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Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Eleven Plus Verses

Many years ago you may have read this little poem to your child. You would have enjoyed the closeness and the sentiments – and no doubt revelled in the questions and comments that followed. (Why Mum, does the night have a thousand eyes?)

The Night Has a Thousand Eyes

The night has a thousand eyes,
And the day but one;
Yet the light of the bright world dies
With the dying sun.

The mind has a thousand eyes,
And the heart but one;
Yet the light of a whole life dies
When love is done.


Your eleven plus child’s comprehension of the passage will have altered dramatically. It is likely that he or she will now understand the concepts and the implications of the words.

Today’s eleven plus task is to add a verses this well known poem.

The Night Has a Thousand Eyes (Through the Eyes of the Eleven Plus Family.)

The test has a thousand eyes
And the result’s but one.
Yet the light of opportunity dies
When the Eleven Plus is lost and won.

This was a bit downbeat so what about a verse that is a bit more positive?

The eleven plus has a thousand eyes
And the questions are sung
Yet the dream of fortune always flies

I wasn’t quite sure of how to end the verse because the words: ‘When we give the examiner a .............’ keep springing to mind.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

An Eleven Plus Quiz

You have just conducted a session of work on verbal reasoning with your child. There were only two answers that both of you struggled over. You managed to solve them amicably. For once you were not informed that your partner was quicker, more able, and easier to deal with. You thought – if only I can gasp this golden apple, I may, perhaps, have discovered the secret of working peacefully with my eleven plus child.

You think to yourself. I know how to capture the moment. We can devise a little, but highly personal, eleven plus quiz.

Question 1
Which parts of working together do we enjoy the most?
a) Not fighting together over how to answer questions.
b) Doing verbal reasoning – because we are both better at this than mathematics.
c) Looking, smiling and talking together.

Question 2
Which parts of the verbal reasoning exercise did we both need to help each other with?
a) The hardest questions – even though we solved them in the end.
b) Questions where one of us lost attention – and the other the will to live.
c) The organisation and planning of the verbal reasoning session.

Question 3
Which part of working together was the hardest?
a) When I got distracted
b) When my child got distracted
c) When we were both distracted

Question 4
Which part was most helpful towards your child’s progress towards the eleven plus examination?
a) Working together peacefully
b) Sharing and solving common problems
c) Learning how to do the hard questions.

Question 5
If you had to give yourself and your child a mark out of ten – how would you score?
a) Ten out of ten for working together without drawing any blood.
b) Five out of ten for avoiding confrontation
c) This precious moment was too difficult to reduce to a mere mark. You just want to live the moment for ever and ever.

Putting a score on the quiz.

Give yourself three marks for every question you answered truthfully.

Give yourself two marks for every question you had to think about.

You only earn 1 mark for each question you did not choose to answer on the grounds that anything you said or wrote could be taken down in evidence and used against you.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Eleven Plus Rules

When your child comes up towards the eleven plus examination you need to be able to feel confident. You want to be able to say to yourself: “I have done everything I can.” Naturally you will add the rider: “Within reason.”

You don’t want to burden your child with too much work. You don’t want to provide too little. You want an atmosphere of mutual respect – and don’t desire conflict and tension.

There are those words in Hamlet which almost sum up a desired relationship between parents and their eleven plus child:

And these few precepts in thy memory
See thou character. Give thy thoughts no tongue,
Nor any unproportioned thought his act.
Be thou familiar, but by no means vulgar.
Those friends thou hast, and their adoption tried,
Grapple them to thy soul with hoops of steel;
But do not dull thy palm with entertainment
Of each new-hatch'd, unfledged comrade. Beware
Of entrance to a quarrel, but being in,
Bear't that the opposed may beware of thee.
Give every man thy ear, but few thy voice;
Take each man's censure, but reserve thy judgment.

Try to avoid the habit of moaning or groaning at your child. Be reasonable so that a few mistakes do not initiate confrontation. Believe your playground friends – and be grateful for their diverse opinions. Try not to engage your child in continuous eleven plus arguments. Make your eleven plus rules and make your child stick to them!

The best bit is at the end:

`Give every man thy ear but few thy voice’

Your child may want you to listen to his or her feelings and opinions which means that you do not have to try to win every eleven plus argument.

Experience and experiments have shown with assessments that there are certain key points to keep in mind.

You want your child to be presented with tasks that seems to be concrete and within their experience.

You want to present eleven plus tasks and exercises clearly and logically.

You want your child to understand the importance of the eleven plus – but not feel bludgeoned by your anxiety.

But the last word must go to Shakespeare – just look back a few lines.

Of entrance to a quarrel, but being in,
Bear't that the opposed may beware of thee.

If your child does upset you then do not be afraid to let him or her know.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Random Eleven Plus Thoughts

We know that there are real live people who write eleven plus questions. The questions are tested on a sample of children, checked for accuracy, graded, and then dropped into a big bowl. When an authority asks for an eleven plus test, questions have to be answered.

How many questions?
How hard?
How much time?
What percentage pass do you need?

A button is pressed, rather like the National Lottery, and out come the eleven plus questions. The numbers are selected at random – but within certain parameters. Programmers have slaved for weeks, night after night, to be able to respond to variable instructions.

“Select a sample of 50 Mathematics Eleven Plus Questions, at random, from a pool of 250 questions.”

“Construct the test so that 5 difficult, but relevant, questions are selected randomly to fill the final five spots on the paper.”

“Present the other 45 questions randomly – but allow at least one or two easy questions at the beginning of the paper.”

“In the randomisation make sure that there is no bias in the questions towards boys or girls.”

The whole idea of randomisation is to try to make sure that all possible alternatives have an equal chance of being picked. The team who wrote the tests can not pick the questions by numbers because we all know that there is a certain bias towards some numbers. We see this over and over when selecting numbers for the National Lottery.

A randomisation table is used to select numbers. Ideally the table is entered at a random point – like stabbing a finger at the table while looking away. The movement on the table is then selected in a random manner – in other words – by going either up or down or left and right.

A sample block of random numbers could look rather like this:

67 19 01 72 78
03 94 37 34 14
79 56 23 54 91
87 28 57 32 77

This block would be part of a much larger table of random numbers.

All this to say is that the questions on an eleven plus paper do not arrive by chance – but they do arrive randomly.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Choosing an Eleven Plus Tutor

Suppose you are a new eleven plus parent and you want to choose between two eleven plus tutors. You will need to set yourself the hypothesis that there is no difference between the tutors. You will need to work from the premise that both tutors will do equally well with your most prized child. You have to make the right choice. (After all there are no second chances in the eleven plus examination.)

You know that the data will be contaminated by your prior knowledge of the tutors. You will have consulted other parents for their opinions on the tutors. You will also know that any advice you are offered will be coloured by the personal experiences of your advisors. You may need to go back a generation or two to find out if the tutors have a consistent track record of success with children in eleven plus examinations.

You also need to know a little bit about the method the tutors use to teach their charges. Does one tutor start on an eleven plus paper or book and work through the questions in the order presented by the paper – or does the tutor try to plot a path towards the examination by looking at strengths and weaknesses – and then devising an eleven plus course. Does the tutor use the same method of teaching regardless of the calibre of the children involved? What do you want? Do you want your child to be taught systematically from papers or do you want your child to have wider variation?

By now parents new to the eleven plus scene will be able to throw up their hands and say: “You just do the best you can with my child.”

But which tutor might your child prefer? Your much loved child may prefer one tutor over another. He or she may work much better for one tutor than another. This factor could throw out all your careful calculations. Do you then ask for two or three trial lessons with each tutor so that your child gets a full flavour of the tutor’s disposition, strengths, weaknesses and attitudes to homework. After all if your child can enjoy a full relationship with one tutor you should be able to feel more secure about his or her willingness to learn.

As a new eleven plus parent you will need to trust the tutor of your choice. After all it is your money and your child. So you start to draw up a form of summary sheet. Naturally you present the sheet in manner much beloved by eleven plus verbal reasoning papers.

There are two tutors. One drives a red car and the other a blue car. One tutor only teaches verbal reasoning. The other tutor teaches verbal reasoning and mathematics. One tutor teaches from papers and the other prefers work sheets. One tutor comes to your house and the other tutor prefers to work from home. One tutor greets your child when the two of you walk into the room. The other tutor ignores your child but does greet you. One tutor sets homework and the other does not. There are two key questions you will need to answer:

Which tutor will your child choose?

The tutor who drives a red car and does not set homework?

Which tutor will you choose?

The tutor who comes to your house and shakes hands with your child?

The whole eleven plus experience can be quite breathtakingly fraught – or you can simply go with the flow.

Friday, September 25, 2009

An Eleven Plus Oxymoron

When pre eleven plus children are very little they expect their parents to know everything. After all the staples of life include food, sleep and place to be alone – even if only for a few seconds.

Little by little children learn that their parents are not omnipotent – and there are gaps in their knowledge. Eleven plus children become very aware of the ability of their parents to solve eleven plus problems – and explain them. I did, however, once meet an eleven plus mother who informed me (rather loftily) that she did not need to be involved with the eleven plus as that is what she was paying a tutor for. At the other end of the spectrum are thousands of mothers and fathers simply doing their best to help their child, answer the questions – and then try to explain the questions.

Children, however, have an extraordinary ability to find and exploit weaknesses in their parents. A two year old learns to hurl his body full length onto the floor of a crowded store and scream mightily. All parents will react in different ways. A small percentage of parents will distance themselves as quickly as possible from the menace – while others parents will coo sweetly and bribe the little sweetie pie.

What do eleven plus parents do if their child will not accept responsibility?

This does not mean that the child is overtly disobedient. The term `a bit too laid back’ springs to mind. This is where the art of being a parent comes into play. First of all parents have to play the sympathy card.

“After all I have done for you. I bought you new shoes for school. We have all their books and you never open them. The tutor says that you do not try hard enough. I am doing my best and what do you give me? Grief. We are all trying our hardest and you just sit there and argue with me.”

The other way of dealing with the laid back child is what is called `Direct Talking’.

“Well, I say so. I feed you. I clothe you. I expect you to do the work. If you are not prepared to co-operate, then that is fine. No T.V. No late reading. No friends to your party. If I ask you to do something I expect you to do something. Now, go to your room and start work. Or else!”

There must be some reasonably sane parents who will attempt to offer a combination of approaches. Are the words `Eleven Plus’ and `sanity’ oxymorons?

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Eleven Plus Humour

For some parents getting married must have been a lot less stressful than trying to guide their children through the complexities of the eleven plus.

A single and, as yet, unattached bride to be, with her eyes on the main prize of marriage, is able to plot a path towards the big day with ruthless and flinty eyed determination. The shoes have to be the right shade of pale. The groom and the best man have to be dressed to perfection. And then we need to consider the bridesmaids. The dresses and the corsages have to be correct to the millimetre. Every one, however, listens carefully as the quite shy and unassuming bride to be becomes a martinet. “It is my big day. Please just do as I say.”

The one bit of uncertainly about the whole day is the speech of the best man. The brand new wife does not need to like the best man – but she does have to listen to his speech. Will he say anything that will destroy the serenity and purpose of the day?

Sample 1
“Family and friends.
I would call you `Ladies and gentlemen’ but I happen to know better.”

Sample 2
Some men marry for love
Some men marry for companionship
James just wanted a new toaster.

Sample 3
By the way, the best time to do the washing up
is straight after she tells you to!

Jokes about the eleven plus just don’t seem to have the same provenance.

Have you heard the joke about the verbal reasoning, the non verbal reasoning and the mathematics papers?

These forlorn words also just do not seem to have an authentic ring.

“Knock, knock.”

“Who is there?”


“Verbal who?”

“Verbal Reasoning!”

Any ideas please?

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Eleven Plus Technicalities

The role of the interview plays an important part in many types of selection. Our Attorney General interviewed a new house keeper – but failed to take a photocopy of the details. The wolves have howled for blood. She has, so far, been able to keep her attackers at bay by stating that she admitted her misdemeanour – but should not lose her job because of a `technicality’.

I hope no eleven plus child is ever rejected by an eleven plus appeal board on a `technicality’!

Part of the interview process (apart from the paper work) must be the interviewer – and the interviewed – weighing up each other’s appearance.

The Ancient Greeks tried to classify physical appearance which would correspond to different types of personality. Aristotle wrote a treatise on physiognomy where he tried to predict personality patterns from facial appearance.

When an eleven plus child presents a `long face’ then parents will know that there is something untoward.

A smiling eleven plus face suggests a happy and confident eleven plus child.

When parents cast a swift glance at the face of their eleven children they must be able to determine volatile mood swings and attitudes.

Equally an eleven plus child needs only to look briefly at the faces of his or her parents – to know how to react. Is mum smiling? Has dad frowned?

It is easy to surmise that a child acquires beliefs, attitudes, habits and self image from parents. The eleven plus `self image’ must come from how parents react to their children. The relationship between a parent and a child must develop over the eleven plus year. We hope that bit by bit parents will gain in confidence. This could lead to their children feeling less pressured – and more confident.

Towards the end of the eleven plus year parents need to make sure they have completed all the paper work correctly. First of all parents to apply to the correct authority. Parents also need to make sure that they list the schools of their choice in the right order. After all the eleven plus paper work has to be correct otherwise their child may lose a coveted grammar school place on a `technicality’.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Eleven Plus Discussions

You are standing in the playground waiting for your much loved child. The discussion moves towards the eleven plus. Pretty soon the group of you display widely differing views.

“I would never force my child to do any papers. If she is good enough she will pass. If not then she goes to our local school. I do not believe in coaching children. It is so artificial.”

“Well we started two years ago. We looked at some of the questions in the 9 – 10 papers and did a few each week. Nothing serious – we were just getting used to the different types of questions. We now have a tutor and our son loves the weekly lessons. We want him to go to grammar school and want him to have the best possible chance.”

The traditional way of solving a playground argument is for all the parties to arrange a night out at the local curry house. The complimentary bottles of wine will enhance the discussion – and the tasty food will relax the inhibitions. Decision can be made. Opinions can be listened to – and then is no real reason for a purposeful agreement.

No doubt you will be lucky to find one of the mothers who is working on her Open University `Management in Education’ degree. This will help to draw up the battle lines. As the wine goes down – literally and figuratively – a work sheet will be developed on the back of napkin. The children in the newly designated eleven plus experiment will need to be properly screen at all times.

You will need a little pilot project with one or two children from each side of the divide. Of course you will also need an external moderator. Who better than the lecturer in charge of the Open University studies?

It will also be very important to take lots of care of the children on the experiment. The children will need to be told in great detail about the reason for the experiment – what will be expected of them and how long the experiment will run for. You may also need to reassure some children that whatever the outcome of the experiment their parents will not be isolated or ostracised. (Losing mothers will not have backs turned on them in the playground.)

An investigation into whether children should be prepared for the eleven plus.


Some children will respond to eleven plus preparation. Other children will not need any extra work. (It is possible now to see how the original discussion has become distorted.)

Some children (subjects) are offered extra help. Others do not.)

The variables will need to be stated. How many children. How much tuition.

This will be a detailed log of all the events involving all the children.

Oh dear! This will be down to individual interpretation. It was fun while it lasted!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Eleven Plus Gloom

Children are usually very trusting about their teachers, their parents and the content of examinations. After all why would the eleven plus examiners want to set questions that might trick children?

For example, we can meet eleven plus questions that belong to the family of patterns:

Every garden must have:
A: flowers
B: grass
C: trees
D: vegetables

It would be possible to have different set of questions relating to gardens:

Every garden must:
A: be at the rear of the house
B: enjoy partly paved areas
C: have a driveway for the garage
D: steps leading to the rockery

The first set of questions is about the vegetation in a garden. The second is to do with paths and access.

It would lead to a truly confusing set of multiple choice questions if the examiner mixed the two sets of questions:

Every garden must
A: have plants
B: have growing things
C: have a driveway
D: have a path

A question of this type would be testing two different areas of knowledge and understanding. Parents of eleven plus children would be right to feel every aggrieved if their children were exposed to questions where the answer was ambiguous. Was the examiner looking at vegetation or access? Finding the correct answer could be even more frustrating if the question was changed to: `Give one item must every garden have?’ Your poor child would rightly descend in a state of unbalanced gloom.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Prolonged Eleven Plus Examinations

There was a vogue at one time, and it may exist today in certain quarters, to offer candidates prepared questions. One of the premises of the prepared questions was to try to reduce stress and attempt to take away as much tension as possible on the day of the examination.

The same questions would be given as in the final examination – but the candidates could be offered two or three days to go over the questions ahead of the examination. In some cases candidates could even be offered the questions a few weeks before the actual examination.

If this form of examination was offered to our eleven plus children they then would be able to prepare in any way they wanted. Some parents would, possibly, maintain that the examination was being conducted in an unfair manner and would therefore not allow their children to see the questions before the examination. “We just want to see just how good he or she is.”

Others questions would go the other way. We could envisage a scenario where a limited number of poor children were drilled unmercifully. “No dear, we know that it is eleven o’clock but you still have three types of question to go.”

If there were a limited number of eleven plus questions then the children would be able to study the topics in great depth. If there was a multitude of topics then the eleven plus child would almost certainly have a much wider knowledge of eleven plus topics – but, possibly, with less understanding.

For a number of children the greatest drawback of the prepared question would be that the examination was stretched over a longer period of time.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Eleven Plus Advice

There will be strong temptation to keep offering advice to your pre examination candidate.

Perhaps you could be minded to remember Eric Parrott’s advice:

Advice to a Young Lady on the Subject of Alcohol.

Beware the man who keeps you late
When Mum says be in by ate,
And shun the chap who, at the Palais,
Invites you to inspect his chalais.

Behave, then, as you really ought,
Refuse that second glass of pought,
Supping unaccustomed liquor
Will only make you fall the quicor;

Drinking brandies at `The Mitre’
Is sure to go and make you titre;
And oh! That headache in the dawn
Will make you wish you’d not been bawn.

Remember then, a maiden oughter
Shun all drink, and stick to woughter.

You could for example start:

Beware the question that keeps you long

Friday, September 18, 2009

Eleven Plus Guessing

Some of our children have yet another eleven plus test to do early next week. In one lesson we discussed, once again, the efficacy of guessing. We put forward the following case:

If there are fifty items in the test, with only a right or wrong answer, then it is reasonably simple to work out the odds.

Range of Marks – Probability

0-50 1 in 1
25 – 50 1 in every 2
30 – 50 1 in every 10
35 – 50 1 in every 300
40 – 50 1 in every 84 000
45 – 50 1 in every 500 million.

In the present eleven plus examination children will be expecting to choose between four answers. You will have reminded them to eliminate the two answers that can not be correct. This leaves them with just two answers to choose from. If your child manages to eliminate correctly the two misleading answers – leaving a simply choice between two answers – then you and your child can work out the odds.

To guess correctly one answer there is a reasonable chance that the correct answer will be chosen. If your child has to guess all fifty answers correctly – then there is a very strong probability that some answers will be guessed incorrectly.

Of course if there is one more option – in other words four answers to choose from – then the odds for one answer out of the fifty questions is still 1 chance in 1. The odds of being able to guess the right answer correctly, however, lots of times, climbs sharply.

Try to make your child to feel that it is good to guess when necessary. The last thing you want is to do is to push your child into a corner. Perhaps the words `make an inspired guess’ should be heralded triumphantly by all sets of parents. The words `lucky’ and `inspired’ also have a certain ring.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Mothers and the Eleven Plus

Some children must regard writing the eleven plus examination as a rite of passage. Phase One would be `Before the Eleven Plus’ and Phase Two `After the Eleven Plus’. This transition from childhood into adolescence is naturally not restricted to small pockets of England. In Papua New Guinea the course of instruction for boys takes place in men’s house.

The old men, who live in the long house, teach a complicated system of taboo.

There are certain seasons when fish can be caught and eaten.

Certain foods are restricted to key feasts.

Tribal enemies are enemies of every single person.

A wife must be a mother of healthy children.

Marrying a cousin is not allowed.

Stealing is forbidden.

If a man asks for food or water – then give.

If you have a little – give a little.

If you have a lot give half.

Don’t speak bad words to mother.

Our children approach the eleven plus ready to adopt many of these precepts – but have the additional burden of a few more.

Don’t feel, or fall, ill on the day of the eleven plus.

Try to organise your time in order to finish the paper – if possible.

Try not to leave any questions out.

Listen to instructions.

Do not write on the paper – it has to be used again next year.

Do not eat sweets in the examination. This action might put other children off.

Don’t speak bad words to mother.

Different civilizations. Different customs. Different aims. Same common thought: “Don’t speak bad words to mother.”

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Eleven Plus English

A large number of children, down our way, wrote an English essay as part of the eleven plus experience. To many children this must have been a great relief – because the other examination was mathematics. The children were offered a number of topics – and there must have been something for every one.

If any child experienced any difficulty then it is likely that a covering note will have been attached to the script. In the event of the written exercise being used as part of the appeal then parents will be shown their child’s work.

We know that the children will have been told to read the paper and the questions carefully. We know too that the children will have been told, before they started, to choose topics that they know something about.

Perhaps all eleven plus parents, who are the start of their eleven plus journey, could consider writing one of the following essays.

You could set your self a time limit.

You need to complete the written exercise in a specified time.

(After all, if you write a good essay you can potentially earn many extra thousands of pounds. Grammar school children are supposed to earn more.)

Here are three to subjects to choose from:

Are there any school rules you would invent, change of take out?

My Great Idea.

The Big Balloon.

Before you start writing try to make certain that you will have as few interruptions as possible. If the sun is in your eyes – then get up and do something about it. If your writing table or desk has a wobble use the time honoured method of a roll of paper under a leg. If there are distracting noises then raise you hand and complain. (Be assured that I will be listening.)

As soon as you have planned your answer, and you do need to write a plan, look carefully at your writing. Is it neat and well rounded? Have you written in black ink? (You know that black ink is easier to read.)

Have you thought about employing a wide vocabulary? After all you will earn higher marks for well written exercise with a few spelling mistakes.

Half way through the written exercise – have you looked back at your plan to see that you are following the plan?

Have you remembered paragraphs?

Just before you stop writing – read the question just once more and made sure that your ending is to do with the question.

Place your answer in a folder. Invite a few friends around for a meal. Let the food and wine flow. Then stand before your fireplace and read your story aloud. Listen to your friends. They will not hold back!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The Missing Five Eleven Plus Questions

It is mathematics and English for a large number of children tomorrow. We wish them well.

Today was verbal and non verbal reasoning. We hope it went well.

Outside of the world of the eleven plus examination we are all caught up with judging and commenting on verbal skills. Children need verbal skills to be able to express thoughts and ideas in words. Children need sound verbal skills while they are engaged in essential reading exercises. We also need words to cope with much of our daily life. Imagine a world where sport commentators were speechless. Think of parliament where the speaker could not say `Order! Order!’

When children are working towards the eleven plus they use a range of verbal reasoning skills that are not restricted to: `Find the odd one out’. Children at school, and at home, have to talk, discuss reason and argue. They watch T.V., read books and many delight in computer games.

Eleven plus children also have to develop non verbal skills that are not tested by pen and pencil tests. The manner in which a child deports himself and the gestures a girl uses to explain a tricky point are all part of the make up of a child.

All this to say is that good scores on verbal and non verbal reasoning tests may help some children win places in grammar schools. Many other children, however, will survive happily in life with very different verbal and non verbal reasoning skills.

I heard today of one of our very bright girls who was reduced to tears after leaving today’s non verbal reasoning test because she had been forced to leave out five questions. She has worked very hard towards these tests. Her parents have given her every opportunity. We hope those missing five answers do not preclude her from enjoying the academic environment she fully deserves.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Eleven Plus Practice

We were taught, when we were very young, that there was often a difference between a `c’ and an `s’. The A.B.C. of English Usage, my edition is the 1936 one by Treble and Wallins, tells us that `c’ is the sign of the noun and `s’ the verb. The same rule applies to words like advice and advise as well as device and devise.

Our concern is with the spelling of the words: `practice’ and `practise’.

The trusty Collins paperback dictionary (1995 Edition) tells us that practice is a noun and is something that is done regularly. It is the repetition of an activity in order to gain a skill.

The word practise is a verb and is something that is done repeatedly in order to gain a skill. It is also to take part in or follow – as in a religion. It could be to do with a profession or something that is done repeatedly.

Note the spelling of the word practice within this link. Did the author mean that the test is something that can be done regularly? Did he or she mean that by repeating the test one could obtain professional status? After all, teachers have to pass the test en route to becoming professionally qualified.

All of us must be wishing the children who are writing their eleven plus examinations the best of luck. We hope they have all had plenty of practice. We hope they all remember all that they have been told.

We hope the invigilators have also had practice in administering the tests – so that all goes as smoothly as possible in the examination halls.
At one time or another most mothers and fathers will have uttered the words:

“You have to practise your eleven plus papers.”

Of course if you are an American reader you won’t care less how the word is spelt because practice and practise are just the same.

All we can hope is that the eleven plus examiners give our children as fair a chance as possible and not try to trick them with unnecessarily complicated questions.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Passing the Eleven Plus

I wonder just how easy it would be to add a little creativity to the Eleven Plus curriculum. Parts of the eleven plus, like insisting on just a few different types of verbal reasoning question, must appear to be a remarkably narrow examination.

Even though creativity is not tested, our eleven plus children must already be creative in their own ways – but not necessarily in the same areas. Some will be good at dance and others at design. Some may be able to write a new song while others may be able to make something out of nothing. A local academy, for example, asks children to bring something they have designed and created when the children come to an interview at the prospective school.

Of course interviewing each prospective eleven plus child would be vastly expensive and time consuming. What happens, however, if the present eleven plus system misses a really good candidate just because he or she worked slowly through a section of a verbal reasoning paper?

Creative exercises could offer eleven plus children the opportunity to learn to find new solutions to problems. Surely that is a valuable eleven plus skill? Solutions to problems do not always come after prolonged study. Sometimes a child may solve a problem when engaged in a different activity. We will all experienced pleasure when a solution to a problem suddenly comes clear while we are working on a different topic.

A ten year old boy who is remarkably good at surfing in the sea may be potentially an excellent grammar school candidate. He may, however, may miss a place in his local grammar school because he misses a few questions on paper when he runs out of time.

An eleven plus girl, on Grade 6 on piano and flute, may remember all her passages faultlessly – but forget how to do an algebra question. It is obviously fair that girls who pass a strict examination should be rewarded. A girl, however, with exceptional talent in other areas, should also have an opportunity to have access to a successful grammar school career.

Creative attributes will emerge at the appeal stage – if a child does fail. Here the talented piano player will then need to complete for a prized place alongside a girl who missed an examination though a passing, and temporary, illness.

Perhaps there could be room for eleven plus children to fill in a form that could submitted before the examination:

Outline your accomplishments

Describe your interests

How can we solve problems of waste?

A passing eleven plus score could then take a little more into account than a pass mark on a couple of examination papers.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Do we need the Eleven Plus?

This is an interesting post.

It is good to read the opinions of others.

I really enjoy the comments follow a provocative article or speech. We are all entitled to a view.

10 Eleven Plus Tips

I was asked today for some ideas to suggest to a bright eleven plus child who is writing in the next few days:

1. Take your time on questions. Do not try to rush. Adopt a measured approach.
2. As soon as the examination starts try to stay calm. You want to complete the paper – but do not want to finish twenty minutes early.
3. Read the questions as many times as you need to understand them.
4. Follow the instructions in the questions. If you see the word NOT then re-read the question carefully.
5. You do not have to answer the questions in order. If you get struck on a section leave the difficult question – try the others then come back if you have time.
6. Don’t get too bogged down on a question.
7. Check your answer by doing the question again – if you have time.
8. In multiple choice questions eliminate answers that simply can not be correct.
9. Make sure that you are writing a sensible answer.
10. If a question is about units of measurement – make sure you think carefully about your answer.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Eleven Plus Key Thoughts

With only a few days to go to the examination in some areas parents will want to impart last minute advice with adding stress and confusion.

Take fresh piece of paper and write down your thoughts before bring them up with your child. This could help some parents to avoid the dreaded ramble.

Try not to write down – or detail - too many thoughts at this stage. Keep yourself, and your child, as focused as possible.

When you do come to offer your words of wisdom then allow your child to read what you have written. You can then leave your collected thoughts with your child.

Ask your child to add, in writing, a few comments to any or all of your key thoughts.

Try to avoid dripping the key points every day. “Oh Mum. Give me a chance. We have done that already."

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Eleven Plus Multiple Choice

In some ways it is very sad that so many eleven plus examinations require multiple choice answers.

Think of the fun and games that could accrue if eleven plus children were encouraged to think and create.

A man bet his neighbour £200.00 that his horse could jump higher than his house.

The neighbour obviously took the bet - but lost.




Answer: A house can't jump!

Think of a happy and jokey eleven plus child laughing and smiling during the examination!

Imagine the pleasure the markers would have as they read the children's responses.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Unfamiliar Eleven Plus Exercises

As children approache the eleven plus parents will trying to reinforce familiar concepts as well as attempting to continue to build confidence. Very few parents will be trying to add new topics in the last few days before the examination. The key word, no doubt, will be `consolidation'.

What happens if your child does meet something unfamiliar in the examination? Suppose he or she was faced with a question like this:


1 koppie gesnyde artapples
4 koopies warn melk
2 eetlepels botter
1 teelepel sout
1 eatleepel meel
`n paar stukkies uie
peper en sout
Kook alles saam.

This is about:

a. Football rules and regulations
b. Making jewelery
c. cooking potato soup
d. instruction on building a rocket

The format is familiar. Children will know what to do. Most will not have a clue on how to answer the question.

Explain, once again, the need to eliminate answers which can not be correct. There is no mention of a ball so Football rules can be eliminated. Gold and silver are not there - so jewelery must go. That leaves cooking and build a rocket. The look of the passage is like a recipe - so the answer must be cooking.

You may care then to add elimination to the last minute instructions.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Eleven Plus Performance Evaluation

Perhaps grammar schools could also consider some form of performance evaluation as well as test results.

Evaluation Report
Date: 8th September 2009
Name: Jane Wilson
Quality of Eleven Plus Preparation: Excellent
Interest Shown in Work: Very involved and motivated
Attitude towards Parents: Co-operative and relaxed
Ability to follow instructions: Quick to grasp detail
Alertness: Promising - many favourable examples can be supplied
Punctuality: Always prepared to start work on time
Personal Appearance: Neat at all times
Strong Points: Does very well on papers – loves the challenge of hard questions
Improvement Shown: Marks on papers have improved from around 80 to over 95.

If this is a typical eleven plus candidate then this could be a useful tool for the admissions team at a grammar school. Perhaps an evaluation could be done by parents, the school and the child. Combining these results, and linking them to scores on actual eleven plus tests, could offer some children an alternative path into grammar school.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Eleven Plus Rejection

This article is worth reading. Not every one will subscribe to all the views expressed.

This article was my first view of the Comprehensive Future organisation.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Eleven Plus Mutiple Choice Questions

Many children will be writing their eleven plus examinations in the near future. Children will be sitting with their parents – and grandparents – discussing examination papers and how to cope with multiple choice questions. Sometimes the children will be offered sage advice. On other occasions the discussion could cover more frivolous ground.

Surely every family will know of stories about how examiners construct multiple choice tests. These stories are part of the lore of examinations. One story may capture the imagination of many eleven plus children. Generations of examination candidates believe that sometimes examiners use the same letter for the correct answer several times.

Question 8. C
Question 9. C
Question 10. C
Question 11. C

We would all find this a little unsettling and start worrying that our answers are wrong.

Warn your child against changing the answers even if there do seem to be a run of similar correct answers. Reassure your child that at the worst it could be two in a row and it is highly unlikely that there would be a run of four or five.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Eleven Plus Regulations

Please do not tell this story to your eleven plus child. Who knows what he or she will think and do on the day of the examination?

You will recall the story of the Oxford undergraduate. We are not sure if he has an ex eleven plus child – but we like to think so. The story describes how the student discovered an ancient regulation that allowed a gentleman to send the invigilator to purchase beer during the examination.

“The ale is only for refreshment, my man.”

“Where is the evidence?” asked the invigilator.

“Here, Sir.” The student duly produced the evidence.

“I will bring your beer.”

Naturally there was another examination on the following day. Before the student could say anything the invigilator carried in a hat, gown and sword.

“Ancient regulations require candidates to wear a hat, gown and sword at all times.”

Fair is fair.

The student had to sit through the examination wearing the full outfit.

Please make sure that the only regulations your child has to observe on the day will include reading questions twice, doing their best and enjoying good luck!

Friday, September 04, 2009

The Eleven Plus and the Number Five!

Tables are a conundrum for some eleven plus children. Should they spend the time learning their tables or should they continue to plough though endless question after question? I worked with an eleven plus child earlier this week who will score almost full marks on the verbal reasoning test but will struggle with the mathematics paper. The ten year old child reached a certain stage on a question where the number thirty seven had to be divided by five.

Quite sensibly she started counting her five times table. She became stuck when she was trying to take the thirty five away from the thirty seven.

Because she is very bright she started trying to work the question out on her fingers. We all know that we have five fingers on one hand. Her problem lay in trying to gain a mental picture of the thirty seven and the thirty five. She tried to take the seven from the five by counting off with her fingers.

There is a rather remote tribe in South America who use a counting system based entirely on the number 5.

Closer to home the Romans used 5 as `V’ and then offered us VI for six and VII for seven and so on. The Romans had their number five and then added 1, 2, 3 or 4 – become needing to think about a `0’.

Perhaps our eleven plus candidate has a true feeling for the number five. She may recall the story of the rabbits. Leonardo of Pisa gave our ancestors this puzzle:

A certain man puts a pair of rabbits in a place surrounded on all sides by a wall.

How many pairs of rabbits can be produced from that pair in a year if every month each pair produces a new pair, which, from the second month, become productive?

Now that would be a fine eleven plus question … Not so?

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Eleven Plus Comments

This is an interesting take:

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Eleven Plus Poetry

When I was at school in Year 5 we had a most unlovable teacher - by the name of Mr. Green. He was disliked by the children in his class - and by his fellow teachers. I can still remember his aggression and ill temper. He did, however, make us learn poetry for homework.

He would pick on children at random, so he said, to complete the poem in turn - line by line. One poem was Cargoes by Masefield.

Quinquireme of Nineveh from distant Ophir,
Rowing home to haven in sunny Palestine,
With a cargo of ivory,
And apes and peacocks,
Sandalwood, cedarwood, and sweet white wine.

Stately Spanish galleon coming from the Isthmus,
Dipping through the Tropics by the palm-green shores,
With a cargo of diamonds,
Emeralds, amythysts,
Topazes, and cinnamon, and gold moidores.

Dirty British coaster with a salt-caked smoke stack,
Butting through the Channel in the mad March days,
With a cargo of Tyne coal,
Road-rails, pig-lead,
Firewood, iron-ware, and cheap tin trays.

I can still recall much of this poem today - many years on. Surely exercises on poetry of this significance would be of more use in the long run than some of the esoteric and unlovely eleven plus verbal reasoning exercises?

Think about very bright ten year old children weaving answers and conjuring images when looking at the lines like:

Stately Spanish galleon coming from the Isthmus ...


Dirty British coaster with a salt-caked smoke stack ...

Surely the English department of a grammar school would prefer to receive children who could enjoy poetry than children who could work out how to analyse a codes question?

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Eleven Plus Testing

As the eleven plus examinations grow closer some parents – and their children - must start wondering just why we should have testing. After all – is it likely that there could be a different method of selecting children for grammar schools.

Traditionally testing is done for a number of reasons. There have been attacks on testing because it is felt, by some, that test results are used for political reasons. It is very useful for a political party to be able to prove, through statistics, that progress is being made.

Testing is also very useful for organisational reasons. For many years transfer to secondary school has been a targeted area. The eleven plus examination, because there are so few grammar schools left, can only play a small part in the debate about the role of testing in primary schools.

A third reason for testing is often offered on professional grounds. It is important to recognise and have information about children at both ends of the educational spectrum. In other words children with special needs. Your very bright eleven plus candidate may enjoy the challenge of the eleven plus and may want for a little bit extra from school.

What we do believe is that children who attend grammar schools tend to do better in GCSE and `A’ level examinations than children in other forms of schooling.