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More boys than girls win National Merit Scholarships because the Scholastic Aptitude Test, which is used to screen applicants, is sexually biased, a national group charged last week.

FairTest, the National Center for Fair and Open Testing, denounced the National Merit Scholarship Corporation for using tests based on previous versions of the sat to screen the more than one million high-school students who annually apply for the prestigious awards.

After reviewing the names of the more than 15,000 National Merit Semifinalists this year, FairTest claimed that 63 percent were male, while 31 percent were female. The gender of the remaining students could not be determined from their names.

Sarah Stockwell, a FairTest spokesman, called the scholarship fund's practice "extraordinary" in light of a February ruling by U.S. District Judge John M. Walker that New York State's use of the sat as the sole basis for awarding some scholarships was discriminatory because the test favors males.

Marianne Roderick, a spokesman for the scholarship fund, called FairTest's allegations "misleading." Experts believe that the reasons for performance differentials on the sat are "very complex," she argued.

Although the standardized test is used to select semifinalists, Ms. Roderick added, the 6,000 scholarship winners are chosen on the basis of academic performance, extracurricular activities, written recommendations, essays, and other criteria. "We have never made an award solely on the basis of a test score," she said.

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