Seems like an oxymoron, doesn’t it? But really, the SAT can be fun! Well, no, that’s a lie. But let’s pretend it’s true while we read these cool SAT facts!
Fun Fact #1: The SAT Stands For…
… nothing! The SAT is a pseudo-acronym. Like its brethren “KFC” and the “A&M” in Texas A&M University, “SAT” appears to be an acronym, but, officially, it no longer stands for anything. Originally, “SAT” stood for “Scholastic Aptitude Test,” but it was changed in 1990 to mean “Scholastic Assessment Test” in order to appease critics that claimed the exam was not a measure of intelligence. Then, just three short years later, the letters officially lost their significance when the name was changed to “SAT I: Reasoning Test,” again to appease critics who argued that the test did not accurately reflect scholastic achievement.
Fun Fact #2: The Texas Education Miracle
One load-bearing wall of George W. Bush’s 2000 presidential campaign was the so-called “Texas Education Miracle,” which touted his successes in raising test scores throughout Texas during his 1995-2000 governorship. One bullet point on this list of educational phenomena was the fact that, between 1994 and 1995, SAT scores rose a stunning 100 points! Wizard-Governor Bush waved his magic wand and made all the teenagers in Texas smarter! A miracle, indeed!
Well, not really. In April of 1995, the College Board decided to re-center the SAT because of the declining national average. Originally, the SAT was designed to produce an average score of about 1000, but over the years, as more and more people took the test, the national average fell about 100 points to 900. The new scoring system artificially inflated scores so that the national average would rise back up to around 1000. In reality, adjusted for the re-centering, SAT scores neither rose nor fell significantly during Bush’s gubernatorial stint, but nobody noticed — if you ask me, that’s the real miracle.
Fun Fact #3: Californication
The University of California Public University System is the nation’s largest system of universities, consisting of ten schools and about 160,000 undergraduates. In 2009, the UC system received approximately 350,000 applications from high school seniors, the majority of whom took the SAT at least once. Even if each of those applicants only took the SAT once (probably not the case), that would come out to be about $16,450,000 for the College Board. You could probably buy a small country with that kind of money!
So in 2001 when the president of UC announced a recommendation to eliminate the SAT as a required admissions factor, the College Board listened — intently. President Atkinson questioned the validity of the SAT as an indicator of academic achievement and sparked a debate on the merits of standardized testing that eventually led to a major revision process that began in 2001, culminating in the changes that were unveiled in 2005. The College Board tacked on a writing section to the SAT, increased the maximum score from 1600 to 2400, eliminated analogies from the critical reading section, and made the test slightly more difficult overall (to decrease the number of perfect scores). Struggling to reach your target score on the SAT? Blame California. Interestingly (and strangely), the UC system already required SAT II Writing (subject test) scores in addition to the regular SAT scores — makes you wonder, how did moving the writing section from the SAT II to the SAT I help them evaluate students more accurately?