SAT scores stable, record number take test

This year's average scores mirror those of last year, indicating that student performance held steady despite the increase in the number of test-takers

The number of SAT takers rose to more than 1.5 million, an 8 percent increase from five years ago and a 29.5 percent increase from 10 years ago.

The SAT continues to be the nation's most widely taken standardized college admissions test. Combined with high school grades, the SAT is also the best predictor of college success.

Average scores for the class of 2008 remained stable at 502 for critical reading, 515 for mathematics and 494 for writing.

SAT Takers in the Class of 2008
  • This year's class is the most diverse class on record with historic increases in the number of Hispanic, African American and Asian American students taking the test.

  • Minority SAT takers comprised 40 percent of all test-takers, up from 33 percent 10 years ago.

  • The number of first-generation students has increased over the last decade and from last year. In the class of 2008, 36 percent were first-generation students, compared to 35 percent in the class of 2007.

  • Females have narrowed the performance gap with males in critical reading, closing the gap to 4 points, compared with 7 points a decade ago, and females continue to outperform males on the writing section — by 13 points this year.

  • A record number of students in the class of 2008 received fee waivers, with 221,962 students qualifying for and receiving them. This indicates an increase in the number of traditionally underserved students preparing for college success.

  • The writing section of the SAT is the most predictive section of the test among all racial and ethnic minority groups.

  • The inclusion of the writing section has also contributed to an increased emphasis on writing in the classroom.

Trends in Participation Minority SAT takers have experienced substantial growth in participation during the last decade. Hispanics have expanded the most rapidly, more than doubling in number. Growth among Asian Americans and African Americans reached 61 percent and 52 percent, respectively.

Female students continue to form a majority of test-takers among all ethnic groups. Female students made up 57 percent of Hispanic and 57 percent of African American SAT takers in 2008. More than half of the Asian American (51 percent) and white test-takers (53 percent) were women.

Low-income students' participation has also remained steady. These students are increasingly taking advantage of the College Board's fee-waiver program, which granted $22 million in fee waivers and free services to qualifying students in 2008. About one out of every seven students in the 2008 cohort who took the SAT this year received free registration for up to two SAT tests and two SAT Subject Test, four free flexible score reports, and discounted SAT Readiness Program materials.

Value of Writing Section The SAT's writing section has proven to be the most predictive section of the test for determining first-year college performance, as evidenced by recent studies by the College Board and independent studies by the University of California and the University of Georgia. The College Board analysis, which evaluated data from about 150,000 students at 110 four-year colleges and universities, also found the writing section to be the most predictive for all students and therefore across all racial/ethnic minority groups.

  • Of all three sections of the SAT, the writing section is the most predictive of students' freshman year college performance for all students, demonstrating that writing is a critical skill and an excellent indicator of academic success in college.

  • The writing section is also the most predictive section for all racial/ethnic minority groups, which demonstrates that the SAT is a fair and valid test for all students.

A 2007 College Board report found that the SAT writing section has been a factor in the increased emphasis that many high schools and middle schools are placing on writing skills. Notable proportions of teachers (61 percent) and administrators (54 percent) indicated that the SAT writing section had been a factor in the change in importance that their schools and districts had placed on writing.

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