Va., Md. SAT scores rise, but number of test-takers plunges

Average SAT scores among graduating seniors in Virginia and Maryland ticked up this year, but the number of students taking the college-readiness tests plunged — another effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on the education system.

Just 41% of Virginia’s graduating seniors took the SAT in 2021, compared with 65% in 2020. The drop was even sharper in Maryland, where participation dropped to 47% of graduating seniors this year compared to 88% last year.

In D.C., the College Board said 100% of graduating seniors took the SAT in 2020; that figure fell to 90% in 2021.

News of the Virginia scores came in a news release last week from the Virginia Department of Education. Scores for Maryland and D.C. in 2021 have also been released by the College Board, the nonprofit that administers the college admissions tests.

Overall, 38,927 of Virginia’s 2021 graduates took the SAT, which includes a reading and writing portion and a math portion. The average score in Virginia was 1151 in 2021, compared with 1116 in 2020. The average score is also higher than the nationwide average, which was 1060 this year, according to the College Board.

In Maryland, the average SAT score in 2021 was 1073, up from 1029 in 2020.

“While this year’s results represent a snapshot of achievement on the SAT during an extraordinary year, Virginia students overall continue to perform well above their peers nationwide,” Superintendent of Public Instruction James Lane said.

The College Board has attributed the big drop in participation to “factors related to the COVID-19 pandemic, including a pause in testing during spring 2020, and the closure or reduced capacity of local testing centers in response to public health orders,” the Virginia news release said.

In Maryland, 33,457 high school seniors took the SAT in 2021; there were 4,117 in D.C. See a breakdown of scores below.

Mean scores 2021

  • Virginia mean score 2021: 1151
  • Maryland mean score 2021: 1073
  • DC mean score 2021: 987
  • Nationwide average 2021: 1060

Reading and writing scores

  • Virginia reading and writing score 2021: 584
  • Maryland reading and writing score 2021: 542
  • DC reading and writing score 2021: 500
  • Nationwide reading and writing score 2021: 533

Math scores

  • Virginia math score 2021: 567
  • Maryland math score 2021: 531
  • DC math score 2021: 487
  • Nationwide math score 2021: 528
Jack Moore

Jack Moore joined as a digital writer/editor in July 2016. Previous to his current role, he covered federal government management and technology as the news editor at, part of Government Executive Media Group.

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