Friday, February 06, 2009

Guessing and the Eleven Plus

Sage advice to an eleven plus child is that if you are nearing the end of an eleven plus paper, and time is becoming restricted, then simply guess the remaining answers. If there are four choices in an eleven plus test then you will naturally explain that you have 1 in 4 chances of guessing the right answer. You will probably go on to say that if there are ten questions left at the end of the examination, and you guess the answers. Then you may guess two or three correctly. It could even be that he or she would guess one question correctly for every three or four questions.

Eleven plus examination do not have a `guessing correction’ built in. You could try this at home. Take any one of your standard eleven plus selection papers that has 100 questions. Suppose your child answers 64 correctly, 30 incorrectly and leaves 6 out then you could assume that your child has really scored 54.

You would, however, hate to assume that your child guessed all the wrong answers. If this was true then It is however, very unlikely that your eleven plus child will deliberately guess all the answers that he or she is unsure of. After all you would expect your child to al least try to work some out. (We sometimes see a patch on a certain page where all the answers are marked with the same answer – so it then becomes likely that perhaps the guessing was deliberate for one reason or another.)

We all actively tell our eleven plus children that guessing is not penalised. If your child answers all the questions correctly it is highly unlikely that he or she will have guessed all the questions. If however your knew 80 out of 100 questions, and guessed a further 8 correctly, the score that would appeal to the eleven plus examiners would be 88. The eight questions that were guessed do not matter. After all a pass at the eleven plus may depend on the number of questions that your child knows plus the number of questions that were guessed correctly.

What children, parents teachers and tutors try to is to reduce the number of questions that have to be guessed. Of course it must be possible to pass an eleven plus examination and leave out a number of questions without guessing.

When your sits the eleven plus examination the questions will already have been tested on a cohort of children not directly involved. The questions will probably have been drawn at random from an item bank. Each question will have been tried out with a number of children. If 80% of children found Question 1 easy, but only 30% coped with Question 2, then the eleven plus examiners would need to look closely at the two questions. After all the eleven plus examination is trying to find children who are at the top end of the ability scale rather looking at the average population.

An eleven plus question that 80% of successful eleven plus answered correctly may be considered a rather difficult question for a test that looked at a wide range of children. Equally a question that only 30% of eleven plus children could pass, would probably be a rather demanding question for any one to attempt.

When parents meet a question on selection papers that appears to be ridiculously hard, it may be no more than a design to stretch the child, the tutor and the parents. Take heart, if your bright child found it hard – so will nearly every other child. You may need to explain this to your child.

The only other advice you could offer your child is: “If you are going to guess, make sure you guess correctly!”