SAT / ACT Prep Online Guides and Tips

Average SAT Scores Over Time: 1972 - 2017

Posted by Anna Aldric | Sep 15, 2017 10:00:00 PM

SAT General Info

 

New_SAT_Logo.png

SAT scores for the past few years have shown a marked decline, particularly since 2006, which can be attributed to various causes. In this article, we provide you with some charts showing the average SAT trends from 1972 to 2017 as well as the variation in SAT scores by ethnicity.

 

Average SAT Scores for Past Years: 1972-2017

First off, here is a chart of the SAT averages from 1972 to 2017 so that you can see the overall trends in SAT scores throughout the years. All data is taken from the 2016 College Board Total Group Profile Report and the 2017 report.

Year

Math

Critical Reading

Writing

Year

Math

Critical Reading

Writing

1972

509

530

1995

506

504

1973

506

523

1996

508

505

1974

505

521

1997

511

505

1975

498

512

1998

512

505

1976

497

509

1999

511

505

1977

496

507

2000

514

505

1978

494

507

2001

514

506

1979

493

505

2002

516

504

1980

492

502

2003

519

507

1981

492

502

2004

518

508

1982

493

504

2005

520

508

1983

494

503

2006

518

503

497

1984

497

504

2007

514

501

493

1985

500

509

2008

514

500

493

1986

500

509

2009

514

499

492

1987

501

507

2010

515

500

491

1988

501

505

2011

514

497

489

1989

502

504

2012

514

496

488

1990

501

500

2013

514

496

488

1991

500

499

2014

513

497

487

1992

501

500

2015

511

495

484

1993

503

500

2016

508

494

482

1994

504

499

 2017*  527   533

*The old SAT had three main sections: Math, Critical Reading, and Writing. Since the SAT's massive redesign in spring 2016, there are now two main sections on the test: Math and Evidence-Based Reading and Writing (EBRW), the latter of which is a combination of the Reading and Writing sections.

 

Now, here's historical SAT test data for different ethnicities. The scores below are the combined mean scores for the Critical Reading and Math sections (for 2017, scores shown are the means for the EBRW and Math sections combined).

Demographic of Test Takers

2008 Scores

2012 Scores

2013 Scores

2014 Scores

2015 Scores

2016 Scores*

2017 Scores*

American Indian or Alaskan Native

976

971

966

967

963

939

963

Asian, Asian American, or Pacific Islander

1094

1113

1118

1121

 1123

1131 (Asian American)

870 (Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander)

1181 (Asian)

986 (Native Hawaiian/ Other Pacific Islander)

Black or African American

856

856

860

860

859 

855

941

Mexican or Mexican American

917

913

913

911

905 

Puerto Rican

909

904

909

906

905

Other Hispanic, Latino or Latin American

916

908

911

910

906 

901 (All Hispanic, Latino, and Latin American)

990 (Hispanic/ Latino)

White

1065

1063

1061

1063

1063

1061

1118

Other

1008

1007

1011

1013

1009 

1015

No Response

963

946

956

933

926

952

961

Sources: 2008 Report2012 Report2013 Report, 2014 Report2015 Report, 2016 Report, 2017 Report

*Note the changes in ethnic categories for the 2016 and 2017 reports.

 

SAT Score Trends: Discussing the Numbers

What the SAT charts above show us is that the scores vary greatly depending on how the College Board structures the test and organizes its scoring.

The years of study that a student engages in matter. The more years of secondary education someone has completed, the better her average score on the SAT will be. Higher GPA also correlates with higher SAT scores.

Generally, Critical Reading (now called Reading on the redesigned SAT) has taken an overall decline, whereas the Math score has risen slightly over time. There are of course small fluctuations throughout the years, but the overall trend is clear.

There are also notable gaps in the performances of students from different socioeconomic and ethnic groups that show no signs of closing. ACT scores, unlike SAT scores, have remained relatively more stable over the past several years. Though they, too, have shown similar variations in numbers, it hasn’t been as bad as the SAT numbers. On the other hand, they do show differences based on the ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds of the test takers.

Due to the nature of the test or due to different demographic profiles among test takers, from 2006 to 2016 overall average SAT scores fell a total of 34 points, down in each of the three sections tested. (You'll notice a sharp increase in section scores in 2017, but this is partly due to the SAT's massive redesign; thus, we won't be able to use these scores for our comparison until more years use the redesigned SAT format.)

According to the demographics table, from 2008 to 2016 the average scores for white students dropped 4 points. Similarly, most other groups witnessed steady decreases from 2008 to 2016. Asian Americans experienced the biggest positive change of all groups during this time frame: a staggering 37-point increase. (Note, though, that before 2016, Asian Americans were combined with Pacific Islanders.)

Access to quality education, not ethnicity, might explain a significant portion of the racial gap. This can include variations based on whether the student completed a core curriculum or not, and whether they had access to SAT prep.

In 2014, once again more students took the ACT than the SAT. Many students believe that the SAT doesn't accurately reflect what is taught in schools today. The decision to institute changes to the SAT in 2016 could have been due to this disparity between what is taught and what is tested; it could also have been due to the loss of market shares to the ACT.

Critics say that the SAT measures a student's background and access to resources (including test prep) more than it predicts a student's likelihood of success at the college level. Actually, those two points might correlate because the students that receive this sort of help are also more likely to receive the support they need in college from their families.

While it’s true there is variation in scores with respect to race and income, it is still something that can be overcome by the student with both dedication and practice.

 

What’s Next?

Struggling with a low SAT score? Check out our series of articles on the how to improve your scores on the SAT Math, Reading, and Writing sections.

Shooting high on the SAT? Check out our series on how to get perfect scores on the SAT Math, Reading, and Writing sections, written by a perfect scorer. 

 

Want to improve your SAT score by 160 points? We've written a guide about the top 5 strategies you must be using to have a shot at improving your score. Download it for free now:

Compare Prep Methods

Have friends who also need help with test prep? Share this article!
Anna Aldric
About the Author

Anna graduated from MIT where she honed her research interests in Earth Science and Social/Political Science. She has years of tutoring experience, loves watching students learn and grow, and strongly believes that education is the cornerstone of our society. She is passionate about science, books, and non-profit work.



Get Free Guides to Boost Your SAT/ACT
100% Privacy. No spam ever.

You should definitely follow us on social media. You'll get updates on our latest articles right on your feed. Follow us on all 3 of our social networks:

Twitter and Google+



Ask a Question Below

Have any questions about this article or other topics? Ask below and we'll reply!