When the Academic Aptitude Test replaced the Secondary School Entrance Examination 22 years ago, it was hailed for putting minimal pressure on students. Unlike the exam which tested subject knowledge, the test is a verbal and numerical reasoning one not based on specific subjects. Scores in the exam helped determine whether students received places in secondary schools, while test scores were used only to moderate differences in standards among primary schools when setting allocation priorities. Since every student was guaranteed a place until Form Three, the test was not supposed to be as high-stake a test as the exam. But the test has since acquired such notoriety that its abolition is now greeted with glee. Former director of education Li Yuet-ting, who was instrumental in devising it, is one of the few people who insists nothing is wrong with the test. He says it was modelled after the widely-accepted Scholastic Aptitude Test used for university admission in America. Mr Li is right. The problem with the aptitude test lies not so much with the test itself, but with the way the scores are used by a troubled school system. As the scores affect the allocation of secondary school places, and competition for admission to the best schools is high, primary schools were driven to drill students in the skills of passing the test. Such drilling, however, diverted schools from proper efforts to enhance students' proficiency in language and mathematics that the test was supposed to assess. Regrettably, anyone who thinks the demise of the test will mean no more 'monster tests' is likely to be disappointed. Already, schools are said to have set their sights on their next big challenge - ensuring their students score high marks in competency tests in Chinese, English and mathematics to be administered at various levels to track performance. These tests will be taken seriously because they will be seen as key indicators of how well the schools are doing. The authorities will no doubt welcome any ideas about how to prevent them from becoming new monstrous exercises to replace the ones they have just abandoned.