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Monday, August 31, 2009

Eleven Plus and Open Questions

Eleven Plus questions, in some authorities, are often characterised under two general headings. In an open question the eleven plus child has to provide an answer by writing an answer to a question. The answer could be an essay or a piece of creative writing. The closed question requires the eleven plus child to choose an answer from several alternatives.

Closed questions are used in eleven plus examinations because they fulfil every aspect of marking consistency. Some types of closed questions, however, seem to encourage rote learning. After all some children can be taught how to analyse questions - and evaluate possible multiple choice answers.

It would be interesting to know what approach to `guessing' answers takes place when a child runs out of time at the end of a paper. People have won the National Lottery by selting random numbers - or Luck Dips. How will your child react if he or she unfortunately has to answer ten questions in three minutes at the end of an examination? Will he or she go for the all ten `C' answers or will the answers be selected at random? What will your advice be?

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Eleven Plus Reading

Reading is a whole lot more than phonic analysis and the ability to recognise words. Reading also involves comprehension – and this in turn implies understanding the meaning of the text.

When you and your child sit down together to start learning to read your child is using language and concepts that are already familiar. Parents put a lot of time into helping their child to read as sound early reading plays a crucial part in education. Bit by bit parents start to recognise that free reading enables their child to be free a parent’s patience and availability.

Free reading offers an introduction to new words and concepts. Parents will start to find that they have less control over what their children read.

In eleven plus terms, learning to read is learning to learn. Eleven plus reading is far more than reading and understanding questions.

Somewhere in the busy life of an eleven plus family there needs to be time for reading. Of course parents will want their eleven plus child to read – but some will also want music and drama lessons, sport, dance and a hundred and one other activities. Add to this homework from a diligent teacher at school, along with eleven plus work, and there is little time for your child to sit and read for pleasure.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Parents and the Eleven Plus

In 1926 the Hadlow Report recommended that here should be a separation between primary and secondary education at age 11. One of the further recommendations was that the allocation to either Grammar or Modern School should be by examination at the age of 11. It was felt then that the modern school curriculum should be the same as the grammar school but shorter and more practical.

In 1931 the Report of the Consultative Committee on the Primary School supported the Hadlow recommendation at the age of transfer should be 11.

In 1938 The Spens Report proposed three types of secondary school – Grammar, Modern and Technical. Children aged between 11 and 13 should have a similar curriculum to facilitate transfer.

Year after year the authorities have tried to improve standards of education. The Eleven Plus, however, has remained a fairly stable examination in the face of all this educational change. There have been some tweaks over the years, but by and large the examination has maintained a firm attempt to select bright and able children for the grammar school.

A number of parents seem to welcome the eleven plus examination whole heartedly because they feel that they have something significant to contribute to their child’s education.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Eleven Plus Drudgery

Back in 1928 Sir John Adams wrote about children in `Modern Developments in Education Practice.' He wrote:

"The good-old-grinders have on their side the undoubted fact that drudgery has to be faced in this world, and it does not seem an unreasonable contention that our pupils should be made to face drudgery as soon as possible."

Could he have been talking about elements of the eleven plus? It is not hard to wonder just how many bright children have been made to work through paper after paper as part of their eleven plus preparations.

There must be a fine line, at times, between drudgery and maintaining a competitive edge.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Eleven Plus Wit

A quick wit and a ready tongue may be essential tools as your children prepare for the eleven plus examinations.

Three girls were sitting on a wall today. The eleven plus girls were attending a holiday course. They came from different schools – but landed up as friends because they were sitting on the same table. We were in the middle of a break.

Two of the girls, by chance, were wearing purple.

I told them the story of the marine mollusks – and explained why the colour often purple denoted royalty. The sheer number of mollusks that were needed to dye cloth meant that only the very wealthy could afford to wear purple.

“You two are wearing purple, you must be of royal blood. You must be princesses.”

The two agreed.

“What about me?” asked the third girl. “Why aren’t I a princess?”

“You are not wearing anything purple,” remarked one of the `princesses’.

“What about my knickers?”

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Eleven Plus Statistucs

Most of us look at statistics with some degree of caution. We also know that some children facing the eleven plus examinations will have to do well on a standardised test. Other children will win a place in a grammar school by being first past the post.

Statistics are used to standardise procedures and then draw conclusions. “Children over this pass mark will go on to do well in grammar school and are likely to do well at university.” Not all children who go to grammar school stay happy at school and university. Some children do not manage at grammar school for a variety of reasons. Yet on the day they do pass we wish them health, wealth and happiness.

We could set up a stand at the entrance to a large supermarket. Ten year old children, entering with their parents, could be tested on three eleven plus questions. The children who pass all three questions could be deemed selective. We could make a prophecy that the children who pass are likely to do well academically.

In the actual examination a child could win a place in a grammar school by answering three more questions correctly than a child who does not manage to pass. Benjamin Disraeli was supposed to have said: “Lies, damned lies, and statistics!” Can some eleven plus statistics lie?

There must be a finite number of places at the various grammar schools.

The children must be within certain age levels.

Race, colour and creed can not come into the equation if a child achieves a pass mark.

Vacancies may suddenly appear at a grammar school if a child decides not to take up a place.

The appeal system can not be `fair’ to all children – as it must be possible for one child with the same final scores as another child to be offered a grammar school place.

There must be a wide number of plausible factors why one child will `go to grammar’ and another lose out. All parents can do at this stage with some many examinations being so close is to keep focusing on the missing three questions. Working through full papers may be of limited value at this stage. It may be more fulfilling to concentrate on strengths and weakness. After all any sound eleven plus child will tell you that:

Three is the only prime number which is one less than a perfect square.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Special Eleven Plus Children

From the beginning of time teachers have been revered for their knowledge. The eleven plus teacher has knowledge as his or her stock in trade.

A primary school teacher needs to know about a range of subjects – whereas in a secondary school the teachers need more in depth knowledge. The eleven plus teacher needs knowledge about the curriculum and the examination.

Some teachers see themselves at teachers of a subject – and others as teachers of children. For some teachers there is no real difference between the roles.

The eleven plus examination places a strain on tutors – because there is an examination at the end of a period of study. The eleven plus tutor has to maintain high standards as well achieve a high pass rate among pupils.

Eleven plus tutors, parents and the children are bound together by a need for reciprocal communication. The tutor has the power because of his or her knowledge of the examination. The parent has the power because of the knowledge that they control the purse strings. The child has the power because he or she can decide weather or not to work hard towards the examination. Eleven plus children have a certain status – and some children trade on the knowledge that they are the special ones. And these children are quite right. They are indeed the special ones.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Eleven Plus Speed

Over the last few days we have heard a lot about speed.

The wonder runner from Jamaica – Usain Bolt thrilled us with breaking world records. What talent. What a wonderful man as well. He showed all of us that winning, and taking part in a stressful activity, does not have to be deadly serious and full of tension. His smiles and activities on and off the track must have filled most of us with a sense of wonder and joy.

This morning we rode the High Speed train from Ebbsfleet to St. Pancras. The journey from Gravesend, where we live, to the centre of London usually takes around forty five minutes. Today’s run took exactly 17 minutes. Nigel, our chatty and urbane conductor, told us that the train had reached, at times, around 125 miles per hour. Significant parts of the journey were underground – including a seemingly incredibly short spell under the River Thames.

Parents can be remarkably sanguine about their children passing the eleven plus – because most parents are realistic and down to earth about the ability and potential of their children. But some parents do tend to feel threatened by speed. They want their children to complete more questions on a paper – or fewer questions. They want their child to complete the paper on time – and miss as few questions as possible.

“If you get stuck on a question, leave it out and come back to it later on – if you have time,” is a plea made by many parents.

Suggest to your child to read a question at least twice. The second reading for many questions may not take much longer than the 9.58 seconds that it took Usain Bolt to run the 100m.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Benefits of the Eleven Plus

The eleven plus has a number of inter-related functions. Of course the examination exists to give children the opportunity of entering a grammar school education. But other functions may be at least as important:

The eleven plus acts as a spur to bright children and given them something to aim for.

The rigors of the examination ensure that teachers, tutors and parents have guide lines as to the content of the examination. The guide lines may be confusing at times – but at least they exist.

The children who pass the examination have something important to gain. By passing they know they have taken part in a public and competitive examination. For the rest of their lives they know that they have: `Passed the Eleven Plus!’

Different authorities and grammar schools have different pass rates. Some authorities will look for the top 25%, others the top 20% - while some schools only have places for around 120 Year 7 pupils. There is no universal pass rate or admission policy.

Most experienced eleven plus tutors will have good local knowledge about the admission requirements of the grammar schools in their orbit. Parents have access to a wealth of information on the internet and through play ground conversations.

A real benefit of the eleven plus is that it gives the opportunity of many children a chance to study and work hard in the years leading up to them leaving primary school. The syllabus may be a little narrow at times – but it does extend and enrich many bright children.

A further benefit of the examination is that it allows some parents the opportunity to be able to work with their children.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Eleven Plus Agreements

When parents and eleven plus tutors start working together they enter into a form of agreement. Naturally there are expectations on both sides. Most parents will want a patient, well qualified and humane teacher. The tutors will no doubt hope that their charge makes the best possible use of the opportunities.

Agreements for years and years have been made through offering a handshake. In some cases the agreement is only legal when through both parties spitting on the palms of their hands before shaking hands.

The Romans used to seal a bargain through questions and answers. My old and battered `Brewer, The Dictionary of Phrase and Fable' suggests:

“Do you require money?” `An stipem vis?’

“I do.” `Stipem volo.’

“Will you give it?” ` An dabis?’

“Dabo.” `I will.'

“Will you be security?” `An spondes?'

“I will.” `Sponde.’

Today’s Eleven Plus parents can say:

“Will you tutor my child to the best of your ability?”

“I will, and thank you for the work.”

“What help can we give to help you?”

“Simply your courage and support.”

(Is this the stage where we spit on our hands to secure the agreement?)

Friday, August 21, 2009

Common Eleven Plus Mathematics Elements

It is likely that there are some common elements in a number of eleven plus examinations. It would help if the eleven plus child had the following:

A complete knowledge of tables – especially the division facts (for example) 56 divided by 7.
The metric system

Other areas could include
Spatial concepts
Ratio and Proportion
Basic statistical ideas.

Many eleven plus child can cope easily with questions with whole numbers. More may struggle when fractions of a number appear to complicate the questions.

The other area where eleven plus children have the potential to do well is with two and three part questions.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

A different Eleven Plus

"Top of the Form" first came on the air in the spring of 1948 when boys from twelve London Grammar Schools engaged in contests to test their wits and knowledge.

In 1949 the scope of the competition was enlarged to include girls.

There was a range of ages - and a wide collection of questions:

A sleeper is a person who is asleep. What other meaning does it have?

After whom is a policeman called a Bobby?

What kind of a Jack repairs towers and high structures?

Complete the following: Between you me and the .....

What kind of animal was White Fang?

Which King of England was knows as `The Hammer of the Scots"?

What does `Llan' (as in Llandudno) mean?

What is another name for a tailless cat?

Why do savages listen with their ears to the ground?

What is special feature of a Paul Jones dance?

If questions like these were included in the Eleven Plus we would enjoy a much wider breadth of questions. Some children would also arrive in grammar school with a lot more general knowledge.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Eleven Plus and Holiday Work

Some children may be inclined to feel that their lives are reduced to a Spartan existance if they have to work over the school holidays.

The Spartans were a hardy lot. Boys had to go barefoot in all weathers and wore one garment. Their food was coarse and their beds were hard. Every day they were kept busy at work at gymnastics - along with swimming and hunting.

When boys left their mothers at seven they were banded together into packs - and subjected to a strict discipline. Boys were encouraged to take beatings in good grace - to train them to be hardy. There was sometimes a prize for the boy who took the most number of stripes without uttering a sound.

Even today it is possible that some boys would quite enjoy a life away from school and work. Spartans, you see, were not taught to read and write. There was no Spartan Eleven Plus.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Is there another Eleven Plus system?

Just a thought.

The Austrians hold a strong belief in the `Bildung' - and this is a term that implies culture as well as knowledge. Some of the most brilliant minds of the 20th century were nurtured in the hothouse atmosphere of the `Gymnasien' - which is very close to our grammar schools today.

In Austria, at ten years old, children divide into two streams - one vocational and one more academic. I don't know how hard some parents push for their children to be in the more academic environment. If anyone knows please share with us.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Eleven Plus Support

The journey towards the eleven plus examinations for some children is tortuous. In the examination it must be possible for two candidates to work though the same set of questions – and answer them in the same way and yet still land up with different results. Most eleven plus candidates will have some characteristics in common. They will also have some differences.

Just because two candidates set out on the same journey they wil part in time and go their own separate ways.

Parents will want their child to work as honestly as possible. Honest work for some, however, will man something very different to other families.

A further factor that will affect performance is the mood of the child. A willing and motivated child will, we hope, work better than a disillusioned and hostile candidate.

Some child will make a point of reading the instructions carefully – and the question itself at least twice. Other children will look at the answers and pick out the bits of the questions that seem to fit the answers.

Not all children, in the end, will go through all the same papers and exercises. Some children may crave the more difficult exercises while others will wish for an easier life.

Some children will have better comprehension skills than others. These children will be clearly advantaged.

And finally – some children will enjoy supportive, involved and interested parents.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Eleven Plus Examinations

We understand from newspaper reports that children are finding `GCSE’, `A’ Level and Baccalaureate examinations easier and easier. Every now and then a report comes out which maintains that school leavers can not write good English or manipulate simple arithmetic problems.

The Eleven Plus examinations are closely prescribed. The content of many of the current papers and questions that our children work through is remarkably similar. Some areas even boast of a restricted number of questions.

It may be possible for a child to pass the eleven plus, and earn good GCSE and `A’ grades – and still land up at university with a low English standard. This feat could be achieved by the pupil writing a `pass’ GCSE English paper and then avoiding English papers during the `A’ levels.

We get the eleven plus examinations we deserve - and presumably want.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Eleven Plus Limits

The eleven plus child emerges at the end of the school day from an intensely complex classroom. Your child will have been exposed to a hive of human activity. The class teacher has been a motivational force within a prescribed organisational pattern.

Some eleven plus children will be emerging from a formal and fairly rigid school day. Other children will have experienced a relatively un-timetabled day.

As bright children enter Year 5 it must become increasingly difficult to allow the more able to spread beyond the limits of the curriculum.

Before the eleven plus was abolished in so many areas teachers has targets to work towards with their bright children. The SATs at eleven can not hope to replace the intensive individual work which dedicated teachers offered to selected eleven plus candidates.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Types of Eleven Plus Questions

A story that is often told relates how a dear woman remarked: “That Mrs. So and So thinks she knows so much. She keeps talking about the intelligence quota of children. We all know that I.Q. stands for intelligence quiz.”

Factors that make up intelligence must include the aptitude to be able to do well in tests. We know that certain eleven plus children can do well in some tasks or test questions – but not so comfortably in tests covering different tasks.

For many years it was felt that intelligence covered five major groups:

Convergent thinking
Divergent thinking

While children are working through eleven plus tests we can see evidence of all these different types of intelligence. Cognition means discovery or recognition. We can see a child discovering am answer or a solution – and the rush of pleasure of pleasure that accompanies the solution. Memory includes remembering how to do a certain types of question. Convergent thinking includes focusing to find an answer to a problem. Divergent thinking is to do with a child casting around to find an answer. Evaluation comes into the equation when the child feels a need to provide a timely solution.

The thinking comes from a psychologist called Guildford writing in 1958. He gave examples of cognition as:

“Rearrange the letters to make real words RACIH, KLCCO.”

Guildford also suggested test items like:

“Put the vowels in the following blanks to make real words.

P_ W_ R

C_ RN_ N.”

Similar questions to these still occur in some eleven plus papers.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Multiple Choice Eleven Plus Questions

Most of our eleven plus papers are presented in a multiple choice format. The children are offered alternative answers. The great advantage to the examiner is that a large number of questions can be set. This is turn ensures that a wide range of subjects can be covered. Most multiple choice tests seem to demand a high number of questions - within quite tight time limits.

In straight forward multiple choice questions there is a stem or header. This followed by a series of suggestions - and one answer is correct.

In other types of multiple choice questions the eleven plus children will be asked match statements. Here your child could be asked to find a statement that is correct - and abandon questions that a partially correct or even false.

Other eleven plus questions demand a statement, phrase or sentence to be completed.

You need to remind your child that unless he or she is expressly told other wise, there is usually only one correct answer.

Mention too the need to mark the answer sheet neatly and correctly. Remind your child to really listen when the invigilator is giving instructions.

Point out the need to complete as many questions as possible.

Empower your child to guess when necessary.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Eleven Plus Opportunities

Long before the Eleven Plus, Lord Eccles (b 1904), maintained:

"British parents are very ready to call for system of education which offers equal opportunities to all children except their own."

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Eleven Plus Puzzles

Children sometimes really enjoy working through eleven plus papers. There is a kind of rigid monotony to most papers. Once they have done four or five papers they will only meet something unexpected very occasionally.

We could consider introducing cryptograms. These are word puzzles in which incorrect letters have been substituted for correct ones.


To solve this you, and your child, will need to formulate some rules. You could for example, try to identify the vowels. A different approach could be made through the short words.

The fun behind this is that the passages are could be made up of quotations. Your eleven plus child would then need to study a range of quotations. You would then need to explain the quotations. Some children may even be stimulated to understand the source of the quotations. This sort of learning is far less sterile than simply working through papers and exercises.

Try asking your child to explain this to you:

(If you want to see what children can do, you must stop giving them things.)

Monday, August 10, 2009

An Eleven Plus Average

You have just moved to a new five bed roomed house. There is a large conservatory – big enough to hold a table tennis table. You buy the table on line and it delivered the next day. You need some table tennis balls. You take the family to the large `Super Sport Shop’ and set out to purchase some ping pong balls.

A knowledgeable sales person comes up to you and asks if you need help. You admit your total ignorance and explain that you are grateful for any advice. The sales person assures you that new ping pong balls are very strong and can resist almost any pressure. “The balls will break at around eleven pounds of pressure.”

You dip your hand into a tub of balls and emerge with six balls selected at random. You then set out to test the strength of the balls. The balls break at different pressures:

9.5 8.0 11.0 11.5 9.6

Should you buy the balls from the tub?

When your eleven plus child has to read and reread a slightly confusing question like this you may feel that you are entitled to become frustrated if he or she does not appear to read the question carefully.

Your child will be able to work out the mean – or take the average. In this case the mean is 9.5. You know your children. Is this still a good buy?

Sunday, August 09, 2009

A Fairer Eleven Plus Test.

It is likely that some of us will remember the old CSE examinations. In some examinations children were asked to answer five questions out of ten. This gives a large number of combinations of correct answers! There will also be a large number of questions that are not selected.

Let us imagine that the Eleven Plus authorities want to try a different form of examination. The first part of the paper (Section A.) could be made up of reasonably traditional questions – requiring straight forward answers. The second part of the paper (Section B) would then be made up of ten questions – where the children had to answer any five.

The total time the children spend on the paper does not need to be any longer.

So which questions would children avoid?

A large number would avoid anything to do with percentages.

Other children would do anything to be able to leave out a question on codes.

Would having the ability to choose questions lead to a fairer test eleven plus test? Some bright and well prepared children may enjoy the challenge.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

A Break from the Eleven Plus

It is a sad part of the eleven plus that humour is stifled. The majority of eleven plus questions are not really designed to raise a smile. Answers have to be right or wrong – there is no place for shades of grey.

I am sure children would enjoy an exercise that stimulated a smile.

There was an old man of Khartoum
Who kept a dead sheep in his room.
“To remind me,” he said,
“Of someone who’s dead,
“But …..

The actual final line reads:
“But I can never remember whom.”

A different rhyme is about Mr Jones.

“There has been an accident,” they said,
“Your servant’s cut in half; he’s dead!”
“Indeed!” said Mr Jones, “and please
Send me the half that’s got my keys,”

It could make a pleasant break from the formality of papers if elements of the eleven plus looked at offering children the opportunity to think and enjoy a laugh.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Eleven Plus Tests

How do you help your child to better in the eleven plus examinations?

A fortunate few parents and children will feel that the eleven plus is there to be passed. The parents will maintain that if their child passes then their child is destined to pass. Some parents will maintain that their child does not need any significant extra work. They are the lucky parents. They must also have very able children.

Other parents will simply want their children to do as well as possible. These parents have the potential to be extremely realistic about the prospects of passing, but still tell their child to do the best they can.

Other parents, for one reason or another, will rely on last minute drilling. They will try to isolate the work their child needs – and then offer as much help as possible. They hope that when their child sees an eleven plus problem all the lights will flash, the wheels will turn and the penny will drop.

When children do not achieve high scores on eleven plus tests some parents take it philosophically – other children seem to fear the reaction of their parents.

Naturally every child – and every parent - is a kaleidoscope of shifting colours, emotions, fears and strength. Some children will embrace tests, others will fear the test as well as the outcome.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Words in Eleven Plus Verbal Reasoning Tests

Verbal Reasoning tests presuppose that children are aware that the words they meet are presented in what is now called `Standard English'. In the classroom, however, comments, observations and answers by a child are usually delivered within closely controlled parameters. Most children are expected to answer reasonably formally. The eleven plus examinations insist on convergent answers.

Eleven plus examinations force children to prepare, think and write in predetermined lines. Children need to unnderstand words and have a usable vocabulary within the limits and the expectations of the paper they are working through. In multiple choice tests children do not have the opportunity to offer an answer that ouside of the choices on the paper.

Children who are thoughtful, divergent in thinking and have the ability to `think outside the box' could, sometimes, be held back becuase the answers they think up could, sometimes, be as correct as those offered by the person who has preapred the question paper.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Eleven Plus Guessing

When you are working with your child towards the eleven plus you will sometimes advise your child to work the answer out logically. At other times you actively advocate the idea that a guess is somehow necessary. After all some of the answers to some eleven plus questions show that an inspired guess is just as likely to be right than actually understanding how to do the questions.

Try a little experiment with 20 Questions. Start with asking your child to guess a number between 1 and 20. Of course some children with quite naturally guess numbers at random. Other children may attempt to formulate a set of rules – based around the 20 Questions numbers and who else is playing.

When your child has the hang of the game and is playing energetically – and largely correctly – then throw in that the rules are going to change. Instead of numbers between 1 and 20 you want your child to guess a number between 1 and 2 million.

Does you child follow a similar set of rules – or is the change enough to ask your child to formulate a new method of dealing with answers.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Parents of Eleven Plus Children

When parents are looking for an eleven plus tutor they take many factors into account. In a few cases there could possibly be some common elements irrespective of the sex of their own child.

if the tutor is a male or a female

if their child shows any preference for being taught by a teacher of either sex

if the tutor is likely to show any bias towards a boy or a girl

Of course the great majority of parents will want a successful, broad thinking and accomplished tutor. They will want experience and confidence. They will want a tutor who can talk about what happened in the lesson.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Eleven Plus Regions

It must be very difficult for the writers of eleven plus papers to be able regionalise them for all the different eleven plus areas.

It is easy to see how one region can ask for certain criteria to be met - while another asks for s different set of numbers of questions. each region too may have different degrees of difficulty. The actual eleven plus papers could then easily vary from one county to another.

What would be the effect if one county asked for slang or jargon to be taken into account? A slang question is often like a colloquial question. “He is just crazy,” could mean that the person is `slightly round the bend’ or it could mean enthusiastic, energetic, full of energy – as well as being wholesome and attractive.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Eleven Plus Mistakes

Eleven Plus tests do not seem to have changed much over the years. My 1963 copy of Essentials of Verbal Reasoning by O.B. Gregory has questions that puzzle children in today’s eleven plus papers.

“If CQDLQ means VERSE what does LQCQDQ mean?

Is it possible then that parts of the conventional eleven plus tests are out dated?

What would happen if today’s verbal reasoning test was enriched with some test items requiring a littler more creativity and thought?

After all it is possible to teach a child to look at the position of the two Qs – and then place them into the word LQCQDQ to come up with the answer SEVERE. To answer a question like this takes ability and intelligence – but the technique of answering can be taught. Children who have the ability to focus and think in convergent terms are likely to be able to answer a question like this remarkably easily. A child with a more scattered or divergent approach may find a question like this a little more confusing.

Today’s verbal reasoning test has the ability to change a child’s future in the space of the fifty minutes it takes to write the test. If a child makes mistakes on three code questions then a place in a grammar school could be in jeopardy.

We should imagine that the chance of child passing ten GCSE subjects with a verbal reasoning score of 105 would be lower than the chance of a child attaining ten good GCSE grades – with a verbal reasoning score of 125. Look at the same two children on twenty years time. It would be much more difficult to predict which individual would have a satisfying well paid job - and be happily married.

There could be a a forty six year d reader of this blog today who used Gregory's Essential of Verbal Reasoning all those years ago and was able to do the codes questions. Perhaps there could also be a reader who was not able to cope with the codes questions in the allocated time. All we can hope is that these imaginary readers are both happy and content.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Eleven Plus Points

You are a prospective parent - and would like to send your child to grammar school. Not just any grammar school - but one that would be right for your child. You have read the prospectus and live fairly near to the school. Your sister's child is happy at the school - but will have been there for three years before your child attends.

It is the evening of the open day. You have attended one of the head's talks and are on the way to the science block. Your child loves science. You meet the head, by chance in the corridor. The head stops, smiles and asks you if you have any questions.

The first thing that comes to mind, and you really don't know why, is: "Does your school run a second hand shop?"

You listen to the answer - and suddenly another thought pops into your mind. "Are all the mathematics teachers qualified to teach mathematics?"

You listen to a comprehensive answer. You thank the head and turn away. Your child suddenly rushes after the head and asks a further question. You can not hear the question because your child is facing the head - and not you.

The head smiles and answers. Your child returns beaming.

You ask: "What did you ask the head?"

Your child child smiles and pulls you towards the science room.

Why not ask your child what question he or she would ask the head of a grammar school?