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Students Bombed the SAT This Year, in Four Charts

Scores on the reading section were the worst in decades.

This year's high school graduates did worse on the SAT than their peers last year. And there's more bad news for the College Board, which administers the test: Fewer people are taking the SAT than are taking the ACT, its top competitor.

Students in the high school class of 2015 turned in the lowest critical reading score on the SAT college entrance exam in more than 40 years, with all three sections declining from the previous year. Meanwhile, ACT Inc. reported that nearly 60 percent of all 2015 high school graduates took the ACT, up from 49 percent in 2011. 

The mean score on the math portion of the SAT, 511, is the lowest since 1999. The highest possible score on each section is 800. The reading score of 495 is the worst since 1972, according to data provided by the College Board. The test administrator reported the lowest score for the SAT's writing section since it began in 2005.  

The number of high school graduates who took the SAT reached an all-time high of almost 1.7 million this year. However, that lags the rival ACT by more than 225,000. The SAT is being revised, with the first administration next March. The new test will be similar to the ACT, as penalties will be eliminated for wrong answers and it will have an optional writing test.

ACT Inc. also delivered gloomy news about the preparedness of the next generation of college students. The company measured how many students were ready for college based on their scores on the ACT this year. It determines readiness by looking at the share of test takers who scored above a certain benchmark, which the company says will give a student a 75 percent chance of earning a C or above in a corresponding college course. 

More than 30 percent of this year's graduating test takers scored below that threshold in the math, science, reading, and English sections of the ACT, suggesting that they would have a tough time excelling in a wide range of college classes. Overall, high schoolers scored an average of 21 on the test, where the highest possible score is 36, which was no different from 2014 and did not represent a significant drop from the last several years.  

More than 1.9 million people who graduated high school this year took the ACT. 

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