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The Scholastic Aptitude Test (sat) has attracted considerable attention recently from organizations that have decidely different interests in the widely used college-admission examination.

At a news conference in Washington last week, the National Association of Secondary School Principals announced that it will sell to school systems its own sat-preparation package.

Scott D. Thomson, executive director of the principals' group, said the multimedia package will include student workbooks, six video tapes, and computer software, and will sell for about $1,500. He called the kit's contents "unique, because they teach language and mathematics skills instead of simply reviewing previous sat questions."

"We are trying to strengthen students' ability to handle the abstract cognitive skills that the examination tests," he added.

Asked if the creation of the course reflected a failure of the schools to teach students such skills through regular instruction, Mr. Thompson replied, "The answer is a qualified 'yes."'

The test-taking package is also being offered, Mr. Thompson said, in the hope that school systems will take a more active role in preparing their students to take the sat than they do now, thus giving all students, not just those who can afford private preparatory courses, an opportunity to do as well as they can on the sat

Mr. Thompson rejected a suggestion that the development of the test-taking kit was politically motivated and that by offering a means of raising sat scores, his organization was trying to find a way of reducing public criticism of schools resulting from the prolonged decline of sat scores.

However, he said that "school superintendents have been even more eager for a test-preparation program than principals, because they get more of the community criticism for low sat scores than principals do.''

Gregory R. Anrig, president of the Educational Testing Service, which develops and administers the sat for the College Board, endorsed the new package. "We support it as a way of getting more information about the sat into the schools," he said. "We are particularly enthusiatic about it because it focuses on the knowledge tested by the sat, and not just test-taking gimmicks."

Mr. Anrig cautioned, however, that the new test-preparation program could not be substituted for "four years of hard work in high school.''

He said ets did not collaborate with the principals' group in the development of the new program.

The nassp package was developed by Jay Comras, supervisor of English and reading for the Fair Lawn (N.J.) Public Schools, and Jeffrey Zerowin, assistant principal of Park West High School in New York City.

Meanwhile, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Inc., the publishing company, has brought a new twist to the lucrative commercial sat-preparation market.

It is now marketing Computer SAT, a combination of a computer program and a textbook that leads students step by step through the test-taking process. Priced at $69.95 and currently compatible only with Apple II and Apple Plus computers, the package is also supposed to be able to score practice tests, diagnose a student's strengths and weaknesses, and prepare a study plan. The computer also times a student.

For information, write Harcourt Brace Jovanovich Inc., Computer SAT, 1250 Sixth Avenue, San Diego, Calif. 92101, or telephone (714) 231-6616.

The College Board, sponsor of the sat, has acted to remove the "mystery" from a companion test, the Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test.

The organization is introducing three new services to help school counselors better understand the test and interpret test scores for parents and students.

These include profiles of the academic characteristics and career interests of high-school sophomores and juniors who take the test, school-by-school summaries of students' answers, and a new publication, A Counselor's Guide to Helping Students Learn from the PSAT/NMSQT.

Each year more than one million students take the sat-like test, which is used as a preview of the sat and is the qualifying test for the National Merit Scholarship program. For information, contact The College Board, 888 Seventh Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10106, (212) 582-6210.

--Thomas Toch

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