The eleven plus, after considerable effort, blood, sweat and tears is reduced to pass or fail. A parent has to accept the final eleven plus score – and the score itself is hard to challenge. The suppliers of the actual eleven plus tests are able to hide behind the anonymity of multiple choice tests. Scores and marks on an essay can be challenged. It must be much more difficult to challenge the ability of an optical mark reader to count and score correctly.
Any sound eleven plus mathematics course will remind parents of the meaning of the word `mean’. The eleven plus child needs to know a paraphrase of `add them all up and divide by the number’. Very few eleven plus children need to be able to describe a mean in terms of: `a measure of central tendency’.
When the computer has gathered up all the eleven plus test results a statistical measure called `Standard Deviation’ is applied. This is where all the squared deviations of all the scores from the mean are added up. The square root of all the deviations from the mean is then taken. Again words like `square’ and `square root’ are part of the eleven plus syllabus. The standard deviation can be used to explain to a parent just how far their child is away from average. A mean score on a certified eleven plus test must necessarily be at a different level to a mean score on a test offered to the general population. The eleven plus test would need to have different questions than that offered to all the children – other wise the test’s predictive options will be compromised.
Suppose, for example, a child scored 122 on a test where the mean score was 90, then it would be safe to say that the child had done well. A child, however, scoring 122 on a test where the mean was 115 may not appear to be as far away from the average.
To try make this a little clearer we need to remember that the distribution of eleven plus scores depends on the children who are writing the test, the difficulty of the test and how the test is marked. Take for example the scenario of a large number of children preparing for the eleven plus. The children will have worked from a very similar range of practice eleven plus papers. On the day of the examination the perfidious examiners throw in fifteen questions that do not appear in any pre eleven plus paper. Oh! Woe is me! Poor children! But if all the children are subjected to the same questions then some of children should be able to do some of the questions. Is the test still fair?
This is where the word correlation comes into the equation. Correlation is the degree of correspondence between two or more sets of measures. The examiners can compare the results of one test with another that has already been standardised and verified.
Every item that appears in an Eleven Plus test is scrutinised and evaluated – and tried out on a sample of children. There is, therefore, little need for parents to be concerned about the content of an Eleven Plus examination – and any appeal board would naturally give short shrift to any attempt to add a complaint about content or the method of marking of the test.