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Act to move toward computer-based testing

High school students will take the ACT college admissions exam by computer starting in the spring of 2015 — but at least for a while, the paper and pencil version will be available, too.

“We are moving to a computer-based version, but for the foreseeable future, we will also have the paper and pencil test as an option for schools that don’t have the technological capability,” said Jon Erickson, the president of ACT’s Education Division. “We will probably have the option for students to choose paper and pencil, as well. But all the anecdotal evidence is that students prefer the computer.”

About 1.7 million students took the ACT in 2012, slightly more than took the SAT. The content of the ACT — a four-part exam that assesses English, reading, math and science skills, with an optional writing test — will be unchanged.

The computer-administered ACT will, for the first time, move beyond fill-in-the-bubble multiple-choice questions, with some optional items in which students perform virtual tasks to reach their answer. For example, Erickson said, one science question shows four beakers of chemicals, and lets students manipulate the items, pouring one beaker into another to monitor changes in density. Students might then be asked to predict the order of the layers if all four chemicals were poured into the same beaker.

“We think these constructed-response items will allow students to get much more engaged and enthusiastic about what they’re doing,” he said.

—Tamar Lewin, The New York Times

Europe rules against patent play by Google’s Motorola unit

BRUSSELS — The European Commission issued a preliminary antitrust finding on Monday against Google’s mobile communications unit, Motorola Mobility, for seeking and enforcing an injunction against Apple in Germany over patents essential to smartphones and tablets.

The finding, which could lead to a steep fine, comes as the commission tries to ensure that companies do not wield their patent portfolios to block others from using the technologies vital to developing some of the most popular consumer electronics.

“I think that companies should spend their time innovating and competing on the merits of the products they offer — not misusing their intellectual property rights to hold up competitors to the detriment of innovation and consumer choice,” Joaquín Almunia, the European Union’s competition commissioner, said in a statement.

Motorola Mobility obtained an injunction from a German court preventing Apple from using patents called standard-essential for the industry.

The commission said it regarded some injunctions to enforce patent claims as legitimate. But it also said that holders of standard-essential patents who had agreed to fair, reasonable and nondiscriminatory licensing terms had to meet conditions before resorting to injunctions.

Google referred questions to Katie Dove, a spokeswoman for Motorola, who said the company had followed the procedure in a German court ruling.

“We agree with the European Commission that injunctions should only be sought against unwilling licensees,” Dove said in a statement.

Motorola has two months to respond to the charges.

“The patent wars are now widespread,” said Michael A. Carrier, a Rutgers School of Law professor who specializes in antitrust law. “But there hasn’t yet been an injunction that has really taken phones out of people’s pockets, and that’s probably one thing that the Europeans are probably really worried about.”

—James Kanter, The New York Times