The SAT Reasoning Test, introduced in its current form in 2005, is useful for comparing individual students as well as for looking at trends in education between states and over time. Currently, the exam consists of three categories: critical reading, mathematics and writing; each section is scored on a scale ranging from 200 to 800. The test is offered by the College Board, a non-profit organization.

Wisconsin high schoolers tend to score well above the national average. In 2012, almost 3,000 college-bound Wisconsin seniors took the test. On average, they scored in the high 500s or low 600s on each section. Scores in this range are about 100 points higher than the national average for each category. They allow these students to submit competitive applications to some of the most well-recognized colleges and universities in the country. For more information on how Wisconsin students compare to students nation-wide, please visit: http://research.collegeboard.org/programs/sat/data/cb-seniors-2012.

The wide availability of SAT test prep classes may have helped many students prepare successfully for the exam. Other students study on their own using books, software and practice tests. Some high schoolers take the test as juniors so they are better prepared in their senior year.

Almost all schools accept SAT test results and many require them. However, not all students take the SAT. Students applying only to schools that accept the ACT, including many schools located in the Midwest, often choose to take only that exam. For these students, the drawbacks of also taking the SAT include the $50 fee, the inconvenience of a nearly four-hour exam and the large amount of time it takes to successfully prepare for the test. The College Board tries to offset the burden of the fee by offering waivers to students who demonstrate significant need. In fact, the organization offered over $44 million in fee waivers last year alone.

Universities have considered the SAT an important, although certainly not the only, factor in admissions decisions since the early 20th century. A continued commitment to education will ensure that Wisconsin students continue to perform well in this area and gain acceptance into high-quality college degree programs.