High school sophomores and juniors across Long Island have sharpened their No. 2 pencils for the debut Wednesday of a revamped PSAT exam that is 35 minutes longer than the older version but shorter on esoteric vocabulary.

Starting around 8 a.m., thousands of students in Nassau and Suffolk counties will join teens throughout the country in sitting for the two-hour, 45-minute test that is a precursor to the SAT.

The latter is the college-admissions exam most often taken by students in New York State. A redesigned version of that assessment will be administered for the first time in March -- the biggest change in college-entrance testing in a decade.

As a warmup for the new SAT, the preliminary version is being taken seriously. For example, the Eastport-South Manor school district, which used to give the PSAT only to 11th-graders, is adding 10th-graders this year.

Sal Alaimo, principal of the district's high school, said the idea is to give local teens a little extra prep time for the SAT. Also, Eastport-South Manor wants to encourage students as early as possible to start planning for the future.

"In 10th grade -- really, in ninth grade -- we want students to start thinking about what they're going to do in the future, and what courses they're going to take," Alaimo said.

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Scores from the PSAT also are used in determining students' eligibility for more than $32 million in college scholarships, distributed by the National Merit Scholarship Program.

"We're excited," said Cyndie Schmeiser, chief of assessment for the Manhattan-based College Board, the nonprofit agency that sponsors both the PSAT and SAT. "They've been redesigned to connect more kids to more opportunities."

The PSAT's full name is Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test.

Sponsors describe it as the nation's largest pre-college assessment. It was administered last year to 3.8 million students, including more than 266,000 in New York State.

Changes in the PSAT, as well as the SAT, include a greater reliance on nonfictional reading passages, as well as on math exercises that require analytical problem-solving. There is more vocabulary of the sort used in college research -- for example, "synthesis" -- but fewer words that might be considered arcane, such as "prevaricator" or "sagacious."

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"I'm a little apprehensive about some of this," said Liam Chung, 16, a junior at South Side High School in Rockville Centre.

Chung's particular concern: a section of the PSAT that requires corrections in grammar.

The superintendent of Rockville Centre schools, William Johnson, is a regional leader in the push to encourage more students to take college-level International Baccalaureate courses that emphasize essay writing.

Johnson is unimpressed with tests such as the PSAT and SAT, which are mostly multiple-choice, in terms of their validity for measuring students' college readiness.

"I think the whole thing should be tossed," Johnson said.

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Bookstores and websites are doing a brisk business nonetheless with practice tests and workbooks meant to help teens ready themselves for the new assessments.

Barron's Educational Books, a publishing house headquartered in Hauppauge, recently came out with a new prep book, "Strategies and Practice for the New PSAT/NMSQT."

Brian Stewart, an educational consultant and Princeton University graduate who wrote the book, sees advantages in the new PSAT.

"The test is much more practical, much more real-world," Stewart said.