The maximum possible score on the Scholastic Aptitude Test is 1600. An incorrect figure was given in yesterday's editorial on academic standards for college athletes.

THE NATIONAL Collegiate Athletic Association plans to impose academic standards on athletes. The intention is laudable, but the method is wrong and needs amending.

Many athletes strive to bring fame and fortune to their schools, only to be denied a diploma for academic reasons. Some get the diploma without a decent education. This exploitation is, at best, a disservice even to the 1 percent who will play professionally but will some day have need of a real education.

The standards, effective in 1986, will require that freshmen have (1) scores of at least 700 out of 1400 on the Scholastic Aptitude Test, or 15 out of 36 on the American College Testing exam, and (2) a grade average of at least C in a core curriculum shorn of traditional fluff courses. The grade requirement is fair enough. It allows colleges to set their own internal standards while combating dual standards for athletes. But a national standard tied to those multiple-choice tests will be unfair to students with bad schooling for whom college with a scholarship may mean everything.

Blacks, for example, with lower average incomes and poorer school preparation, have substantially lower scores than whites on those entrance examinations. And at some black colleges, the average scores for all students are below the NCAA standard. Such students would be ineligible for intercollegiate competition, and some colleges would therefore be less interested in admitting them, particularly on scholarships. Supporters of the standard say these students have little chance of graduating anyway, so just bar them at the college gates.

But the record suggests that remedial work can help high-risk students get to the finish line in good standing, in particular at the several black colleges that have made remediation their central mission. The NCAA should encourage schools to make that commitment, and thereby provide genuine opportunities to low-scoring kids. It's not difficult to imagine schemes for comparing the academic performances of a school's athletes and non-athletes, and cracking the whip when the results are too dissimilar.

The NCAA plan may be all right for many. But for several schools and their students, the current plan would undermine rather than promote important educational aims.