Matt's Past SAT/ACT News Update

Matt O'Connor

Oct 14, 2022


The College Board has released its annual SAT testing report. The report states that 1.7 million members of the high school class of 2022 took the SAT, which is up from 1.5 million for the class of 2021. However, the 2022 testing cohort was still far below the 2.2 million members of the class of 2020 that took the SAT at least once. (Most students from the class of 2020 who had sought to take the SAT were able to do so before the pandemic wrought havoc with testing centers starting March 2020).

The report also highlights the importance of SAT School Days (during which high school juniors take the SAT statewide during a school day at state expense). This program began modestly circa 2012 as the College Board stepped up its efforts to secure statewide testing contracts in response to the successful expansion of the rival ACT exam. Despite its modest beginnings, the SAT School Day program now provides the majority of all annual SAT testers. A total of 842,405 students only took the SAT as part of SAT School Day, versus 645,806 who only took the SAT on a weekend. There were 249,467 students that tested both on SAT School Day and on a weekend.

[Excerpts from the College Board press release regarding the report]:

The 2022 SAT Suite of Assessments Annual Report shows that 1.7 million students in the high school class of 2022 took the SAT at least once, up from 1.5 million in the class of 2021. Most of these students took the SAT through SAT School Day, the in-school program that dramatically expands access and equity. And as SAT test-taking rebounds, College Board survey results continue to show more than 80% of students want to be able to send their scores to colleges.

Nearly 1.1 million students in the class of 2022 took the SAT through the SAT School Day program, which provides schools, districts, and states a way to offer the SAT to juniors and seniors in school, on a weekday, often at no cost to students. Overall, more than 63% of SAT takers in the class of 2022 took the SAT on a school day, the highest percentage to date, compared to 62% of the class of 2021, and 49% of the class of 2020. SAT School Day participation has increased more than 18% over the past year, up from 930,000 in the class of 2021.

The average SAT total score declined slightly for the class of 2022—1050 compared to 1060 for the class of 2021. In the class of 2022, 43% of SAT takers met or exceeded both the Evidence-Based Reading and Writing (ERW) and Math college readiness benchmarks, which indicate a high likelihood for success in credit-bearing college coursework.

Participation for the class of 2022 continues to be impacted by lingering effects of the pandemic, so we caution comparing these performance results to previous classes.

The press release also addresses the upcoming digital SAT, which will be rolled out in international testing centers in March 2023, and in the US in March 2024. The digital version of the exam will be only two hours long, and may prove to be far more secure due to the generation of a different test form for each student at each testing center.

ACT, Inc. has also released its testing report for the class of 2022. As in the case for the SAT, testing numbers were up from 2021, but still well below 2020 levels. Scott Jaschik of Inside Higher Ed has more details from the report:


The national average composite score on the ACT for the high school Class of 2022 was 19.8, the lowest average score in more than three decades, according to data released Wednesday by ACT. It is the first time since 1991 that the average composite score was below 20.

“This is the fifth consecutive year of declines in average scores, a worrisome trend that began long before the disruption of the COVID-19 pandemic and has persisted,” said ACT CEO Janet Godwin.

While more people took either of the exams this year, their numbers were still fewer than in 2020, the last year before students would have taken the tests before the pandemic struck. The lost test takers were also people who were not paying the College Board and ACT for tests.

This year, 1,349,644 students took the ACT, up from 1,295,349 last year and down from 1,670,497 in 2020.

More students also took the SAT this year, 1,737,678, compared to 1,509,133 last year. In 2020, 2,198,460 students took the SAT.

Testing experts have cautioned against making too many comparisons of the scores from one year to the next during the pandemic, noting that it’s difficult to accurately determine who is not taking the exams, with so many students opting not to test.

“At some level, these annual reports are increasingly meaningless because 80 percent of schools no longer require ACT/SAT scores, and about half of applicants don’t submit them,” said Robert Schaeffer, public education director of FairTest: the National Center for Fair and Open Testing.

Schaeffer added, “The overall ACT score decline is hardly surprising given the unprecedented disruptions of education during the past two years and data showing similar trends in other testing programs.”

Godwin of ACT emphasized the dangers of so many students taking the ACT without first taking the recommended college preparatory classes.

“The magnitude of the declines this year is particularly alarming, as we see rapidly growing numbers of seniors leaving high school without meeting the college-readiness benchmark in any of the subjects we measure,” she said. “These declines are not simply a by-product of the pandemic. They are further evidence of longtime systemic failures that were exacerbated by the pandemic. A return to the pre-pandemic status quo would be insufficient and a disservice to students and educators.”

Nick Anderson of The Washington Post has written an article regarding the SAT and ACT testing reports:


The ACT reported this week that more than 1.3 million students from this year’s class took the test, up 4 percent from the previous class. But the total tested was 35 percent lower than the nearly 2.1 million who took the ACT in the class of 2016.

On Sept. 28, the College Board reported that more than 1.7 million students in the class of 2022 took the SAT. That was up 15 percent compared with the previous class but still down 21 percent compared with the record 2.2 million who took it in the class of 2019.

There is also major flux in the way students are taking the tests. A greater share these days participate free — at state or district expense — during a school day instead of paying to take one of the tests on a Saturday. Typically, school-day testing reaches a broader range of students, including more from lower-income families.

In addition, a growing number of selective colleges and universities have dropped admissions test requirements, and some, such as the University of California system, now omit consideration of tests entirely from admissions. UC’s test-blind policy plays a major role in the most populous state.

The US News Best Colleges rankings for 2022-23 have been released, and the publication has published a feature addressing how SAT/ACT scores were used to calculate the rankings; an issue which has been complicated by the widespread adoption of test optional policies. The scores still make up 5% of the 100-point metric (the same percentage as last year), but the changes have been in how US News assesses the proportion of the incoming freshman class for whom test scores have been reported.

An article in Higher Ed Dive has details on the US News rankings methodology changes, and has a quote by Bob Schaeffer of FairTest regarding the issue:


A change to U.S. News & World Report’s closely watched college rankings system means standardized test scores for students at some institutions weren’t considered for listings released Monday.

The SAT and ACT scores of incoming first-year students typically make up 5% of a college’s ranking. In the past, institutions with too few students submitting test scores had their scores effectively reduced. But for institutions that reported less than 50% of their fall 2020 and 2021 entering class scores, standardized tests did not affect placement on the new “Best Colleges” list for 2022-2023.

Instead, the ranking used a blend of colleges’ average six-year graduation rates and high school class standing. The mix historically correlates with the standardized test ranking factor, according to U.S. News.

In response to the latest change, FairTest’s public education director, Bob Schaeffer, challenged the efficacy of college rankings as a whole.

“Though U.S. News grudgingly revised its formula to stop punishing ACT/SAT-optional and test-blind/score-free schools for their policies, the rankings remain a revenue-generating scam, not a valid tool for students, parents, counselors, or the media."

An article in The Sentinel Newspapers raises two interesting points about the College Board's move to digital testing for the SAT: 1- Students will no longer be able to highlight or mark up reading passages in test booklets to help them focus on key information important to correctly answering questions (as recommended by test prep tutors), and 2- The College Board will see greater profitability from SAT testing because it will no longer have to print out test forms.


Starting in the spring of 2024, current sophomores and freshmen will take a radically different SAT. The test will change to a digital format, taking only two hours instead of three. This change will combine shorter reading questions and a math section taken entirely with a calculator. This presents a few issues.

For one, students will no longer be able to annotate the test. One of the key aspects of the math section is writing up equations to understand the problem better. Now that the SAT is digital, this feature will be impossible. This situation also applies to the reading section in an even worse way.

One strategy SAT counselors and advice articles recommend is to mark up the reading passages. Annotate the main ideas and highlight key information. With an online test, students will have to stare at blank tests when answering difficult questions. The digital nature of the questions removes some of the weapons at students’ disposal to boost scores.

The test will also be getting easier. Along with a two-hour time limit, the reading section passages will get shorter, and the math section will always have a calculator. While this might seem like a change for the better, what it really means is the SAT is no longer an equalizer.

Part of preparing for the test is maintaining a high level of performance across every section. The new test removes this factor. Combined with the lower workload and easier questions, distinguishing good scores from great ones will become increasingly blurry.

The only tangible “benefit” of making the test digital is faster score delivery. Other than this, the changes only benefit the College Board’s bottom line. The “non-profit” no longer needs to print tests and other resources vital to a paper testing experience. In essence, the College Board has sacrificed the student experience for its own gain and ease of operation.

If the SAT does become significantly easier due to the changes outlined above, selective colleges which continue to consider scores may place an even higher premium on top scores among applicants.