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SAT Scores Show Many Students Are Not Ready for College

By Catherine Groux
Posted September 25, 2012 11:00 AM

Judging by their SAT scores, many students are not prepared for college.
Judging by their SAT scores, many students are not prepared for college.
Before enrolling in college, most high school students take the SAT. This exam is designed to test their academic skills and determine how well prepared they are for college. According to the College Board, students with a combined score (writing, math and critical reading) of 1550 or higher on the SAT have a 65% or greater chance of achieving a B- average during their freshman year of college and, therefore, a high likelihood of completing an associate's or bachelor's degree.

Most Students Cannot Meet SAT Benchmarks

This year, only 43% of SAT test takers met the benchmark of 1550, indicating that many students across the nation are not properly prepared for college. The writing portion of the exam seemed to give students the most trouble, as 55% did not meet the benchmark in this section, compared to 51% on the critical reading portion and 45% on the mathematics portion.

Other reports have indicated that while high schoolers believe they are ready for college, they frequently are not. Today, about half of students believe college will not be difficult, according to an August report by IQS Research. However, despite their initial optimism, only 58% of students who enroll in college will earn a degree within six years. 

Completing Core Curricula Could Help

College Board research shows that students who complete a core curriculum in high school tend to excel beyond their peers who do not. Typically, a core curriculum requires students to complete four years of English, mathematics, science and social studies.

Among students who completed a core curriculum, the average SAT score was 1550. This allowed about 49% of these students to meet the SAT benchmark. For students who did not complete a core curriculum in high school, however, the average SAT score dropped to 1406, which meant that fewer than one-third of youths met the SAT benchmark.

"Success on the SAT is closely related to the type and rigor of coursework students pursue in high school," the College Board report states. "Similarly, students in the SAT class of 2012 who met the SAT benchmark were more likely to have completed a core curriculum. These results illustrate the need for common standards that will enable all students to develop the core competencies critical to college and career success."

For this reason, the College Board is a strong supporter of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), a national initiative that strives to prepare students for college and the workforce by creating more rigorous English and mathematics curricula. Currently, 45 states have adopted the CCSS and are now working to integrate it into their schools.

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