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Friday, March 12, 2010

Eleven Plus Standards

It is about this time of year that parents seem to start worrying about the standard of the examination that their child will have to meet. School playgrounds can be rife, at times, with stories about the expected standard of the approaching eleven plus. Some parents will be worried that standards are falling. Others will be concerned at that standards are rising.

The eleven plus examiners – and the schools – are likely to want the standard to be around the same level year after year. Who actually can demonstrate that the yardstick one year will be different from another?

Eleven plus examinations in different years can not assume to be comparable because it would be almost impossible to gather enough evidence to be able to support any claims.

Suppose a school wants children to have a deciding score in verbal reasoning – but is prepared to be more flexible over mathematics. This could possibly lead to the assumption that it may be easier to pass the mathematics paper than the verbal reasoning. All that might have happened is that the pass mark for mathematics was raised or lowered.

If exactly the same examination was offered over three successive years, and the same pass mark applied, then it is possible more children could pass in one year than another. What might have happened is that the children taking the eleven plus in one year were not as good as in other years.

The eleven plus examiners can maintain that the standard was the same because an identical examination was set. This, however, can not be entirely true because it would be completely improper to draw a comparison between the years – because the performances of the children in the actual examination room must be different.

Some grammar schools advertise proudly that they take the highest 80 or 100 children. In this case the question of a standard rising or falling can not occur. The cut off mark could be higher or lower depending on the calibre of the applicants. A school adopting an approach of this nature would not need to set a standard – all they need to do is to say that this year a total of 100 children will win a place. The bottom twenty children may not, however, achieve as good marks as the bottom twenty children from previous years. The school’s standard, however, would not have slipped because the school only needed 100 children.

All parents can really do is hope that their children will pass easily and comfortably – with minimum stress and discomfort.

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