With competition for college enrollment spots continuing to increase, Reading and Writing SAT scores are on a steady decline nationally, while Penn State students’ scores are as competitive as ever.
According to Emma Brown in an article by “The Atlantic Wire,” there are many factors that could be contributing to the national decline in Reading and Writing scores, such as the rise in minority students who are taking the test or the steady shift in high school curricula from the liberal arts to math and the sciences.
Over the past several decades, high school seniors have been taking standardized tests and applying to colleges in greater numbers, according to the article.
However, that does not necessarily mean that those who apply are adequately prepared for the college environment, said Leticia Oseguera, research associate in the Center for the Study of Higher Education.
“More students with lower socioeconomic status are taking the SAT,” Oseguera said. “These students often attend poor schools with few resources, schools that lack good teachers and standardized test preparation.”
Despite the decrease in national Reading and Writing SAT scores, Math scores are on the uptrend,according to the College Board website. This also illustrates the effect a minority student’s language barrier might have on his or her verbal skills, Oseguera said, while still allowing for a good performance in Math.
Students accepted to Penn State continually demonstrate a performance well above average on each section of the SAT, often by up to 130 points.
“Penn State continues to attract and admit some of the most academically talented students,” wrote Anne Rohrbach, executive director for Undergraduate Admissions, in an email. “Six of the 360 students across the U.S. who achieved the highest possible test score of 2400 on the SAT [in the 2011-12 school year] accepted admission to Penn State.”
Though there is not a collective set of data available for the past several decades of Penn State student scores, Oseguera speculates that the average Penn State student’s SAT score might be increasing.
“This year we had more students enroll than we expected. Maybe there’s actually an opposite trend here at Penn State, with greater demand for fewer spots, as there continues to be a lot of interest in our school,” Oseguera said.
While many students lament the cost of test preparation courses, the fee for taking the SAT itself, and the hours of studying often involved in preparation for such an exam, the SAT continues to be utilized in university application offices nationwide.
Osegeura and Rohrbach agree that while standardized tests do not give a comprehensive summary of a student’s ability and intelligence, they are often a good tool to quickly assess one particular statistic — a student’s prospective first-year grade point average.
“Combined with high school grades, standardized SAT/ACT test scores have been validated as the best predictor of college success, showing a high correlation between test scores and first-year college GPA,” Rohrbach wrote in an email.
Contrary to most application offices’ belief in this statement, not all students think the SAT is useful in reflecting one’s intelligence and college preparedness.
Matthew Reading (sophomore-mechanical engineering) said, as an engineering student, the SAT Math score was indicative of his ability in math, but he felt that the Reading and Writing sections of the test did not correspond to his college grades in those areas at all.
“The American public is fanatical about performance on standardized testing…but we should really be analyzing whether we’re preparing students for college and life,” Oseguera said. “It can have a psychological effect [on the students]. We know it doesn’t measure intelligence, but we still fall back on those scores as identifying school performance.”