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Thursday, May 03, 2007

Raw Scores

A little girl called Mary is sitting in the car on the way home from school. She calls across to her mother who is driving and tells her excitedly that she scored 18 on a mathematics test. Mary’s mother reacts accordingly and screams in delight – and promises great rewards as soon as the car pulls into the drive at home.

But there is a little problem here. Mary may have answered 18 questions correctly but was the test made up of a number of questions where one mark was awarded for each question – or was there a series of four part questions where Mary was only able to answer two parts of all the questions?

She may have missed a large number of questions so eighteen was not a good mark. In a similar manner she may have answered 18 questions correctly out of one hundred so eighteen was not a good mark.

If, however, the one hundred question test was aimed at sixteen year olds then the nine year old Mary may have done very well. So the eighteen correct answers depends on a range of factors.

The age of the child.

The average score of the test. (If the average score for the whole class was 4 out of 20 then 18 out of 20 is clearly outstanding. Equally if the average for the test was 50 then 18 shows that Mary continues to need help.)

Another factor to take into account is the highest possible score. If nine year old Mary achieved 18 out of 18 then she may have done very well. If the test, however, was aimed at six year olds then 18 out of 18 would still be a cause for celebration – but the praise would need to be rather more muted.

So now we need to look at the subject matter of the test. The test could have been a tables test – and the whole class, including Mary, may have been working on their tables for a week. So 18 out of 20 on a tables test could be a wonderful score for Mary. She may never before have scored over nine out of 20. To double her score would then be a real cause for celebration.

So when you listen to other parents talking about scores of 75% slow down and ask your self. Was this 75 right out of 100 questions in 55 minutes or did the test take place over two days?

The quickest way of deflating your child, and taking the magic of the moment away, is to say: “Good, now next time I want 20.” So if your child thinks that he or she has done well please just savour the moment. Give praise and reward accordingly. Select another moment to pile on pressure.

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