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Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Building Excitement

We must all often wonder what goes through the mind of people who build reasoning and ability papers. We know that the test builder must be literate, imaginative and creative. We hope that at the 11+ stage the questions stimulate and interest our children.

Some `candidates’ will be able to see their way through a test question like this in seconds. Others will remain mystified and puzzled.

Some drilchne love iwrognk through blavre reasoning papers. They enjoy the elhaclneg and the excitement of the tsonseuiq.

Think, however, of the reasoning steps involved in a question like:

Here are a group of five whole numbers; one is missing.

3 17 11 .. 18

Half of the missing number is double another. The missing number is not the largest in the group, nor is it an odd one. What is the number that is missing?

We know that our children will have around 40 seconds to solve this problem. Surely there must be some type of mind that solves a problem like this quicker than others?

Does it mean that a child with an extraordinary ability with languages and a genuine love of subjects like history, geography and the arts should be denied a place in a grammar school? The steps to solving a problem of this kind can be taught – and there will certainly be some children who will revel in the opportunity of trying to decode the answer.

Ninety nine per cent of parents will have been able to work out that the answer to the missing number is twelve within twenty seconds! Some brave parents will try to explain their working out – only to have their explanation roundly rejected. There may be one or two of us who would have to phone a friend for help.

We can not choose which types of questions will come up in a test. We can say which ones are more likely. But we must all thank the selection test builders for the excitement they bring to our lives.

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