History of Standardized Testing

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History of Standardized Testing

In the world of constant self improvement, standardized tests have come along for the ride. For one thing, colleges depend on standardized testing now more than ever. All over the world, students get out their pencils and prepare for the bubbling that could play a major part in their future, but it wasn’t always like this. Standardized testing has developed and adapted as history needed it to. It changed as the times changed.

Starting out as an application process for those who wanted to obtain government jobs in ancient China, standardized testing has been around for centuries.

It was used to test the applicants’ knowledge of Confucian poetry and philosophy. At the time, tests were only essays, as it was traditional, but as the world is constantly changing, so are standardized tests. As the Industrial Revolution occurred around the early 1800s, kids went from farms and factories to behind desks in schools. The school’s mission changed from only educating the rich and elite to teaching many normal children at once.

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Standardized testing was an easy way to test a mass amount of students quickly.

In World War I, standardized testing was used regularly to assign U.S servicemen to jobs during the war effort. Called Army Mental Tests, they varied in substance and scoring technique. They were created to obtain a more efficient system, but the grading of these tests was done by hand which didn’t help the goal of fast mass assessment. This went on until 1936, when the first automatic test scanner was developed.

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“It used electrical current to detect marks made by special pencils on tests, giving rise to the now ubiquitous bubbling-in of answers.”(Fletcher).

The most famous standardized tests in the modern world are the SAT and the ACT. SAT(Scholastic Aptitude Test) came first, founded in 1926 by College Board. “The original test lasted 90 minutes and consisted of 315 questions testing knowledge of vocabulary and basic math and even including an early iteration of the famed fill-in-the-blank analogies (e.g., blue:sky::____:grass)” (Fletcher).. It grew, gaining separate verbal and math tests. By the end of World War II, the test was a rite of passage for high school seniors considering going to college. In 2005, the writing section was added and analogy section was gotten rid of. Also, the perfect score changed from 1600 to 2400 because of the writing section.

The ACT was developed in 1959, by Everett Franklin Lindquist, an education professor at the University of Iowa. It was, “originally an acronym for American College Testing, the exam included a section that guided students toward a course of study by asking questions about their interests. In addition to math, reading and English skills, the ACT assesses students on their knowledge of scientific facts and principles”(Fletcher). The ACT is scored on a scale of 0 to 36.

The ACT and the SAT have both found a place in the country of America. The ACT is more common in the Midwest and the South, it tests more of accumulated knowledge. The SAT is more common on the coasts, it has more questions about logic. Neither of the acronyms ACT or SAT retained any meaning anymore.They are only referred to by their letters.

Nowadays, the SAT and ACT are simply a small part of the large amount of standardized tests students conquer before college. AP tests, PSAT, SAT II, and the list goes on for high school. Grade schools offer a multitude now as well. Standardized testing has always been a way for efficient testing of the masses, but it has morphed into a set of tests that have become standard practice for all students in all grades. The seemingly endless bubbling has been around for awhile, but the actual practicality of it is still questionable. The steps being made to improve this system are just another stop on the road of the ever changing standardized tests.


  1. Alcocer, Paulina, and NEA. “History of Standardized Testing in the United States.” NEA, National Education Association, 2007. 9 May, 2018.
  2. Fletcher, Dan. “Standardized Testing.” Time, Time Inc., 11 Dec. 2009. 5 May, 2018.
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History of Standardized Testing. (2021, Mar 19). Retrieved from http://studymoose.com/history-of-standardized-testing-essay

History of Standardized Testing

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