More than 2,500 prospective teachers took a basic skills exam Saturday that 59 percent of all takers flunked the first time around, prompting a huge debate on Massachusetts educational standards.

The state's new teachers exam, which tests English and mathematics skills, created a furor when the initial results were reported.The controversy got worse when the Board of Education moved to lower the passing grade so that 260 of the 2,000 test-takers who had flunked would have their failing grades turned into passing marks.

That outraged politicians, who demanded the board return to the original grading standards. The board relented, forcing those who thought they had passed to try again.

The test was administered again statewide Saturday, with some taking it for the second time. The Department of Education said it did not know how many were retaking the test.

At six different campuses throughout the state, 2,683 took the reading and writing portion in the morning, and 2,575 took the content part in the afternoon.

Justin Whitton, a Northeastern graduate who student-taught social studies in Boston's public schools and was taking the test for the first time, called the test "garbage."

"You had to write an example of an `interrogative sentence,' " he said. "I was at a loss. I'm sure 99 percent of Americans would be at a loss."

Whitton said such obscure English facts weren't relevant in a classroom such as his, where sewage smells waft from a yard-wide hole in the floor.

"It makes me so angry," he said. "Young teachers are out there. We don't have any advocates. We don't have any solidarity. I feel skewered by the politics."

The test was developed by National Evaluation Systems Inc., in conjunction with 5,000 educators and tests would-be teachers at a tenth-grade level, according to company spokesman Dominic Slowey.