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Wednesday, September 17, 2008

What can the Eleven Plus predict?

We assume that because children have passed their Eleven Plus and have `Gone to Grammar’, that they will do well academically. There are, however, bright children who pass the examination, win a place in a grammar school, and then do not enjoy the nature of the school.

There also must be some unspoken assumption, from parents and teachers, that just because a child has attended a grammar school, that he or she will move on to a successful career. One measure of success could be the big house or the big car. A different measure could be job happiness.

There is a pretty general idea that strength on verbal reasoning papers can be used to try to predict strong general ability. If this is true, then a good mark on a verbal reasoning paper could be likely to result in a good `A’ Level pass in key subjects.

It would be interesting to find out just how good the Eleven Plus examination is at predicting future occupational success. Different types of tests look to measure different skills. Different jobs use different abilities. Some kinds of tests may turn out to be better predictors of ability.

Is a boy who goes to grammar school, reads American Politics at Warwick University, and lands up with a job as editor on a large New York news paper, likely to have a higher verbal reasoning score than a girl who also goes to grammar, avoids reading and T.V., likes mountain bikes and reads Astrophysics at Cambridge?

Verbal reasoning tests are built around testing the strength of a vocabulary along with comprehension and the ability to think and reason. The girl reading Astrophysics may never have read a full book in her life. She could, however, have lost her place at grammar school because she did not know the answer to a rather specious verbal reasoning question.

It is clear that combinations of tests will have the best predictive strength. A single test can measure only some of the abilities and success in a particular job. Too many tests may cloud the issue – and fail to be effective in predicting future occupational success.

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