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Officials at the Educational Testing Service (ets) in Princeton, N.J. have acknowledged that they decided not to count one of the questions in a mathematics test administered to some 360,000 students around the country on Nov. 7 because it was confusing and poorly composed.

This was the offending problem:

If x + 3y + 4z equal 18 and y equals z, what must be the value of x?

a.) -3

b.) 4

c.) 11

d.) 18

e.) none of the above

While the correct answer is intended to be "none of the above," the testing firm received about a dozen letters and phone calls from people arguing that any of the four alternates--actually, any number at all--would work for x provided an appropriate value were assigned to y to balance the equation.

This marks the third occasion in less than a year that a faulty question has been publicly acknowledged on a mathematics test prepared by ets When the error was discovered, the scores were based on 59 rather than 60 questions.

"We did 22,000 questions for the College Board division alone last year at ets," said Mary Churchill, a spokesman for ets "The number of ambiguous questions that get on the tests is very small. We're not perfect. Quality control is set up to catch errors before scoring. In this case, it worked--perhaps a little later in the process than we would have liked."


Teachers of English around the country are readying their nomina-tions for the the National Council of Teachers of English Achievement Awards in Writing, presented each year to a group of outstanding 12th-grade students.

Through the competition, now in its 25th year, the English teachers' group selects approximately 800 high-school seniors--nominated during their junior year--who are outstanding writers. The council recommends the students to colleges and universities for admission, and, if necessary, for financial aid.

Nominations must be in by Feb. 23, according to the council, which reports that 7,000 students were nominated for the 1981 competition. Each nominee submits an "impromptu theme" and a sample of his or her best writing. A school may nominate up to eight students.

The submissions are judged by state teams composed of high-school and college teachers of English. The winners--including at least two finalists from each state--are announced in October of each year, and the names and schools of the 800 students selected for recognition are published in a booklet. The booklet is distributed by the council to college admissions officers and heads of English departments, governors, education officials, members of Congress, organizations affiliated with the council, and participating high schools.

For more information, write to the National Council of Teachers of English, 1111 Kenyon Road, Urbana, Ill. 61801.

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