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Dialing up better college test scores

Software sends SAT prep questions to your child's handset--and lets you check to see whether they're getting the answers right.

The next time your cell phone rings, it might be a pop quiz.

Verizon Wireless is now selling a $5.75-a-month SAT-tutoring service that automatically e-mails questions to cell phones. The subscriber chooses when he or she wants to receive questions, then the service sends flash card type exercises, queries from previous Scholastic Assessment Test exams and other material.

A devilish feature lets a parent check up on how well a teenager is doing with the service, said Carl Washburn, chief executive of Vocel, the San Diego-based wireless software maker that's supplying the application for Verizon Wireless to sell.

"We felt it was very important to provide feedback to the parents," Washburn said. The study material is supplied by The Princeton Review and will be free to all students enrolled in The Princeton Review Prep for the SAT classes.

The new Verizon Wireless download is the latest in a wave of cell phone applications meant to squeeze even more college board prep time into a teenager's day. To date, nearly every major cell phone carrier offers one. The Princeton Review service is the second tutoring program from Verizon Wireless.

Premium games, ring tones and other cell phone software has developed into a billion-dollar-a-year business in the United States, and it's helping carriers adjust to the steadily declining price of phone calls.

Tutoring represents a new generation of more sophisticated applications, and a patent is pending on some of the technology in use, according to Vocel. Other next-generation cell services include downloadable videos and TV.