NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

SAT Scores Barely Budge

September 1, 1999

Overall scores on this year's SAT college-admissions test remained nearly unchanged from last year. However, the gap between whites and most minority groups has widened this decade, according to College Board officials.

Incoming freshmen averaged a combined score of 1,016 out of a possible 1,600 -- down one point from 1998, but better than the all-time low of 994 in 1980 -- before the test was "recentered," which hiked subsequent years' averages. Exam-takers averaged 505 points on the verbal test and 511 points on the math test.

  • African-Americans scored an average of 856 on the combined tests compared with 1,055 for whites -- a gap that has increased by 10 points over the past decade.
  • Those who described themselves as Hispanic/Latino lagged behind whites by 128 points -- while self-described Mexican-Americans trailed by 144 points.
  • Puerto Ricans trailed whites by 152 points, while Native Americans were behind by 90 points -- although both those gaps narrowed in the past decade.
  • Asians averaged 1,058 points -- ahead of all other groups.

Students in Iowa and North Dakota tied for first place in the verbal section of the test -- at 594. As for math, North Dakotans trumped all other contenders at 605. These comparisons should be treated gingerly, however, since less than 10 percent of students in both states took the exam. In some states, up to 80 percent of students participated.

Sources: June Kronholz, "SAT Scores of College-Bound Students Hold Steady, But Minority Gap Widens," Wall Street Journal; and Mary Beth Marklein, "Students to Get SAT Credit for 'Striving,'" USA Today; both September 1, 1999.


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