Office of Planning and Budgeting

Just 43 Percent of College-Bound Seniors College Ready, College Board Finds

On Monday, the College Board released a report indicating that only 43 percent of the 1.66 million college-bound seniors taking the SAT in 2012 are “college ready,” as defined by achieving a score of 1550 or more on the SAT. The College Board claims a student scoring 1550 or higher on the SAT has a 65 percent chance of achieving a B- or higher average in their first year at a four-year college. The percentage of college-bound seniors scoring 1550 or higher in 2012 was the same in 2011, though about 17,000 additional seniors took the test in 2012.

Scores in the component sections have been slipping for some time: In critical reading, average scores dropped from 500 in 2008 to 496 in 2012; in writing, scores fell from 493 in 2008 to 488 in 2012, and average achievement in mathematics stayed constant at 514. The College Board blames this partly on the huge increase in students taking the test—the number of test-takers has grown by 6 percent since 2008—and partly on an insufficient college-preparatory curriculum in America’s high schools. Seniors that took four years of English, and three each of math, science and social studies scored an average of 144 points higher than students that did not complete these core courses, indicating that college preparatory coursework significantly improves a student’s performance on the SAT.

Encouragingly, more minority and low-income students than ever are participating in the SAT. Forty-five percent of seniors taking the SAT in 2012 were minority students, and 36 percent reported their parents’ highest level of education was a high school diploma or less. In addition, twenty-two percent of SAT-takers took the test for free through the College Board’s fee waiver program. This represents the largest number of fee waivers used since the program began in 1970. Unfortunately, minority and low-income students, apart from Asian American students, still perform substantially worse on all parts of the SAT than white and middle/high income students do. On critical reading, for example, black students score 99 points lower than white students on average (428 vs. 527).

To learn more about this year’s statistics, check out Inside Higher Ed’s blog post or read the full report.


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