September 4, 2007
This year's average SAT mathematics score has come up short. The test takers the largest and most diverse group in history managed only 515, which represents the lowest average math score in more than three decades, according to the College Board, which administers the nationwide college-admissions exam. In addition, 515 represents a three-point drop from last year's average score.
Other portions of the SAT also showed drops. Critical reading (formerly the "verbal" portion of the test) fell to 502 from last year's 503, making it the lowest score since 1994. Scores for the writing section slipped to 494 from last year's 497. In all, the three scores are the low mark for the decade so far.
Wayne Camara, the board's vice president for research and analysis, told the Wall Street Journal that the overall drops were "not statistically significant." But some educators, college-admissions experts, and students suggested that the scores reflected a harder and longer exam. The SAT had been revised two years ago to include algebra, reading passages, and a new section testing writing ability. These revisions had lengthened the test by 45 minutes.
"The new test was designed to be more challenging," said Seppy Basili, senior vice president at Kaplan Inc. He called the advanced algebra material "a serious concern for some students," some of whom hadn't reached the material until they were juniors.
Despite the fact that math scores in the SAT peaked at 520 in 2005, the College Board indicated that this year's math and reading portions were comparable to their earlier counterparts. Furthermore, while the advanced algebra material was new, the always-difficult word analogies had been eliminated. The Board's research in 2006 had indicated no difference in students' performances at the beginning, middle, and end of the revised test.
The College Board pointed out that a record 1.5 million students a 2% increase from 2006 took the SAT in 2007. Minority students made up a record 39% of test takers and almost one-fourth of test takers didn't list English as their only first language.
Source: College Board, Aug. 28, 2007; Wall Street Journal, Aug. 29, 2007.