Education
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A nostalgic trip down memory lane with the SAT [SLIDESHOW]

The people who bring you the SAT have apparently gotten antsy with their test again. Last month, the College Board announced that the test will soon undergo a massive overhaul — something that hasn’t happened since early in George W. Bush’s second term.

Before that makeover, the test had been a rock of permanence since Bill Clinton was president. Before that — in a stretch of immutability that may never again be equaled — the SAT had remained basically the same since 1974.

Indeed, the SAT has changed constantly and massively since 1926 when it was created by a man who said American education was in a decay that would accelerate “as the racial mixture becomes more and more extensive.”

In the slideshow below, The Daily Caller takes a nostalgic trip down memory lane with the peculiar American institution that is the SAT, from its origins to the present day.

(Very special thanks to PBS and tutor extraordinaire Erik Jacobsen for collecting many of the facts presented here.)

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  • In 1905 French psychologist Alfred Binet invented the first IQ test, a test which he claimed could measure a person's intelligence. It was a precursor to the SAT. Just two years earlier, American brothers Orville and Wilbur Wright invented the world's first successful flying machine. Photo: Library of Congress
  • During the First World War (1914-1918), the American military allowed Harvard professor Robert Yerkes to give IQ tests to some two million recruits. Yerkes wanted to use the newfangled tests to select officer candidates and to assemble a record of IQ statistics. Photo: public domain/John Warwick Brooke
  • The first SAT occurred on June 23, 1926. It was then called the Scholastic Aptitude Test. A committee headed by Princeton psychologist Carl C. Brigham created the test. Brigham had worked with Yerkes on the military IQ tests. Brigham later wrote a book concluding that American education was already in a decay that would accelerate "as the racial mixture becomes more and more extensive." Here is an unfortunate sample analogy question from the 1926 test: Epilepsy is to carpenter as stuttering is to: 1) tongue; 2) minister; 3) cure; 4) stammering; 5) fluttering. Photo: Library of Congress/public domain
  • The SAT began to take hold as an American institution during the 1930s. Harvard got the ball rolling in 1934 by using the test to select public school students for scholarships. By the end of the thirties, every Ivy League school used the SAT to choose scholarship recipients. The makers of the SAT tinkered relentlessly with the test during this period. For example, the 1930 test contained 100 free-response math questions. The math section mysteriously disappeared from 1936 to 1941. Math then reappeared in 1942 in the familiar form of five-answer multiple-choice questions. Photo: public domain/Library of Congress (Dorothea Lange)
  • In 1946, the SAT verbal section got a significant makeover. The revamped section consisted of antonyms, analogies, sentence completions and reading comprehension. Like the designers of the unsinkable Titanic, the makers of the SAT took great pride in claiming that their test assessed innate ability and could not be coached. They called the reading comprehension in particular "probably non-coachable." At roughly the same time, Stanley Kaplan, the son of a plumbing contractor, began offering a fairly pricey SAT prep course. Photo: Flickr/aldenjewell
  • Two big changes to the standardized testing landscape occurred in the late 1950s. In 1958, SAT takers were first allowed to see their own SAT scores. In 1959, E. F. Lindquist, a professor of education at the University of Iowa, and Ted McCarrel, the school's admissions director, created American College Testing. Their new test, the ACT, was pitched as an achievement test, not a test of innate intelligence. It would eat away at the SAT's market share. (In 2010, the ACT finally surpassed the SAT as the preferred test among high school seniors.) Photo: Getty Images/Hulton Archive
  • In 1960, the makers of the SAT scored a huge sales coup when the University of California system begins requiring every applicant to submit SAT scores. The UC system immediately became the largest client of the SAT's creators. Photo: UCSB Department of Geography
  • In 1965, the College Board -- the group that owns and administers the SAT -- published a booklet called "Effects of Coaching on Scholastic Aptitude Test Scores." The central claim was that SAT coaching usually produced gains of fewer than 10 points per section. Interestingly enough, you can now purchase a book the College Board called "The Official SAT Study Guide," which offers "test-taking approaches" and "focused sets of practice questions." The College Board now coaches the very test it repeatedly claimed wasn't coachable -- at the bargain price of $21.99. Photo: YouTube screenshot/Anti-War Protests 1965 Paul Richards
  • In 1974, the SAT makers added more antonym and analogy questions at the expense of reading comprehension questions. They also added a new, separate grammar section called the Test of Standard Written English (TSWE). The TSWE would be ditched in 1994 but would later reappear as part of the SAT II Writing Test. In math, quantitative comparison questions were added. These questions gave students two quantities and asked which was larger, or if they were the same, or if it was impossible to tell. Quantitative comparison questions remained on the SAT until 2005. Photo: National Archives/Danny Lyon
  • In 1979, the Federal Trade Commission investigated Stanley Kaplan's claims that his SAT course could raise scores by 100 points (combined math and verbal). The FTC concluded that Kaplan could raise scores by only 50 points on average. The claim that the SAT was not coachable nevertheless persisted in academia. Two years later, a new test-prep company called The Princeton Review appeared on the scene to challenge Kaplan's dominance. In a 1987 legal settlement, John Katzman, The Princeton Review's founder, would agree not to take any ETS test for two years. Photo: Creative Commons/Sarah from Brizzzzzle UK
  • By the early 1990s, it was no longer conventional wisdom that the SAT was some uncoachable test of inherent intelligence. As a result, the makers of the SAT suffered a grave acronym crisis. Just as the "This Can't Be Yogurt" restaurant chain changed its name to "The Country's Best Yogurt," the makers of the SAT created a new name for their test from its initials. In 1990, the "Scholastic Aptitude Test" became the "Scholastic Assessment Test." In 1993, the name was changed again to "SAT I: Reasoning Test" with the three letters officially standing for nothing at all. Photo: Getty Images
  • In 1994, the makers of the SAT again got the itch to change their test dramatically. The grammar test (TSWE) got the axe. In the verbal section, antonym questions were removed. More reading comprehension was added and the SAT makers tried to select passages that resemble what someone in college might read. In math, the SAT now asked 10 questions that were not multiple-choice. Also, test-takers were allowed to use calculators for the first time. A year later, in 1995, math and verbal scores were re-centered on their 200-800 scales. Photo: Youtube screenshot/ESPN 30 for 30
  • The SAT underwent a number of changes in 2005. Analogies -- a bedrock SAT question type for decades -- were unceremoniously dumped. The SAT makers got rid of quantitative comparison questions, too. The biggest change was that a new writing section (with essays) was added. It would receive its own scaled score between 200 and 800. This new section was not an immediate hit with college admissions staffs. To this day, some schools don't weigh it as heavily as the other two sections. Photo: Getty Images/Cate Gillon
  • In February 2013, insisting that their test is "a valuable tool for educators and policymakers," the makers of the SAT announced that the test will once again be revised "so that it better meets the needs of students, schools, and colleges at all levels." The exact changes remain a mystery, though last year the College Board appointed as its new president one of the co-writers of the Common Core State Standards Initiative. Photo: YouTube screenshot/Miami Heat