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Saturday, August 30, 2008

Eleven Plus Answers

It is easy to suppose that our Eleven Plus children would learn with more interest and attention if the syllabus of the examination was more closely relevant to their everyday life. The knowledge and attitude that the Eleven Plus children have to acquire is greatly different to the knowledge they need outside of the examination.

One key area that could be addressed by educationalists is to allow parts of the examination to be conducted orally. The group mathematics and reasoning examinations rely traditionally on the ability to read and write.

While children are preparing for the Eleven Plus examination they are offered lots of information and explanation. The work is revised and consolidated. As the examination grows closer the children are expected to assimilate a multitude of approaches to different topics and questions. The children work through papers with their parents, teachers and tutors. The whole quest is for the single correct answer that could `tip the balance’.

12 men dig a hole in four days. How long will it take 2 men? This is a typical Eleven Plus question. What happens in one of the men hurts his hand and can not work for an afternoon? Suppose one of the men is a member of a local life boat crew – and is called out at short notice to save a sinking yacht. How is his time allocated? One of the men could have booked a family holiday to France – and will be away part of the time. Does the question allow for any latitude – or is there only one clear answer?

Over the recent Eleven Plus courses we saw two different answers to a story exercise that showed true maturity of thought, a wide vocabulary, impeccable style and a thirsty desire for retribution. By some chance neither child had addressed the question directly but had chosen to write a fanciful answer – rather than the more prosaic `correct’ answer. Both children showed signs of Level 6 English in their use of metaphors and personification. The children came from different schools – one boy and one girl – but both used rhetorical questions. Neither child gave a factual answer. Their work, however, was a delight to read.

If passing the Eleven Plus, however, depended on a formal and clear answer – it is possible that these two extraordinary children could have failed. The children may, however, have been failed by the examination system rather that failing through below par ability. I wonder if they both were too bright for the examination!

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