A well known, and much discussed, eleven plus concern is that of guessing multiple choice answers. What happens if your child does not guess the right answers – but another child does guess a few correctly and then goes on to win a place in grammar school?
Of course guessing can take place in any examination. A bright and able child should be able to construct a sensible and thoughtful answer even if he or she does not know much about the subject. A number of parents will be able to look back on their school days and remember an examination that they passed more by luck than hard work.
Parents will, however, have to deal with the problem of what to do about guessing in the actual eleven plus examination.
Suppose the eleven plus examiners could tell the children that a missed question would result in a mark being taken off the total.
“Now listen carefully, dear, if you miss a question you will loose a mark.”
“But that is not fair. I may not finish the paper and so I would loose marks.”
But what would happen if every time a mistake was made on an eleven plus paper – and a mark was deducted?
“Dear, in the verbal reasoning examination you will need to be very careful. If you make a mistake you will loose a mark.”
“That is even worse. I don’t want to do the eleven plus. I will be frightened about making a mistake – or leaving a question out. I’ve said before – it is not fair!”
“Yes, it would be much easier if you knew all the answers. You may, however, have to work even harder. Even so we don’t really know what will be in the examination.”
Suggest to your child that a look could be made at the odds available when guessing:
Two options – one right and one wrong. The odds are fifty fifty.
Three options – one right and two wrong. The odds have changed and increased.
Four options – one right and three wrong.
Five options – one right and four wrong.
If the examiner constructs the answers so that there is only one plausible answer the chances of making the correct answer are increased. Examiners seem to prefer having four options – but then they can really have only one other plausible answer.
Think how difficult it would be for your child if there was one correct answer and five wrong answers. If the examiner then added the complication of three plausible answers then any advice that you offered to your child would have to be quite impossibly complicated.
With a four option question, favoured by the eleven plus examiners if there was only one question the odds of obtaining full marks is one in four. With two questions the odds of full marks are one in sixteen. With three questions the odds are one in sixty four. With seven questions the odds climb to one in sixteen thousand three hundred and eighty four. If your child does answer all seven questions correctly – the odds are that he or she actually does know something about the answer.
In some eleven plus areas, in some examinations, children have to answer eighty eleven plus questions in fifty minutes – so the chance of scoring full marks decreases markedly.
All this to say – if there are four options - encourage your child to work out the answer. Then remind your child to reject the two implausible answers and simply check between the remaining two plausible answers. This is called examination technique.