SAT scores plunge nationwide, with new test and fewer retakes
The Associated Press
Tucson, Arizona | Published:


The high-school class of 2006 recorded the sharpest drop in SAT scores in 31 years, a decline that the exam's owner, the College Board, said resulted partly from some students taking the newly lengthened test only once instead of twice.
Fatigue wasn't to blame, the College Board insisted, even though this year's class was the first to take a new version of the exam, which added an essay.
It now takes an average of three hours and 45 minutes to complete the test, not counting breaks, up from three hours previously.
The results come several months after numerous colleges reported surprisingly low SAT scores for this year's incoming college freshmen.
The nonprofit College Board, which had said scores would be down this year, released figures Tuesday showing combined critical reading and math skills fell seven points on average to 1021.
The average critical reading score fell from 508 to 503, while math dropped from 520 to 518. On the new SAT writing section, the class scored 497 on average, with girls scoring 11 points higher than boys.
In addition to the new writing section, the exam taken by the class of 2006 had other new features, including higher-level math and the elimination of analogies.
The College Board noted the drop in math scores amounts to one-fifth of one test question, and the reading to one-half of one question. But over about 1.5 million test-takers, such drops are significant, and this was the biggest year-to-year decline since the class of 1975.
The results come two weeks after it was announced the class of 2006 had posted the biggest score increase in 20 years on the rival ACT exam.
The ACT, which is also accepted by almost all colleges that require standardized tests, is generally more focused on material covered in high-school classes than the SAT, which is more of a measure of general ability.
But more students in such traditional SAT states as Connecticut and New Jersey appear to be taking both exams to try to improve their applications to selective colleges.
The initial indication SAT scores were down this year prompted speculation students may have been tiring out toward the end of the marathon exam.
Local angle
Arizona students scored above the national SAT average in all subject areas, but also experienced a decline from last year.
Arizona students averaged a 521 score in reading, 528 in math and 501 in writing.
About 32 percent of Arizona high-school graduates took the SAT test, which is not required for admission to state universities.
Reading scores have dropped 4 percent since 1996, but math scores have jumped by 7 percent in the same time.
Arizona Daily Star