The proliferation of free Eleven Plus papers is a relatively new phenomenon. For years teachers, parents and children relied on the papers from well known and highly respected publishers and authors.
The internet has allowed any one to become a publisher of Eleven Plus materials. A web site emerges and then a range of free papers is offered to drive traffic to the site. This is the beauty of the World Wide Web. Who is to say that a paper written by a teacher who is preparing children for specific schools is not as good as a paper offered by one of the `big boys’? If the teacher has good local knowledge of preparing Eleven Plus children for specific schools then his or her free paper could be incredibly valuable.
The problem comes when the results of the free paper are compared with the results on a more traditionally recognised paper. 80% on a free paper may not compare easily with a similar mark on a paper designed for national consumption.
It is difficult to make precise generalisations about the comparability of the papers unless some simple information is gathered. The free paper may have been used by a hundred children, while an established national paper could have taken by thousands of children.
Measurement in education is represented by marks in tests and examinations. A mark of 45 on a free paper does not necessarily mean that a child will not pass the Eleven Plus. In the same way a similar mark on an established national Eleven Plus paper does not establish absolute eleven plus ability. The mark of 45 may come about because the test was given at the wrong time – or it could have been the wrong test.
Do parents need to fear a free online paper? Of course not. The wonderful thing about education in general – and the Eleven Plus in particular - is that there is an ever changing canvas. New ideas will emerge. New methods of teaching will come along. One grammar school is already testing candidates on computers.