skip to main content skip to footer

Changes in the Verbal Abilities of High School Seniors, College Entrants and SAT Candidates between 1960 and 1972 SAT

Beaton, Albert E.; Hilton, Thomas L.; Schrader, William B.
Publication Year:
Report Number:
ETS Research Bulletin
Document Type:
Page Count:
Subject/Key Words:
College Freshman, Data Analysis, High School Students, Longitudinal Studies, National Longitudinal Study of the High School Class of 1972 (NLS), Project TALENT, Reading Achievement, SAT, Scores, Socioeconomic Influences, Student Characteristics, Surveys, Verbal Ability


Directly comparable data on changes between 1960 and 1972 in reading ability and other characteristics for high school seniors, college entrants, and other characteristics for high school seniors, college entrants, and Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) takers has been obtained. The average reading score of high school seniors declined from 1960 to 1972. From 1960 to 1972, there was a marked increase in the number of students who stayed in school instead of dropping out. Less able students who would have dropped out of the 1960 cohort showed up as seniors in the 1972 cohort. The decline in reading scores is about the same for college entrants as for high school seniors. In both years, college entrants were substantially higher in reading ability than high school seniors. The percent of seniors going on to college increased. The 1972 entrants were somewhat older, included an increased percentage of women, and were more likely to have parents who attended college and who were engaged in managerial or professional positions than the 1960 entrants. The drop in the average reading score for SAT takers was about twice as large as the drop for college entrants and high school seniors. The percentage of students taking the SAT increased from 1960 to 1972. In 1972, the SAT population had an increased proportion of women, a decreased proportion of college-preparatory students, and more students from large families. The substantial decrease in the proportion of SAT takers who entered four-year colleges seems to have had a large impact on the SAT score decline. The SAT verbal scale shifted somewhat from 1960 to 1972. The SAT verbal means for the sample are 474 in 1960 and 453 in 1972, a difference of 21 points. The largest single part of the decline in average SAT verbal score was changes in the percentage of high school seniors at various ability levels who chose to take the SAT. Certain characteristics of three groups of high school students--all high school seniors, college entrants, and SAT candidates--are described. They included: 1) age; 2) father's occupation; 3) sex; 4) mother's occupation; 5) mother's education; 6) father's education; 7) family configuration; 8) expected college major field; and 9) high school curriculum. (SGK) (108pp.)

Read More