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Utah's brightest students continue to surpass their peers around the country on rigorous Advanced Placement exams, new data show.

A total of 22,088 Utah students, most of them high schoolers, took 35,721 AP exams last spring. They had a 67.1 percent pass rate, significantly higher than the national pass rate of 58.9 percent.

The College Board issued its new report Thursday in New York City. The statewide numbers include students in public schools and 1,450 religious and independent school students who took 2,504 tests.

The Utah Board of Education released details about public school student performance, which was even better than the state totals. Some 20,638 Utah public school students had a pass rate of 67.4 percent, substantially higher than the pass rate for public school students nationally, which was 56.9 percent.

Students can earn college credit by taking AP classes and exams. To pass, they must achieve a score of at least 3 on a scale of 1 to 5 on the final exam.

State Schools Superintendent Martell Menlove lauded the substantial increases in the number of minority students taking AP exams last year.

While 8.4 percent more students overall participated, the number of Hispanic students taking the tests in Utah public schools rose by 23.3 percent, black students by 22.5 percent, American Indian students by 21.1 percent, Asian students by 19 percent and Mexican-American students by 10.7 percent.

"It's very gratifying to see more of our students from a variety of backgrounds opting to voluntarily increase the rigor of their education by participating and succeeding in this program," Menlove said in a news release. "This is a measurable step forward in meeting the challenges of helping all Utah students become college and career ready."

The fact that the ACT college entrance exam is preferred over the SAT in Utah was evident in the numbers released by the College Board.

Only 1,835 students — 1,043 from public schools — took the SAT last school year, scoring an average of 1,684 points, 2 points higher than the year before. Nationally, the average SAT score was 1,498. The number of Utah students taking the test was down 6.1 percent from the prior year.

In a pre-report press conference earlier this week, College Board President David Coleman decried the fact that SAT test scores have been virtually flat nationally for five years.

"While some might see stagnant scores as no news, we at the College Board consider it a call to action," he said.

Only 43 percent of SAT takers in the class of 2013 graduated from high school academically prepared for the rigors of college-level course work, he said.

The College Board considers students ready for college-level work if they score at least 1,550 on the SAT. That benchmark is associated with a 65 percent probability of earning at least a B- average in the first year of college.

The only way to improve test scores, Coleman said, is to make students' work more rigorous throughout their school years.

Twitter: @KristenMoulton —

Top 10 Utah public high schools for Advanced Placement test passing rates

School and percentage passing rate

Mountain View High School • Orem, 86.3

Juab High School • Nephi, 85.7

North Summit High School • Coalville, 85.7

Olympus Junior High • Holladay, 84.8

Bountiful High School • Bountiful, 83.9

Davis High School • Kaysville, 83.5

Piute High School • Junction, 83.3

Lone Peak High School • Highland, 83.1

American Fork High School • American Fork, 80.8

Lehi High School • Lehi, 79.9

Top 10 Utah public high schools for Advanced Placement test participation

School and number of test-takers

Davis High School • Kaysville, 908

Skyline High School • Holladay, 685

Alta High School • Sandy, 662

Lone Peak High School • Highland, 651

Hillcrest High School • Midvale, 626

Park City High School • Park City, 545

Brighton High School • Cottonwood Heights, 512

Viewmont High School • Bountiful, 480

Copper Hills High School • West Jordan, 476

Bountiful High School • Bountiful, 420