700,000 fewer students took SAT due to Covid disruptions, College Board says

About 700,000 fewer students took the SAT this year and PSAT test-takers fell by more than 1.9 million, according to the College Board’s annual report on the assessments.

Only 1.5 million students in the high school class of 2021 took the SAT at least once, down from 2.2 million in the class of 2020. College Board, which administers the SAT, credited “Covid-related disruptions” for the drop. More than a million test registrations were canceled due to shuttered schools and test centers with reduced capacity, the College Board said.

“This fall, test center capacity is increasing as demand from students remains high amid continued impacts of the pandemic, and nearly 1.4 million students from the class of 2022 have already taken the SAT at least once, with 3 weekend test dates remaining in 2021,” the College Board said in a press release.

Many students take the SAT and ACT in their junior year of high school or fall of their senior year. The exams have long been considered essential to the college admissions process, but scrutiny of the tests increased during the pandemic, which exacerbated disparities among students.

Hundreds of colleges made the standardized tests optional for admission during the pandemic as students struggled to access testing centers.

While the overall number of test-takers from the class of 2020 remained largely steady, the downward slope was expected for the class of 2021.

Key stats: This year’s average SAT score was 1060, a slight uptick from last year's average of 1051. A perfect score is 1600.

From the class of 2021, 46 percent of SAT takers met or exceeded both the Evidence-Based Reading and Writing and Math college readiness benchmarks, an achievement the College Board says is an indication of high likelihood for success in credit-bearing college courses. The number is up from 45 percent in 2019 and 2020, but the College Board said it can’t compare performance results with other classes because of the low participation number that varies widely from years prior.

The PSAT saw a steeper drop in test-takers with a loss of more than 1.9 million participants. The number of students who took the exam fell from 3.76 million in 2020 to 1.85 million in 2021.

While viewed as practice for the SAT, the PSAT is the qualifying test for entry to the National Merit Scholarship Program. Each year, students have the opportunity to earn thousands of dollars for college if they land among the top scorers.