SAT Scores at NAIS Member Schools

Summer 2015

By Amada Torres

Between March and June 2014, more than 1.67 million students from the 2014 graduating class took the SAT, marking a new participation record for the test. At the request of the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS), the College Board created a special report that allows the association to compare how independent school students fared versus the overall student cohort taking the SAT.

In 2014, the national critical reading score was 497, one point above the score from the previous year. The average mathematics and writing scores each dropped one point from the level recorded in 2013 - 513 and 487, respectively. Graduating seniors at NAIS-member schools achieved substantially higher results than their peers, recording average scores of 588 in critical reading (same as in 2013), 603 in mathematics (one point above the average score in 2013), and 589 in writing (one point below the average score in 2013).

While the higher results of NAIS-member school students are encouraging, a closer look at the results by gender, race/ethnicity, and income level paint a more interesting picture. Whereas, nationally, the average critical reading score among boys exceeded that of girls (499 vs. 495), the score among female test-takers from NAIS-member schools was higher than that of their male counterparts (593 vs. 584). For mathematics, the pattern of higher scores among boys vs. girls (530 vs. 499) held for students in NAIS-member schools, although with a smaller gap (613 vs. 593). In writing, girls from NAIS-member schools outperformed boys to an even greater degree (601 vs. 578) than what was seen at the national level (492 vs. 481).

In addition to being the largest class of SAT takers ever, the class of 2014 was also the most diverse in the history of the SAT, with 48 percent of participants being students of color. White students continued to have the highest critical reading scores at the national level, while Asian students recorded the highest scores for both mathematics and writing. NAIS-member school students within each ethnic/racial group had higher scores than their counterparts nationally across all three SAT tests. The largest differences between the scores of independent school students and students nationally were among Hispanic and African-American students, as shown in the accompanying table on page 18.

Also, as in the national results, the average scores for students in NAIS-member schools increased in direct relation to income. However, the gap between students from low- and high-income families was smaller at NAIS-member schools. Among students from households with incomes of less than $30,000, the total average combined score of students in NAIS-member schools was 287 points higher than the average score of students from the same income group nationally (1635 vs. 1348), while for students with family incomes of $100,000 or more, the independent school advantage was 190 points (1819 combined score for students in NAIS-member­ schools compared with 1629 for all students).

As a final note, it is worth mentioning that even though the SAT continues to be one of the main factors used by many colleges and universities in their admission processes, the test still has its detractors. In fact, a recent study found that there was virtually no difference in grades and graduation rates between students who submitted their SAT or ACT scores when applying to college and those who didn’t.1 Moreover, in March 2014, the College Board announced that it would redesign the SAT (taking effect spring 2016) to make it align better with what students learn in the classroom - specifically with a greater focus on critical thinking.2 While more research is needed to ascertain the value of standardized tests, the current SAT scores still represent great news for students in NAIS-member schools who are applying to college.

The full report is available to NAIS members at


1. William C. Hiss and Valerie W. Franks, “Defining Promise: Optional Standardized Testing Policies in American College and University Admissions,”

2. College Board, “The College Board Announces Bold Plans to Expand Access to Opportunity; Redesign of the SAT,”

Amada Torres
Amada Torres

Amada Torres is vice president for studies, insights, and research at NAIS.