It may be time for high school students—especially those who plan on majoring in business in college—to brush up on their arithmetic. The New York-based College Board said on Aug. 29 that the average math scores for the class of 2006—the first set of students to take a new version of the SAT that includes a writing section—posted a slight decline, falling two points from a year earlier. Average critical reading scores also declined.
Overall, the College Board said, the drops in reading and math reflected a decrease of less than one percentage point. The College Board said that the most significant factor in the declines was that fewer students took the test multiple times. Retaking the test usually results in an increase in scores (see BusinessWeek.com, 2/2/05, "A Big Score for SAT Tutors").
WRITE STUFF. Average math scores for the class of 2006 dropped by two points, to 518, back to the level it was two years ago. Both boys and girls showed declines of two points, to 536 and 502 respectively, according to the College Board. However, even taking the year-to-year drop into account, between 1996 and 2006 average math scores on the SAT have increased, from 508 to 518.
The average critical reading scores dropped by 5 points to 503, with boys showing a bigger drop-off than girls.
And girls did better than boys on the new writing section, which consists of a multiple-choice portion and an essay. The girls' average score of 502 was 11 points higher than boys' average. The average writing score overall was 497.
LAG TIME. Jeff Cannon, director of the Bachelor of Science in Business Administration program at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill Kenan-Flagler Business School, said that while math SAT scores are one indicator of a students' analytical ability, they're not necessarily a critical factor in how well students are going to do (see BusinessWeek.com, 1/23/06, "Math Will Rock Your World").
"SAT scores are helpful to us as admissions officers because they are one benchmark and only one benchmark of several that clue us in to students' level of preparedness," Cannon said. He added that he hasn't noticed that students are less prepared mathematically. He also pointed out that since his program admits students in the junior year, there's a two-year lag time between when they take the SAT and when they begin taking business classes.