SAT scores take a plunge

By Katherine Brachelli
September 22, 2006

Shane Evans

SAT scores this year showed the biggest annual drop in 31 years. The first national results from the revamped SATs showed the average combined scores on the mathematics and critical reading sections for the high school graduating class of 2006 have declined by seven points from the previous year. The scores were reported by the College Board, the nonprofit group that owns the SAT.

Universities and colleges have noticed a drop in scores of both applicants and admitted students. At LaSalle University, in Philadelphia, SAT scores fell 15 points for applicants and about 10 points for admitted students, even though officials had not altered any of their admissions strategies, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education.

The cause for the drop is disputed.

The College Board says fewer students are taking the tests a second time. Others, but not the College Board, says the drop is due to the test being longer this year; a writing section became mandatory this year.

Charles Spencer, director of admissions, stated that Cabrini’s admission office has taken into consideration the new SAT format during their admissions process.

Spencer said, “Uniform to many colleges and universities we review the writing sample and accept that as a supporting credential in the admissions process.”

Spencer stated that applicant and admitted scores at Cabrini were about the same at an average of 985.

The College Board said the average score on the test’s critical reading section was down five points and the average math section score was down two points, for a joint score of 1021, the lowest since 2002. The reading decline was the largest since a nine-point drop in 1975 on what was then known as the verbal section, according to the Washington Post.

Many students, counselors and test-prep teachers attributed the lower scores to the longer format of the test, which takes three hours and 45 minutes. The SAT can last more than four hours with breaks. The new format of the SAT includes a writing section, which includes an essay question, and revisions to the mathematics and reading sections

Spencer said, “Many high school students in interviews told me that they were too tired when the writing portion of the exam was given.”

Bettina Barresi, a freshman psychology major, said, “I thought the new version of the SATs was horrible. As the test progressed I lost focus and just became tired. It was too much.”

Julia Sherwood, a freshman elementary education major, agreed with Barresi and said, “I took the old version of the SATs and I took the newer version. I felt like making the test four hours long was just setting us up for failure.”

On the new writing section, the average score nationwide was 497, for a new total average of 1518 out of a possible 2400 points. However, female students proved to have a significant edge over males on the new writing section of the test. The average writing score for females was 502, 11 points ahead of males, at 491.

Although Sherwood admitted that her scores were relatively high in the reading section, overall she said, “I was happy because my reading scores did go up but I feel as though the rest of the test was too long.”

Nonetheless, the College Board rejected the view of students, counselors and test-prep teachers and blamed the national drop in scores on a parallel decline in the number of students taking the test more than once. Repeat test taking, they said, can boost scores as much as 30 points combined for reading and math, according to the Washington Post.

Barresi admitted to only taking the new version of the SATs once because “it was too long to take again.”

Also counselors attribute the decrease in students’ willingness to repeat taking the test to the 46 percent increase in the SAT fee, to $41.50, according to the Washington Post.

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Katherine Brachelli

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