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The Score Slump

As if the College Board hasn't had a bad enough run of publicity lately, company officials are now reporting lower-than-average SAT scores among this fall's incoming freshmen. Though the complete national results won't be in until late summer, preliminary surveys of 15 colleges and universities found SAT scores averaging 10 to 20 points below the expected levels. Experts point out that this year's seniors were the first to take the "new" SAT, which includes an essay-writing section and clocks in at a whopping 3 hours, 35 minutes. These added stresses, it's hypothesized, could have caused both fatigue and performance anxiety in the test-takers. "It was so much longer, and the kids were so hyped about it because this test had never been given before, " said Kathryn M. Napper, director of admissions at George Washington University (and the mom of a high school senior). Then there's the money factor: The SAT is more expensive—$41.50, as opposed to $28.50 for the old test. The new price point, one observer noted, means fewer kids are taking it more than once. And since retesting raises scores by an average 30 points, there's a good chance that the heftier price tag is keeping scores down.

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