Results of a controversial first-grade readiness test administered to 90,434 Georgia kindergartners last month show that 92 percent passed, education officials said Friday.

The test, criticized by some as being too stressful for 5-year-olds and 6-year-olds, is required under the Quality Basic Education Act, enacted in 1985.This year, for the first time, passing the test is generally a prerequisite for entering the first grade. The rules give districts the opportunity to make exceptions for children who fail if the teacher believes they should be promoted.

"The passing rate on this test is pretty much what we anticipated," said Stan Bernknopf, director of assessment for the state Department of Education.

The test instrument was the California Achievement Test. Possible scores ranged from 187 to 602, with the pass-fail cutoff set at 443 and the average for Georgia students 532.

State School Superintendent Werner Rogers said Georgia kindergartners scored above the national average in all three areas of the test, with 79 percent exceeding the national average for math, 75 percent for visual recognition and 73 percent in sound recognition.

Children are asked such things as to count the number of items in a picture and tell what item in a picture doesn't fit in with the others.

While 7,396 students did not meet the cutoff score, that doesn't necessarily mean they won't be promoted to first grade, Rogers said.

If a child's teacher believes he or she is ready for first-grade work but the test score falls below the cutoff point, the child will be reassessed, he said.

Georgia is the only state to administer a paper-and-pencil test to kindergartners as a condition for promotion, and some early childhood experts have argued that standardized tests are too stressful for young children.

But Bernknopf said that he "never thought it was stressful at all."

"When kids are taking a test and they know it's for real, they do a little better," he said.