Class Of 2021 Saw Drop In SAT Test Takers

Fewer students took the SAT this year compared to last year likely due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Roughly 1.5 million high school students in the Class of 2021 sat for the standardized exam at least once—700,000 fewer students who sat from the Class of 2020, Inside Higher Ed reports.

Many students attempted to take the SAT but were unfortunately unable to due to widespread COVID-related disruptions. More than 1 million test registrations were canceled as schools and test centers had to close or reduce capacity,” according to a report from College Board.


In March, May, and June of 2020, College Board paused testing in response to the pandemic. While weekend testing resumed in August 2020, many local test centers either physically closed or reduced testing capacity due to COVID-19 health and safety measures.

College Board, however, attributed some success to its School Day program—an initiative that allows students to take the SAT exam at school on a weekday.

“Despite the decline in participation due to school and test center closures, proportional representation across student subgroups was roughly similar to previous classes due in large part to SAT School Day,” College Board reports. “Students who took the SAT through SAT School Day represented a larger portion of the testing population when compared to previous years.”

Nearly 950,000 students in the Class of 2021 took the SAT on a school day, a slight decline from 1.1 million in the Class of 2020. Overall, 62% of the Class of 2021 took the SAT on a school day, compared to 49% of the Class of 2020 and 43% of the Class of 2019.


The Class of 2021, as a whole, scored better on the SAT than the Class of 2020 with an average SAT score of 1060 compared to 1051 for the Class of 2020. A year-by-year comparison, however, might not be so black and white.

“Because participation numbers vary so widely from normal years due to the pandemic, it is not possible to compare performance results between the class of 2021 and previous classes,” College Board states.

When broken down by race and ethnicity, Asian Americans scored higher on average in both the Reading & Writing and Mathematics sections of the exam than any other group.

Sources: College Board, College Board, Inside Higher Ed

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