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Friday, February 05, 2010

Eleven Plus Questions

The nature of the final eleven plus examination determines the organisation of the preparation for the examination. There is little value, for example, in an eleven plus child learning Mongolian – if Mongolian is not tested in the examination. (Looking at some eleven plus questions, however, makes one think, at times, that an eleven plus child may better off learning Mongolian than struggle through some poorly phrased questions.)

The eleven plus papers that children work through are really statements of the objectives of the examination. It is possible to be a good eleven plus teacher by teaching only to the eleven plus examination. It may be possible to be a better eleven plus teacher by teaching towards the examination – but also including work that has greater depth and purpose.

Most, but not all, eleven plus tests are multiple choice. If a school has been trying to encourage a child to show both understanding and the ability to generalise then the rigid eleven plus curriculum is likely to force some children down narrow paths.

The analysis of a number of eleven plus practice papers suggests that some elements of the eleven plus look only at facts and methods of solving problems. There is no place for a diagnostic eleven plus test on the day of the actual examination.

Some multiple choice eleven plus questions allow little opportunity to diagnose why a child has made a mistake. If a question asks for an answer in metres – and centimetres is selected then this could be as a result of a number of reasons.

It would be very difficult to mark vast numbers of essay or expository type questions which asked ten year olds to organise their thoughts and give reasons for their answers. This would, however, offer the potential to reward good teaching at school.

Think back to the days when you were at school and you were encouraged to write the General Paper. Your teacher would have reminded you that pupils who were taught to write good essays were also better at answering multiple choice questions.

If only elements of the eleven plus tests could examine general reasoning and judgement rather than relying solely on directing an eleven year old to learn a prescriptive 19 or 21 different types of reasoning questions.

Memo to the constructors of current Eleven Plus Papers:

“Could do better.”

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