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SAT replaces pencil with mouse

Broken pencils will no longer be an excuse for flubbing the Scholastic Aptitude Test.

Broken pencils will no longer be an excuse for flubbing the Scholastic Aptitude Test. The college preparation test that 1.8 million high school students dread every year is coming to the PC.

The College Board, which has been administering the SAT since 1926, and the Educational Testing Service are preparing to test the computerized version on 1,500 7th-graders this spring.

The organization will then compare scores from the computerized and traditional versions to ensure that there are no inherent "biases" that would favor those students using PCs. But College Board representatives said they expect the paper-and-pencil version to become obsolete in a few years.

Students should be happy with at least one new feature in the computerized test: it lasts about 2 1/2 hours, a full hour less than the 3 1/2-hour paper test because it allows pupils to advance to the next section as soon as they're ready, instead of waiting for the whole group of students to finish. But the computerized version will have some drawbacks. As opposed to the paper test, which allows students to skip difficult questions and return to them later, the computerized version gives pupils one chance to answer a question.