The edge in average scores that men have held over women, and whites have held over most minority groups, was little changed.
An outside testing expert called the results equal opportunity flatness and Gaston Caperton, president of the nonprofit College Board, owner of the SAT, faulted inequality in schooling for the poorer showing among most minorities.
Some 1.3 million students averaged 506 on the SAT's verbal portion, one point higher than last year and the highest since 1987. The average score this year on the math section was 514, same as last year's 30-year high.
Math and verbal scores have each declined only once since 1991; verbal scores slipped a point in 1994 and math scores dropped a point in 1999. A decade ago, the national average was 499 for verbal, 500 for math.
About 45 percent of this year's estimated 2.8 million graduates took the SAT sometime during high school. Scores on each section range from 200 to 800. A perfect 1600 was achieved by 587 of this year's graduates.
Women, now 54 percent of test takers, have made gains toward score equality with men over the last 10 years but only very small ones.
This year, women averaged 502 on verbal to the men's 509; women averaged 498 on math against the men's 533.
In 1991, when women were 52 percent of students who took the SAT, they scored 495 on verbal against the men's 503. On math, women then scored 482 to the men's 520.
About a third of test-takers belong to racial and ethnic minorities.
Blacks this year scored an average of 433 on verbal, 426 on math. A decade ago, they averaged 427 verbal, 419 math.
This year's graduates from various Hispanic groups scored an average of 456 on the verbal section, 460 on the math. In 1991, they averaged 452 on verbal, 457 on math.
Students who identified their backgrounds as Asian or Pacific Islander scored an outstanding 566 on the math section and 501 on verbal this year. By contrast, whites scored 531 in math and 529 on the verbal section.
Much the same overall picture was presented earlier this month with release of national scores on the ACT, SAT's competitor, which was taken by 1.1 million of this year's graduates. The ACT average this year was the same as it's been for every class since 1997. Again, most minorities scored lower than whites.
Caperton blamed disparities in standardized test scores on unequal access to high-quality education. He echoed Education Secretary Rod Paige's reaction to results on the ACT.
These differences are a powerful illustration of a persistent social problem in our country, said Caperton, a former Democratic governor of West Virginia.
Associate Professor Gregory Cizek, a testing expert t the University of North Carolina, called the results somewhat discouraging, in light of the national push to improve education. We've tried hard to reduce achievement gaps, he said, and it doesn't look like we've made much progress.
Introduced in 1926, the SAT is designed and administered by the Educational Testing Service in Princeton, N.J. Used in tandem with high school grades, the tests are meant as a predictor of first-year performance at college.
In 1995, the SAT was re-centered to better reflect the diversity of students. Previous results cited in the current report reflect that adjustment.
At one time, colleges specified which of the two, SAT or ACT, they required. Now most accept either. An unknown number of college-bound students take both tests.
Admissions tests, the SAT especially, have been falling out of favor in some places. A proposal to stop requiring the SAT for admission to University of California campuses is under consideration.
Written By ARLENE LEVINSON © MMI The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed