Maryland high school students posted lower marks last year on the SATs but saw increases in Advanced Placement college exam participation and results, according to data released on Monday by the College Board.

The state's test takers during the 2011-2012 academic year registered a 5-point drop in average SAT scores (1,487 on the 2,400-point scale) from the previous year, said the College Board, which administers the college readiness exams.

Maryland scored 497 in critical reading (down two points), 502 in math (even) and 488 in writing (down three points), said school officials, who added that overall participation for the SAT was about the same over the previous year. Nationally, students scored 496 in critical reading, 514 in math and 488 in writing.

The state posted a 74 percent testing rate for the SAT among its high school seniors, 10th most in the nation. School officials said that 47,467 students took the test in Maryland last year, about the same as in 2010-2011.

The state continued its proficiency with AP exams, for which it has ranked first in the nation in scores over the last four years and first in the nation in participation last year. School officials said that more than 116,000 state students took AP exams in 2011, a 5.4 percent increase over 2010.

Students reaching the exam's high marks (a score of 3 or greater out of 5) increased almost 10 percent in Maryland, officials said. Students who earn an AP score of 3 to 5 qualify for credit at many colleges and universities.

"Advanced Placement offers rigorous courses of study, serving as a cornerstone for future success in college or a career field," said state schools Superintendent Lillian M. Lowery in a statement. "Maryland students are eager to test their mettle in everything from calculus to English literature."

In Howard County, students posted an overall composite SAT score of 1,632, down more than a dozen points from a year ago. Students scored 537 on critical reading, 557 on math and 538 on writing. The county's participation rate, 80.6 percent, was down 1 percentage point.

"We are looking into the factors that may have contributed to the drop," said Linda Wise, Howard's deputy superintendent for curriculum instruction and administration.

But Howard school officials lauded the results and participation percentages, which were well above state and national averages.

"Our 2012 results indicate that many of our students are in fact college- or career-ready," said Howard school Superintendent Renee Foose. "Our goal is to ensure that, not just most, but all HCPSS graduates leave high school prepared."

Of the county's students who took the AP college entrance exam, 82 percent earned a mark of 3 or higher.

In Baltimore County, students posted a 1,476 composite score on the SAT, an increase of 17 points from last year. Baltimore County students scored 489 in critical reading, 499 in math and 488 in writing. Overall participation in the test was 57.5 percent, down 2.6 percent from the previous year.

Baltimore County students tallied a 67.4 percent pass rate on the AP entrance exam, up from 64.4 percent the previous year. The participation rate was 37.8 percent, up about 1 percentage point from last year.

"We're encouraged by the increases we see today in our SAT and AP results, but we cannot be satisfied by them," said Patricia Lawton, chief academic officer of Baltimore County schools. "Superintendent [Dallas] Dance and the whole BCPS team will be looking closely at this data as we move forward in the effort to improve our curriculum and instruction for students."

Baltimore City officials said Monday that they will likely release SAT and AP data in October with graduation data.

Nationally, the College Board said 43 percent of all SAT takers in the class of 2012 met the test's College and Career Readiness Benchmark, similar to the previous class. The SAT benchmark score of 1550 indicates a 65 percent likelihood that a college student will achieve a grade-point average of B-minus or higher during the first year at a four-year college.