Why Are National SAT Scores Down?

Over the years I’ve written about countless ways and reasons to be financially prepared for college.

After all, without proper financial preparation, students and their parents can easily be saddled with decades of debt.

That said, a recent study came out about academic preparation for college that turned my head.

It was the College Board’s just-published annual report on college and career readiness…and the first paragraph alone pulled no punches about what’s in the rest of the report.

– Scott

Why Are National SAT Scores Languishing?

Here’s the first paragraph from the report…

“The College Board’s 2013 SAT ® Report on College & Career Readiness reveals that fewer than half of all SAT takers in the class of 2013 graduated from high school academically prepared for the rigors of college-level course work. This number has remained virtually unchanged during the last five years, underscoring a need to dramatically increase the number of students in K–12 who acquire the skills and knowledge that research demonstrates are critical to college readiness.” (emphasis by the College Board)

Not only has it been bad for the past five years, it hasn’t even improved.

Let’s take a closer look into the numbers.

57% of SAT test takers did not meet the benchmark for college and career readiness. That number has remained the same for three years, and it’s slightly up from five years ago when it was 56%.

Those who met the SAT benchmark were far more likely to enroll in a four-year college or university (78%) than whose who did not meet the benchmark (46%).


Those who did meet the SAT benchmark were five times more likely to earn an A grade average during their first year at school.

Those who met the SAT benchmark were twice as likely to complete college (57%) than those who did not (27%).

There were some bright spots. Specifically, more minorities took the SAT exam last year than any year, and SAT scores by minority students continues to rise.

But overall, the numbers aren’t good.

I point this out for two reasons. First, the report is actually very constructive in its tone. It offers many ways individuals and institutions can increase SAT scores.

Second, while SAT scores are trending down, SAT prep courses are becoming more and more popular.

Now, first let me say that I’m not blaming the abundance of SAT prep courses for stagnant and declining SAT scores. There are a lot of courses out there, and some of them play a big role in helping students increase their SAT scores.

But far too many SAT prep courses waste students time with filler materials taught in an overcrowded classroom. And the price tag for that can reach four digits!

And therein lies the intersection of financial and academic preparation for college.

If you worry that your child may be one of the 57% of students whose SAT scores indicate they are not fully prepared for college, I highly suggest you read the College Board’s report.

And if you worry about choosing the wrong SAT prep course, here are a few ways to measure the best SAT prep courses from the hundreds out there…

  • Track record of how much students have improved after taking the course (This is the main benefit).
  • Efficient time spent in the classroom. No filler or wasted class time.
  • Convenience. Many courses now run obscurely timed class schedules that make it very difficult to make.  Other classes won’t even give you a make-up class if you miss. Some of the very best SAT prep courses are self-study, and require no class time whatsoever.
  • Also, don’t be shy to ask a SAT prep provider some tough questions. After all, you’re shelling out a lot of money for a very important cause.
  • Ask providers how courses are taught and by whom. Ask them about class size limits. Ask them about results – how much better do students do on their SAT after taking their prep course?

One more thing – Ask if they offer a guarantee.

Those are just a few tips. We’ll cover more on the subject in future College Made Simple stories.

To your successful college pursuits,

Scott Weingold

Co-Founder, College Planning Network LLC
Publisher, CollegeMadeSimple.com – The free educational resource of College Planning Network


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Editor's Note: Scott Weingold has been ranked the #1 “College Financial Aid Expert Worth Knowing About” in the entire country by CollegeStats.org.  He has co-authored the book, “The Real Secret To Paying For College. The Insider’s Guide To Sending Your Child To College – Without Spending Your Life’s Savings.” Scott also publishes a popular free online newsletter, “College Funding Made Simple" which reveals insider’s tips, methods, and strategies for beating the high cost of college.

Scott is the co-founder and a principal of the widely renown College Planning Network, LLC – the nation’s largest and most reputable college admissions and financial aid planning firm. CPN is a proud member of the Better Business Bureau, the National Association of College Funding Advisors, the National Association for College Admission Counseling, the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators and the Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education.

Scott, along with his college funding advisory team, helps thousands of families throughout the country with their college planning needs and offers a series of free educational webinars and workshops on “How To Pay For College Without Going Broke In The Process!” He's been featured or mentioned in The Philadelphia Inquirer, Yahoo News, TheStreet.com, Voice America with Ron Adams, Crains Cleveland Business, and on Cleveland Connection with James McIntyre.  Scott has published numerous articles and is a professional speaker who has addressed thousands of audiences online and offline throughout the United States.  His actionable insights and candid, open approach have earned him & his team numerous media interviews, citations, and speaking opportunities, and his free online video workshop is one of the Internet’s most widely viewed pieces in the college funding space.