total time of the ACT test increases to 3 hours and 25 minutes.

In March, the College Board announces that about 5,000 of the half-million SAT tests taken in October 2005 were incorrectly scored. (Most of the errors resulted in reported scores lower than what students actually scored.) The testing company that scores the exams, Pearson Educational Measurement, says that the errors were due in part to excessive moisture when the answers sheets were scanned.

Out of 1.38 million seniors taking the SAT, 238 (roughly 1 in 5,000 students) receive a perfect score of 2400. In 2004, approximately the same number of seniors took the SAT, and 939 (about 1 in 1,500 students) received a perfect score of 1600.

In comparison, 216 seniors in the class of 2006 out of 1.21 million taking the ACT (about 1 in 5,600 students) receive a perfect composite score of 36.

The ACT becomes a valid admissions test at every four-year college or university in the U.S. when Harvey Mudd College accepts ACT scores for fall admissions.

"Score Choice" for the SAT is returned, beginning with the March test date. Under this policy, students are allowed to report any or all of the SAT or SAT Subject Tests that they take, depending on the admissions criteria of the recipient colleges. (However, the honor system is used: no verification is made by the College Board that a student reports all scores to a college that has an "all scores" policy.) Previously, all SAT and SAT Subject scores would be reported.

For the first time since the ACT test has been administered, the number of high school seniors taking the ACT (1.57 million) is greater than those taking the SAT (1.55 million). (See the table below. At this time, the College Board counts only those seniors taking the SAT no later than March of their senior year.)

In December, the College Board stops selling unused test booklets from prior PSAT administrations. Previously, the booklets were available directly from the College Board store for $3 each.

The College Board revises its SAT statistics to include those seniors taking the test as late as June of their graduation year, as opposed to March, the previous cutoff date. This change has the effect of both reducing mean SAT scores and increasing the number of seniors included in the statistics.

* Includes seniors taking the SAT as late as June of their senior year.
SeniorsTaking the SAT or ACT Average SAT Reading Score
Class YearSATACTpreviousrevised*
20071,494,531 1,300,599502501
20081,518,859 1,421,941502500
20091,530,128 1,480,469501499
20101,547,990 1,568,835501500

Even using the College Board's revised accounting methods, the number of seniors taking the ACT surpasses the number taking the SAT. (For charts showing the number and percent of seniors taking the SAT and ACT tests since 1986, see this PDF file.)

For the first time since 1963, an SAT is scheduled to be administered in August. The test administration is to be available only to people enrolled in a test preparation program for gifted students at Amherst College. However, the College Board later cancels the August test date, calling it "inappropriate".

Starting with the October tests, new security measures intended to reduce cheating are put into place for the SAT and ACT. Students are now required to submit a photo and high school code when registering for an exam. The high school will receive the scores for each student and will be provided access to the student's submitted photo for verification purposes.

In February, the College Board announces that the SAT will be redesigned "so that it better meets the needs of students, schools, and colleges at all levels." The time frame and details of the changes are not provided. (In August, the president of the College Board says that the new SAT will debut in 2015.)

In May, ACT Inc. announces that a computer-based version of the ACT test will be made available starting in the spring of 2015 for schools that administer the ACT during the school day. The new version will retain the same content as the paper version of the test, which will remain available for the time being. The computer tests, to be administered via the Internet, will optionally include questions requiring the student to produce his or her own answers, along with the traditional multiple-choice items.

Starting with the graduating class of 2013, ACT Inc. begins including both standard-time and extended-time test takers in its annual report. This change has the effect of both reducing mean ACT scores and increasing the number of seniors included in the statistics. More than fifty percent of graduating seniors taking either the SAT or ACT are now taking the ACT test.

* Includes both standard-time and extended-time seniors taking the ACT.
Number Of
Average ACT Score

In December, the College Board announces that the revised SAT will appear in the spring of 2016, one year later than expected. The correspondingly revised PSAT is scheduled for October, 2015.

In March, some details of the upcoming changes to the SAT are revealed. The essay is to be made optional and scored separately, reverting the maximum combined score back to 1600; the guessing penalty will be eliminated; calculators will no longer be allowed for some of the math sections; the range of math content areas will be reduced; each test will include a reading passage "drawn from the Founding Documents or the Great Global Conversation"; some reading passages on each test will be accompanied by tables or graphs; and, the SAT will be available in both paper-and-pencil form as well as on a computer.

In May, the New York legislature introduces a bill that would allow ACT Inc. to disclose at most four regular ACT test forms administered in New York to those taking the tests. At this time, ACT Inc. must divulge all regular ACT test forms administered in New York. The bill would provide an allowance similar to that given to the College Board by New York Education Law, Title 1, Article 7-A, Section 342. (The bill will not become law in spite of having been reintroduced several times to the New York State Assembly.)

In June, ACT Inc. announces changes to the ACT test which are to go into effect sometime in 2015. Students will receive new scores or "indicators", along with the usual individual and composite scores, describing performance in categories such STEM, career readiness, English language arts, and text complexity. In addition, the optional writing portion of the test is increased in duration from 30 minutes to 40 minutes. The new essay prompt includes three different perspectives on an issue which the student is asked to evaluate and compare with his or her own perspective.

In February, the College Board publishes upcoming test dates for the next three years, effectively announcing that a nationwide summer SAT test administration will be provided, beginning in the August just prior to the 2017-2018 school year. (The last August tests to be administered were in the early 1960s.) The August test is to replace the January administration.

In March, the redesigned version of the SAT is administered, with approximately 280,000 test takers registered to take the Saturday exam.

Less than a week before the March test date, the College Board transfers some test takers to the next SAT administration in May, citing security reasons. Registrants "identified as those likely to be taking the test for other purposes" than to apply to a college or university, or to apply to a scholarship or financial aid program that requires a college admissions test, are the ones transferred. In April, the College Board clarifies the policy, saying that such registrants may take the SAT "only during administrations where the SAT form is disclosed after the test." (These administrations are March, May, and October for U.S. registrants.)

In March, ACT Inc. announces the PreACT test, a competitor to the College Board's PSAT. The PreACT, available starting in the fall, is designed to be given to 10th graders in the United States as practice for the ACT. The test is paper-based, runs about two hours long (compared to at least three hours for the ACT), and can administered by schools at any time during the school year.

In February, ACT Inc. announces the first summer test date for the ACT, to be administered in July, 2018. The new test date increases the number of U.S. national administrations of the ACT from six to seven. (The new test date will not be offered in New York, however.)

In November, the governor of New York signs NY Senate Bill S8639C into law. The legislation amends Section 342 of New York Education Law to exempt ACT Inc. from having to disclose all ACT tests administered in the state by limiting the maximum number of non-exempted tests to four. (The College Board has had an identical exemption for the SAT for more than 20 years.) The next day, ACT Inc. announces that the national February administration of the ACT test will also be offered in New York, starting in 2019. (The July test date will remain unavailable in the state, allowing ACT Inc. to disclose only three tests.)

In March, U.S. federal prosecutors charge fifty people in a scheme to fraudulently obtain admissions offers from multiple American colleges and universities. The government says that, in some cases, SAT and ACT scores were falsified via the use of bribed test administrators who would provide correct answers or correct students' submitted answers in order to improve their test scores. In addition, according to the prosecutors, fraudulent claims of learning disabilities were made in order to gain extra allotted time for students as well as to obtain easier access to the two test centers in which the bribed administrators were located.

In May, the College Board announces that an "adversity score" will be included with SAT scores, starting with reports to about 150 colleges this fall and nationally sometime in 2020. The score will be from 1 to 100, with a higher number reflecting a greater disadvantage experienced by the student. The score is intended to distill into a single number data including 15 elements such as the student's high school quality, local crime rate, and neighborhood poverty level. The adversity scores will be provided to college admissions staff but not to students. (After criticism from educators and others, in a few months' time the College Board will drop the plan to report a single adversity score, saying that they instead will report only school and neighborhood scores to both students and admissions personnel.)

In October, ACT Inc. announces that students who would like to improve their scores on a particular section of the ACT (such as math, for example) will be able to take a single section of the test, at a reduced price, on any national ACT administration day starting in September, 2020. At the same time, students will be able to "superscore": in a single report to colleges, they can combine the best results, from up to 12 test dates, that they have achieved in each section. ACT also announces that, starting in September, 2020, all students will be given the option to take the ACT online on national administration days. (The COVID-19 pandemic will later cause ACT Inc. to delay national online ACT administrations past 2021 and to make the online option available only for students in districts that administer the test during the school day.)

In March, the spring administrations of the SAT and ACT, including in-school test days, are cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In April, the College Board says that an extra national test date in September is planned, and in-school administrations will also be held in the fall. The College Board also announces that the SAT may be given online to students at home if the COVID-19 pandemic continues to require social distancing in the fall; however, this option will be dropped in June by the College Board, citing technical difficulties.

Many colleges and universities in the United States, including the University of California, announce that SAT and ACT scores will be considered optional for admission of students entering in fall, 2021. (That is, for students who are juniors in the 2019-2020 school year.)

In January, the College Board announces that the optional essay section of the SAT, introduced in 2005, will be eliminated, saying that "there are other ways for students to demonstrate their mastery of essay writing". In addition, the College Board announces that all SAT Subject tests will be discontinued, stating that "the expanded reach of AP [courses and exams] and its widespread availability for low-income students and students of color means the subject tests are no longer necessary." The last SAT with an essay section, and the last SAT Subject tests, are to be administered in June.

In May, the University of California, attended by more than 200,000 undergraduate students, announces that, effective immediately, the SAT and ACT will no longer be used for admission purposes or for the awarding of scholarships at all ten of the schools making up the university system. The announcement is the result of a settlement of a lawsuit brought by students against the university. Scores on the SAT or ACT will only be used for English language requirements and course placement, if a student chooses to submit their test results. The university was already planning, as of May 2020, to phase out use of the SAT or ACT for admission purposes in 2025.

In December, Harvard University announces that it will not require SAT or ACT scores for admission purposes for four more years (for the incoming classes of 2027 through 2030). The school had already made test scores optional for the prior two classes (2025 and 2026) due to the COVID-19 pandemic. One effect of the pandemic by this time is that 80 percent of colleges and universities do not require SAT or ACT scores for admission, compared to 45 percent in 2019. However, most of these schools still accept SAT or ACT scores if provided by the student.

In January, the College Board announces (with more details released in June) that the SAT will be completely moving by the spring of 2024 from a pencil-and-paper test to one taken on a computer or tablet. (International test centers will move to the digital format by the spring of 2023, and the PSAT will be administered by computer in the fall of 2023.) Several significant changes are planned for the new test:
  • The actual test time will be reduced from 3 hours to about 2.25 hours, consisting of two "modules" (sections) for each of two main topic areas: reading/writing, and math. The PSAT will have the same format and duration as well.
  • The test will be adaptive: the set of questions presented to the student in the second module will depend on how well the student did in the first module. The test will not adapt question-by-question, so that the student may return to any question in a given module during the allotted time.
  • The time allotted per question will increase from 180 minutes for 154 questions (about 1.2 minutes per question) to 134 minutes for 98 questions (about 1.4 minutes per question).
  • In the reading modules, shorter reading passages will be used, with only one question for each passage. In the math modules, a graphing calculator will be allowed for all questions. (An on-screen calculator will be provided as well.)
  • Score reports will be available in days rather than weeks. Scoring will consists of two scores: one for reading/writing and one for math on the same 200-800 scale as the current SAT. The score reports will no longer include any subscores.
The College Board says that the primary reasons for changing the SAT are to reduce stress and increase access to the test, while improving security and maintaining the value of the SAT.