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SAT Scores: Math Up, Verbal Down

U.S. students scored higher in the math SAT this year than they have in more than 30 years, but verbal results on the college entrance exam continued to decline, the College Board said Tuesday.

Math scores averaged 516 in 2002, up two points from last year and the highest since 1969. The mean score for males was 534, while females posted a 35-year-high of 500.

"This year's scores confirm that the efforts that have been made to improve math education in the United States are paying off," Gaston Caperton, College Board president, told a news conference. "It is time to put that same kind of concerted energy behind ensuring that students reach their potential as skilled readers and writers."

Verbal results dropped two points compared with last year but were still higher than a decade ago. Overall verbal scores were 504. Females averaged 502 and males, 507.

Caperton said that the board could not explain the drop in reading and writing scores.

The five-point gap between females and males this year in the verbal exam narrowed from eight points in 1992, while the 34-point rift in math results shrank from 37 points a decade ago.

Better performance in math and the decline in verbal results have prompted changes to the SAT exam.

More advanced math questions will be featured in the new SAT, which will be used in 2005.

Students will also be required to write an essay, which will be marked by at least two examiners to ensure fairness, the board said.

Almost half of high school graduates, or 1.3 million students, took that SAT this year. That was the highest percentage ever, the board said.

The number of minority students who took the exam also posted a record of 35 percent.