Garrison Keillor’s “The Writers’ Almanac” reports that today the very first SAT was administered on a trial basis. It was created by Professor Carl C. Brigham of Princeton, one of the founding psychologists of the IQ test. Brigham wrote one of the most notoriously racist, anti-immigrant books of the 1920s. Brigham asserted that wide scale IQ testing demonstrated that whites from Northern Europe were superior to immigrants from southern and Eastern Europe and to American blacks. His book, “A Study of American Intelligence,” helped the movement to restrict immigration and reinforced virulent racism.

TWA noted the day:

It was on this day in 1926 that 8,040 college applicants, in 353 locations around the U.S., were administered an experimental college admissions test. The test was the brainchild of Carl Brigham, a professor of psychology at Princeton. Brigham had been an assistant during World War I for the U.S. Army’s IQ testing movement, the “Army Alpha,” which assessed the intelligence of new recruits. After the war, he tinkered with the test, mainly making it more difficult, but also looking for a measurement of pure intelligence, regardless of the test-taker’s educational background. Just 4 years later, however, Brigham came to believe that the test scores represented not “pure intelligence,” but rather “a composite including schooling, family background, familiarity with English and everything else, relevant and irrelevant.” The Scholastic Aptitude Test, now known as the SAT, was formally adopted in 1942. Today’s test takes three hours to complete.

The College Board decided to make the switch on December 7, 1941, because of the Japanese attack on the American base at Pearl Harbor. The college presidents were meeting at Princeton that day and realized the US would soon be at war. There would be no time for essay-based exams. In 1942, machine-scored, multiple-choice tests replaced the old College Boards, which had been created, written and scored by teams of teachers and professors.