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Sunday, October 29, 2006

11 Plus Multiple Choice

There is a useful hint that is sometimes offered to children taking 11+ examinations.
With multiple choice questions it is best to cover the answers and work out your own before looking at the choices on paper.

This would work very well for a large number of 11+ questions - but what happens if the emphasis changes from knowledge to understanding? Is it still a good idea to cover the answers?

Which is the odd one out?

Trumpet, horn, trombone, tuba.

We know these are all wind instruments. Three of them use a set of valves while one uses a slide.

Are we testing knowledge or understanding? We can know that the trumpet, horn and tuba are members of the wind family. We can understand how a valve works and the slide operates.
As teachers if a child struggles with sections of a verbal reasoning test we say those meaningful words: `You know, you really must read more!”. You wonder just how many children must have heard those words. Should the child read general literature in the hope of gleaning knowledge or should the child be encouraged to sit down with a series of `fact books’ and try to cover as wide a range as possible?

Suppose the question had read:

Arrange these instruments in order of size and then select the one in the middle.

Cello, double bass, violin, harp, lyre.

Now, it does not matter if your 11+ child can distinguish between bowed string instruments and plucked instruments. The question is asking for the one in the middle.

We need a different sort of knowledge to be able to carry out two different operations. But it certainly does not need understanding of the difference between plucking and blowing.

Poor children. Poor parents. What on earth should they read! What on earth is the point of the child remembering to cover the answer - or is this what understanding really is?

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