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Sunday, July 20, 2008

The Challenge of the Eleven Plus

We have been told over and over again that an individual’s intelligence develops as a result of interaction between nature and nurture. We would also like to think that the majority of the children writing the Eleven Plus will have had a broadly normal development. All things being equal; the Eleven Plus children will have enjoyed the fruits of a similar environment. We must presume that if a child attends a good school he or she will be stimulated and extended. We all hope that a good home background will contribute towards good results on intelligence tests.

Psychologists, however, can not agree on what intelligence is so the Eleven Plus Authorities have turned towards reasoning tests as a primary selection tool. A reasoning test is designed to use pre-planned questions in order to arrive at a normal curve of distribution. The questions are analysed on an item by item basis. Questions that do discriminate are kept – and the rest discarded.

The scores on Reasoning Tests are then validated against similar tests – and if all is satisfactory – the test is standardised. All books, papers and Eleven Plus exercises are designed to try to help a child to do as well as possible on the reasoning tests.

At the start of the first `real’ Eleven Plus test we all hope that test sophistication will have a bearing on the final scores. It does not necessarily follow that eleven year old children need to do a practice Eleven Plus paper every day. After all ability to do well on reasoning papers is a combination of a number of different abilities. It would be exciting for all of us if provenance of the present reasoning tests could be challenged.

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