Inherent in any discussion on the efficacy of Eleven Plus tests must be a realisation that a degree of moderation is necessary. The purpose of moderation, at the Eleven Plus stage, is to determine to what extent the examination has been able to select the children who would benefit from a grammar school education.
Questions in an Eleven Plus examination are drawn from a data base of proved and tested questions. If the pass mark in an examination is found to be too easy, for example, it is simply a matter of the computer being given a statistical formula – and the pass rate can be adjusted. Year by year pass marks are adjusted up and down. There is no need for any great swings because the questions come from a reliable source – and the selection criteria does not change all that much.
A problem could possibly arise when there are big changes in selection criteria. In Bexley, where large numbers of children sit the Eleven Plus tests, children were only tested on Mathematics and Verbal Reasoning. In previous years English and Non Verbal Reasoning were also tested.
Tests like mathematics and verbal reasoning can be designed to be `content free’. In Eleven Plus terms this can mean that just because NFER sets the test it does not necessarily mean that sitting at home and gaining 100% on an NFER paper will guarantee a pass at the eleven plus. The same must apply for any other paper. Thus the NFER statement that it is useful to buy the NFER papers because NFER sets the examination is suspect. It could help to use the papers – but the items in the examination may not be the items found on papers.