2012 SAT Report States Only 43% of College-Bound Seniors Are College Ready

Each year, the College Board releases data from the SAT obtained from college-bound students in each year’s graduating class. This is done in an effort to share important academic, socioeconomic and demographic information to analyze and compare the year-to-year change in mean scores. However, the 2012 SAT Report does not explain all the underlying reasons of why students perform a certain way, nor does it identify the reason for changes in score that occur from year-to-year. That being said, there are two main takeaway points from this report: (1) the number of students taking the SAT exam is at an all-time high and (2) the overall mean score has declined.

We’ll start with the first point. In spring of 2012, approximately 1.66 million students took the SAT, which is about 52% of the Class of 2012 and that is 6% more students than in 2008. Of that number, 45% were minority students, up from 38% in 2008. The number of students that reported English as not being their first language was 28%, up 4% from 2008; and 36% reported that their parents’ highest level of education was a high school diploma or less.

Now, before we get into details about the second takeaway point from this report, the score, it’s important to remember that in 2005, the College Board added a writing section to the already existing critical reading and math sections. The writing section was first tallied in 2006; therefore, the SAT is now made up of 3 parts with each section scored from 200 to 800 – a perfect SAT score is 2400.

The second takeaway point from the report is the score. The 2012 mean scores were as follows: critical reading – 496, which is down four points from 2008, math – 514, which is consistent since 2008 but down from a peak of 520 in 2005, and writing – 488, which is down five points from its peak in 2008. This means that a majority of those who presumably aspire to attend four-year colleges are ill-prepared to succeed there as they didn’t achieve the SAT College and Career Readiness Benchmark of 1550.

Overall, the percentage of test takers whom the College Board deems reasonably college ready, based on a combined SAT score, was 43% in both 2011 and 2012. Those students who reported that they were enrolled in honors and/or AP courses and completed a high school core curriculum fared better on the SAT than those who were not; a high school core curriculum consists of 4-years of English and 3-years of math, science and social studies. In 2012, 49% of students who reported completing the core curriculum achieved the SAT Benchmark as compared to 30% of students who did not complete the core curriculum; the mean SAT score was 144 points higher for those who completed the core curriculum.

According to College Board, students who achieve the Benchmark have a 65% likelihood of earning a B- average or higher during their freshman year at college. These students are also expected to have higher retention rates throughout their four years at college. That being said, the College Board also acknowledges that high school grades and SAT scores combined are a better indicator of college success than just SAT scores alone.

SOURCE: The College Board, The SAT Report on College and Career Readiness: 2012 (New York, NY: The College Board, September 2012).