Just 43 percent were judged fully ready for college as reading and writing achievement slipped.
National reading scores on the SAT college-entrance exam have sunk to their lowest point in 40 years, and the proportion of test takers deemed fully prepared for college remains flat at 43 percent, the test's sponsors announced Monday.
The average score on the exam's critical reading section among this year's college-bound seniors dropped to 496 points, down one point from last year and 34 points from 1972.
Each of the SAT's three sections -- critical reading, writing and mathematics -- is scored on a range of 200 to 800.
Writing scores also dipped one point from last year, to 488 -- the lowest result since an essay-writing section was added to the test in 2006. The average writing score in that initial year was 497.
SAT math scores remained steady from last year, at an average 514 nationwide.
That score, too, was down from a peak of 520, recorded in 2005.
In Minnesota, only 7 percent of college-bound public and private high school seniors took the SAT.
They averaged 592 for critical reading, 606 for math and 573 for writing.
The percentage of Minnesota students taking the exam did not change from last year but has dropped 3 percentage points since 2001.
The ACT is the primary college entrance exam taken in Minnesota.
The College Board calculated that 43 percent of SAT takers in this year's freshman class were well-prepared for studies at four-year colleges -- the same figure as in 2011.
That's based on the percentage of students scoring a combined 1550 points -- an indication they would earn a B-minus average or better during their first year of college.
"When less than half of kids who want to go to college are prepared to do so, that system is failing," said Gaston Caperton, president of the New York City-based College Board, which sponsors the admissions test.
The College Board itself has faced criticism since last year, when security lapses in SAT administration led to charges of cheating against more than 15 Long Island, N.Y., students.
The case revolved around a graduate of Great Neck North High School, Sam Eshaghoff, who was charged with accepting thousands of dollars for taking the college-admissions tests for other students, using forged student identifications.
As a result of that investigation, the College Board has put new security precautions in place for the next round of SAT testing that begins Oct. 6.
One new requirement that will take effect early in 2013 is that test-takers will have to upload photos of themselves for the tickets that are issued to those scheduled for for the testing.
Staff writer Alejandra Matos contributed to this report.