AUSTIN (U-WIRE) - College-bound high school students set record scores on the math section of the Scholastic Aptitude Test this year while verbal scores remained constant, according to a report released Tuesday by The College Board.

Texas followed the nationwide trend with a math composite of 501 - seven points higher than the state's verbal average. Verbal scores in the state have hovered around 494 since 1988 as math scores have steadily increased.

These marks rank below the national averages, as Texas' scores were 44th in the country in both the math and verbal sections of the test.

The SAT national averages were 512 for math, which was the highest average mark in 27 years, and 505 on the verbal portion.

Gary Hanson, coordinator of the Office of Admissions at The University of Texas, said he has not seen a significant change in the past several years in the scores of UT applicants.

He added that the overall weight UT gives to SAT scores when deciding admissions has decreased in an effort to consider the overall student.

"We do not give it the emphasis we used to," Hanson said. "It is one of several factors we look at when we consider applicants."

Donald Stewart, president of The College Board, said in a statement that the trend towards higher math scores is remarkable.

"We can point to increased math and science study as a reason for the current high in average math score," Stewart said, "but the rock-steady verbal scores are more difficult to explain. One factor may be the decline in familiarity with English."

This year, students whose first language is not English made up eight percent of the SAT population - up from 5 percent 10 years ago.

Also, a preview of college-bound students showed record levels of minorities are taking the SAT and preparing to attend college.

According to The College Board's annual SAT report, there has been a growing trend over the past 10 years of more Asian, African-American, Mexican-American, Puerto Rican and Hispanic/Latino SAT test takers.

While the report noted a lower average composite and verbal scores for Hispanic/Latino and Puerto Rican groups, all other minority subgroups increased their average math and verbal SAT scores.

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