How Bad Have SAT Scores Gotten?

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SAT scores have been declining for decades, but this year the College Board — the association that produces the pre-college exam — is more concerned.

The 1.6 million test-takers this year averaged 496 in reading, 514 in math and 488 in writing, according to a new report from the College Board. That’s a combined score of 1498 — below the benchmark of 1550 the College Board says indicates college readiness.

Only 43 percent scored above that benchmark, it says.

That figure has been roughly the same since 2009, The Huffington Post says, while the trend of scores has been downward since 1972. Students who met or exceeded the benchmark were more likely to have taken a core curriculum emphasizing English, math, science and history; much more likely to have taken advanced placement or honors courses; and much more likely to be in the top 10 percent of their graduating class by GPA.

“While some might see stagnant scores as no news, we at the College Board consider it a call to action,” College Board president David Coleman said in a press release about the data. “We must dramatically increase the number of students in K–12 who are prepared for college and careers.”

Even the college readiness benchmark isn’t exactly a sign students will excel — just that they’ll probably get through it. “The SAT Benchmark score of 1550 is associated with a 65 percent probability of obtaining a first-year GPA (FYGPA) of B-,” the report says. If most students can’t even muster that, it sure does sound bad.

The bright spot is that scores and participation improved among minority groups:

  • 46 percent of test-takers were minority students, the largest percentage ever.
  • In 2012, 14.8 percent of African-American test-takers met or beat the benchmark. The number rose to 15.6 percent this year.
  • Last year, 22.8 percent of Hispanic test-takers met or beat the benchmark. This year, 23.5 percent did.

Others are less concerned about the results. Jim Hull, a senior policy analyst for the National School Boards Association, and U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan both highlighted the improvements among minorities, The Huffington Post says.

Others, such as American Institutes of Research vice president Mark Schneider, suggested the College Board was just tooting its own horn. “This [report] does not mean that the CB’s suite of products (PSAT/SAT/AP) is causally connected to college success. This report skirts way too close to that causal link than it should,” he said.

What do you think about SAT scores? Do they accurately reflect college success? Or do schools emphasize tests too much? Let us know on Facebook.

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Comments & discussion

We welcome your opinions, but let’s keep it civil. Like many businesses, we reserve the right to refuse service to anyone. In our case, that means those who communicate by name-calling, racism, using words designed to hurt others or generally acting like an uninformed bully. Also, comments that include links to email addresses or commercial websites typically aren't posted. This isn't a place to advertise your business.

  • Drew

    4+ year college effectively gives the average person no advantage in life, so the answer is no, the SAT doesn’t matter. Consider for a moment that we have all been lied to about the importance of universities.