The average SAT score of Montgomery County public students was down by one point from last year, to 1101, because of a single-point drop on the math section of the college entrance exam, but the school system remained above the state and national averages.

The average combined score among test-takers was well above the state average of 1026 and the national average of 1028. The single-point decline in math saw students posting an average score of 560 this year. The verbal average stayed at 541.

When broken down by ethnicity, scores continued to demonstrate a gap between black and Hispanic students and their white and Asian counterparts.

National and state scores on the SAT, which is taken by college-bound seniors and administered by the New York-based College Board, were released this week. But several school systems in the area said it was not possible to report on how their students did because of a delay in delivery of the scores.

Fairfax County and the District joined Montgomery yesterday in releasing their delayed scores. The average SAT score of Fairfax County public school students increased by nine points this year to 1114, a record score for the Washington area's largest school system.

High school seniors in the District showed a four-point improvement over last year but trailed the national average by more than 200 points.

This round of testing marks the final time that student performance will be measured using the two-part version of the test, which has a maximum score of 1600. Beginning next year, the College Board will report the results of seniors who took a new version of the test, which has a maximum of 2400 and requires students to write an essay.

Math scores reached a record high this year nationwide, as well as in Virginia, where the average math score increased five points -- the largest gain for any state where the exam is widely taken. Fairfax, Arlington and Alexandria were among the school systems that reported gains.

Math performance in Maryland was unchanged, and the average score in the District increased by two points.

Performance nationwide on the verbal test was stagnant this year. The average dipped slightly in Arlington and Alexandria.

Several area school chiefs said they were largely pleased with the results, but they vowed to continue efforts to boost scores.

"We will continue to encourage and push all of our students to take more rigorous courses to prepare them for college and beyond," Montgomery County School Superintendent Jerry D. Weast said. "These results show we are making progress, but we know we have much work to do."

School officials also said the test results show the need to work harder at closing achievement gaps among ethnic groups. In Montgomery, for example, black and Hispanic students continue to post scores more than 200 points lower than students who are white or Asian.

In Fairfax, the average verbal score among black students dropped five points and their average math score increased. The combined score among Hispanic students in the system increased by 19 points.

District Superintendent Clifford B. Janey noted that, in addition to improvement on the SAT, the system has seen a 3 percent increase in the number of students taking Advanced Placement exams for college credit.

"While we are very pleased with student gains on the SAT and AP tests, our goals are much higher," Janey said in a statement.

"We cannot create the kind of system our children deserve if we are content with two-point gains. We have to aim much higher," he said.

Among this year's high school seniors, the national average verbal score was 508, unchanged from last year. The average math score rose from 518 to 520.

Staff writers V. Dion Haynes and Tara Bahrampour contributed to this report.

"These results show we are making progress, but we know we have much work to do," Montgomery School Superintendent Jerry D. Weast said.