## Monday, August 13, 2007

### Understanding Tests

If you were told that your child is achieving two years ahead of her actual age does that mean that you are sure you know what the test is measuring? You will need to make additional assumptions before you can state that you understand what the test is actually measuring.

So if your ten year child is two years ahead of her actual age does this really mean that she is more intelligent than an average child who is two years older?

Suppose you go to the gym and you take a gym test and you are told that you are achieving as well as a person two years older than you. You give your personal trainer a big smile, and book another ten sessions. After all you did a variety of tests on a range of machines – and machines can not lie.

What the test results may have shown that you may have lived a more active lifestyle than the average person. You my never have smoked so your lung capacity could be greater than normal. You may have decided to save the planet and walk everywhere. You could even be a tri-athlete and be used to running, cycling and swimming.

So if your child has done well on a test and has achieved at a level two years ahead you will need to ask some questions about the test. Suppose your child has a high reading age and is good at comprehension then you would naturally hope that he or she would do well on a paper with lots of problems. If the test is a rather mechanical looking test with few problems then a high reading age may not be as important as confidence in what we now call `old mathematics’.

You may have a test where the early easy questions are worth one mark – but the later questions could have multiple marks. A bright, but careless child, could make mistakes on the `easy’ questions but do well on the more challenging questions towards the end of the paper. (A mathematics teacher at our local grammar school used to encourage her girls to start at the end of a mathematics paper and work backwards.)

So while you are working through a wide range of eleven plus papers take a little time to talk to your child about the way in which the questions are set out on the paper. Explain why there is a need to read even the very easy questions carefully. Talk through why your child may feel fatigued half way through a paper. Explain and demonstrate how and why timing is important.

Then you need to take all your earnest and well meant words back to the gym. Question your trainer about how you were assessed. Find out what you can do to improve – you want want to work on your flexibility or even your strength. Remember that a fit and healthy mum or dad is better able to withstand the trials and pressures of an eleven plus year.