Pennsylvania students scored below the national average on the SAT exam this year, while New Jersey students fared better than the country as a whole.

Data released by the College Board today said students across the country scored an average of 496 in critical reading, 514 in math and 488 in writing on the college-entrance test in 2013 -- numbers that were all unchanged from 2012. The highest possible score for each section is 800.

In Pennsylvania, students averaged 494 in reading, 504 in math and 482 in writing, while New Jersey students' averages were 499 in reading, 522 in math and 500 in writing.

While national scores have stagnated, students in both Pennsylvania and New Jersey improved this year.

Pennsylvania students' marks were up from 2012 averages of 491 in reading, 501 in math and 480 writing. And New Jersey students improved from averages of 495 in reading, 517 in math and 499 in writing last year.

Nationwide, students averaged 500 in critical reading in 2010 and 497 in 2011, before dropping to 496 for the past two years. Math scores have stagnated at 514 for three years, down from 515 in 2010. And writing scores for the past two years are down a point from the 489 average in 2011.

The College Board said only 43 percent of test-takers nationwide met what it calls the "SAT benchmark," a total score of 1550. Students who obtain that mark on the exam are more likely to enroll in a four-year college and complete their degrees, the organization says.

"While some might see stagnant scores as no news, we at the College Board consider it a call to action," College Board President David Coleman said in a statement. "We must dramatically increase the number of students in K–12 who are prepared for college and careers."

In Pennsylvania and New Jersey, male students had better scores than female students in both critical reading and math, while girls did better in writing.

In both states, white and Asian students had the highest scores in all three sections.

Contact Emily Babay at 215-854-2153 or ebabay@philly.com. Follow @emilybabay on Twitter.
Contact the Breaking News Desk at 215-854-2443 or BreakingNewsDesk@philly.com. Follow @phillynews on Twitter.