On average, college seniors earned a failing grade—answering 54.2 percent of questions correctly—on a basic U.S. history exam, just 3.8 percentage points higher than their freshman counterparts, according to a study conducted by the Wilmington, Del.-based Intercollegiate Studies Institute.
Colleges whose average scores decreased between freshman and senior years included Cornell University, Yale University, Duke University, and Princeton University. Harvard University seniors scored best on the test, with an average of 69.56 percent correct, but ranked 17th in the amount of knowledge gained by students from freshman to senior year.
The study gathered data from a 60-question multiple-choice exam given to 35,000 freshmen and seniors in 85 U.S. colleges and universities.
A version of this article appeared in the September 26, 2007 edition of Education Week