April Maguire 5 min read SAT Info and Tips

What Does SAT Stand For? A Brief History of the Test

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As a high school student, you’re probably familiar with the SAT, the standardized test used to help colleges assess and evaluate students from around the U.S. However, you might not know the true history of this all-important exam. 

 

Although the SAT wasn’t introduced until 1926, the test’s roots actually date back to 1905, when IQ tests were administered to World War I Army recruits. Keep reading to learn how the College Board went on to adapt these tests for use in college admissions, along with more details about the history of this exam, including the meaning of SAT.

 

What is the Meaning of “SAT”? History and Timeline of the SAT 

 

The College Board created the SAT at Columbia University in 1899. Comprised of 12 universities and 3 secondary schools, the group sought to design a set of standards that high school teachers could use to determine curriculum, along with a test that would evaluate how well students were prepared in the subject matter. Additionally, the test would enable schools to compare applicants from different schools and parts of the country. 

 

While the first College Board test was administered in 1901, the organization didn’t introduce the SAT until 1926. At the time, the acronym SAT stood for Scholastic Aptitude Test. Like an IQ test, the exam attempted to measure a student’s natural talent or aptitude for learning. 

 

While the creators initially believed that individuals with higher IQs were more likely to perform well in college, people discovered over time that students could increase their SAT scores by studying. In response to this realization, the College Board changed the meaning of SAT to Scholastic Assessment Test in 1993. They also started to refer to the traditional SAT as the SAT I: Reasoning Tests, while the individual subject exams were called SAT II: Subject Tests.

 

So, what is the meaning of SAT today? Since 1997, SAT no longer stands for anything. On the contrary, it’s just a trademark used for the most (in)famous exam in the world.

 

What Subjects Are on the SAT? How Is It Scored? 

 

If you’re planning to take the SAT in the coming months or years, then it’s important to start familiarizing yourself with the test content and scoring now. The SAT features two main sections: Reading and Math. While the Essay portion of the test is optional, most competitive schools require students to sit for this part of the exam. Below is a table of SAT sections, along with the number of questions and minutes allotted for each.

 

Section Number of Questions Time Allotted
Reading 52 65 minutes
Break N/A 10 minutes
Writing and Language 44 35 minutes
Math 20 25 minutes
Break N/A 5 minutes
Math With Calculator 38 55 minutes
Break N/A 2 minutes
Essay 1 50 minutes
TOTAL 4 hours 7 minutes

 

The Math and Evidence-Based Reading and Writing Sections of the SAT are each scored between 200-800 points, so the highest sore students can achieve is 1600. Note that the Essay is evaluated separately, and your Essay score will factor into your composite SAT score. Two graders will give you a score from 1-4 on reading, analysis, and writing to form a total score from 2-8 in each dimension.

 

There’s no penalty for answering a question incorrectly, so it’s in a student’s best interest to guess, even if they have no idea. In cases where you can’t eliminate any answers, pick one letter to guess and stick to it for other questions you don’t know how to do. Guessing the same letter consistently will give you about a 20% chance of getting a question right, but guessing a different letter each time will give you much lower odds.

 

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How Much Does the SAT Cost? 

 

Wondering what it costs to take the SAT? Expect to pay a minimum registration cost of $45, assuming you sign up by the deadline. You’ll pay $26 for an SAT Subject Test testing date, at which time you can take up to three exams. 

 

While the prices associated with standardized testing can add up, some students may be able to receive fee waivers. Along with the testing fee itself, a waiver covers:

 

  •  The registration fee for the SAT with or without the Essay
  • 2 free Question-and-Answer Service (QAS) or Student Answer Service (SAS) reports
  • Unlimited score reports
  • Waived application fees at participating colleges
  • Free CSS Profile™ applications
  • Waived non-U.S. Regional Fees for U.S. students testing internationally
  • Waived late registration fees for testing in the United States or U.S. territories.

 

Test takers must meet one or more of the following criteria to secure a waiver:

 

  • Be part of the National School Lunch Program
  • Meet the USDA Food and Nutrition Service Income Eligibility Requirements
  • Be enrolled in a government program for students from low income families
  • Be a recipient of public assistance
  • Be homeless or in foster care
  • Be an orphan or ward of the state

 

What Is a Good SAT Score? 

 

There’s no one answer to what constitutes a good SAT score. However, the College Board provides Math and the Evidence-Based Reading and Writing benchmarks to help schools assess whether students are likely to succeed. Students who meet the benchmark for Math have a 75% chance of earning a C or higher in a first-semester algebra, statistics, pre-calculus, or calculus class. Similarly, students who meet the Reading benchmark are likely to earn a minimum grade of C in their history, literature, writing, and social sciences courses.

 

In order to be considered college and career ready, students need to hit the following benchmarks: 480 for Evidence-Based Reading and Writing and 530 for Math. The benchmark for 11th grade students is slightly lower. Currently, high school juniors should aim to score a minimum of 460 in Reading and 510 in Math.

 

The College Board also provides test takers with access to national averages for each year’s graduating seniors. For 2019, the average senior who took the SAT scored a 531 in Reading and a 528 in Math

 

Even if you know the average scores and benchmarks, it can be difficult to determine whether you have a good chance of getting into your dream school. To ensure you get accepted to a great college, be sure to apply to several schools, including safety, target, and reach colleges. Additionally, students should consider how their SAT scores relate to their goal institution’s middle 50% range. For example, if a college lists its SAT range as being 1300-1400, 25% of students scored below 1300, while 25% scored over 1400. The largest percentage of accepted students, known as the middle 50% range, had SAT scores between 1300-1400. In general, students need a score in the upper part of the middle 50% or higher to be competitive at that school.

 

Average SAT scores vary significantly from one school to the next. For example, at Boston College, the middle 50% of students accepted into the class of 2023 had an SAT score between 1420-1530. At the Ohio State University, the middle 50% range was 1300-1420. Do your research to make sure you’re applying to a healthy mix of safety, target, and reach institutions.

 

What is a Good SAT Score in 2020?

What is an Average SAT Score?

SAT Score Range: How to Break Down Your Score

What is the SAT? A Complete Guide to the Exam

 

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April Maguire
Blogger at CollegeVine
Short bio
A graduate of the Master of Professional Writing program at USC, April Maguire taught freshman composition while earning her degree. Over the years, she has worked as a writer, editor, tutor, and content manager. Currently, she operates a freelance writing business and lives in Los Angeles with her husband and their three rowdy cats.