Average SAT Scores Over Time: 1972 – 2020



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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 2020 as well as the variation in SAT scores by ethnicity.

Average SAT Scores for Past Years: 1972-2020


First off, here is a chart of the

SAT averages

from 1972 to 2020 so that you can see the overall trends in SAT scores throughout the years. All data is taken from the College Board Total Group Profile Reports (from

2016

,

2017

,

2018

, and

2019

, and

2020

).


Year

Math

Critical Reading

Writing

Year

Math

Critical Reading

Writing

1972
509 530
1997
511 505

1973
506 523
1998
512 505

1974
505 521
1999
511 505

1975
498 512
2000
514 505

1976
497 509
2001
514 506

1977
496 507
2002
516 504

1978
494 507
2003
519 507

1979
493 505
2004
518 508

1980
492 502
2005
520 508

1981
492 502
2006
518 503 497

1982
493 504
2007
514 501 493

1983
494 503
2008
514 500 493

1984
497 504
2009
514 499 492

1985
500 509
2010
515 500 491

1986
500 509
2011
514 497 489

1987
501 507
2012
514 496 488

1988
501 505
2013
514 496 488

1989
502 504
2014
513 497 487

1990
501 500
2015
511 495 484

1991
500 499
2016
508 494 482

1992
501 500
2017*
527 533

1993
503 500
2018*
531 536

1994
504 499
2019*
528 531

1995
506 504
2020*
523 528

1996
508 505


*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 2018-2020, scores shown are the means for the EBRW and Math sections combined).


Demographic of Test Takers


2007 Scores

2011 Scores

2015 Scores

2018 Scores*

2019 Scores*

2020 Scores*
American Indian or Alaskan Native 981 972 963 914 912 902
Asian, Asian American, or Pacific Islander 1092 1112 1123 1152 (Asian)

948 (Native Hawaiian/ Other Pacific Islander)
1223 (Asian)

964 (Native Hawaiian/ Other Pacific Islander)
1217 (Asian)

948 (Native Hawaiian/ Other Pacific Islander)
Black or African American 862 855 859 919 933 927
Mexican or Mexican American 921 917 905
Puerto Rican 913 904 905
Other Hispanic, Latino, or Latin American 922 913 906 1005 (Hispanic/ Latino) 978 (Hispanic/ Latino) 969 (Hispanic/ Latino)
White 1061 1063 1063 1077 1114 1104
Other 1009 1010 1009 1044 (Two or More Races) 1095 (Two or More Races) 1091 (Two or More Races)
No Response 977 944 926 875 959 996


Sources:

2007 Report

,

2011 Report

,

2015 Report

,

2018 Report

,

2019 Report

,

2020 Report


*Note the changes in ethnic categories for the 2018-2019 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 just 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 we have more years’ data with the redesigned SAT format.)

According to the demographics table, from 2007 to 2015 the average scores for white students stayed about the same. Similarly, most other groups witnessed no change or decreases from 2007 to 2015. Asian Americans experienced the biggest positive change of all groups during this time frame: a staggering 31-point increase in mean Critical Reading/Math scores. (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 2014-2017, more students took the ACT than the SAT; this trend reversed from 2018 onwards, with

over 2.1 million students in 2018 taking the SAT

(compared to

1.9 million who took the ACT during that same time period

).

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 may 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.

Ready to go beyond just reading about the SAT? Then you’ll love the

free five-day trial for our SAT Complete Prep program

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