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More minorities taking SAT; scores flat this year

The very slight dip in reading and writing scores on the SAT exam for the Class of 2012 may be due to the increase of minority students --  teens whose first language wasn’t primarily English -- taking the college entrance exam in recent years, one researcher claims.

Nationally, average scores on the critical reading and writing sections of the SAT dropped one point each -- 496 and 488, respectively – from 2011, according to results released Monday by the College Board, a non-profit organization of schools and colleges that owns the exam. Math scores held steady at 514, results showed.

About 1.66 million students took the SAT in the 2012 reporting period, most in their junior or senior years. The College Board reported the total was the largest number ever, and that 45 percent of the students were members of minority groups, also a record.

"Over the last decade, we have seen a significant increase with Hispanic students and non-English language students taking the SAT who have scored better in math, but not in reading and writing,” said Jim Hull, a senior policy analyst for the Center for Public Education at the National School Boards Association. “The SAT results are a good indication that it has more to do with who is taking the test and not an overall decrease in quality.”

Only 43 percent who took the test showed they were fully prepared for college, according the College Board. The figure was unchanged from a year ago.

Males continued to score slightly better on critical reading and math, and females better on writing, according to results.

The results also continued to show substantial gaps between racial groups. Asian-Americans scored on average 595 in math -- 59 points higher than white students and 167 higher than black students.

The SAT is divided into three sections -- reading, writing and math. The maximum score on each section is 800, and 360 students nationwide scored a perfect 2,400.

“This report should serve as a call to action to expand access to rigor for more students,” said College Board President Gaston Caperton in a statement. “When less than half of kids who want to go to college are prepared to do so, that system is failing.”

Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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