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Tuesday, July 26, 2011

How Reliable is the Eleven Plus?

We hear about the unreliability of markers – and the extraordinary questions that are sometimes set at GCSE and `A’ level. Unreliable marking can appear to cause immense variations in a candidate’s scores.

When we come to the English essay, for example, then some questions may ask for imagination and style while others may be looking for descriptive writing. The interpretation of the answer may be subject the marker’s whims, feelings and emotions. Considerable efforts have gone into marker standardisation. A sample of scripts can be sent to a senior examiner who then re-marks – while looking for consistency. Sometimes the marks of two or more examiners are pooled – to try to enhance reliability.

Some of us succumb to the exigencies of the National Lottery. Even fewer of us will have had a result worth a few pounds. Our ticket is scanned by an optical mark reader – where a ray of light is passed over our ticket – and this is translated into the winning number.

The multiple choice eleven plus tests sat by thousands of children are marked by an optical mark reader. There are eleven plus selection papers on the market where parents and children can practice filling in answers.

Some parents use the test-retest model to establish the reliability and accuracy of their child’s practice papers. If their child is able to stand doing the same examination twice, then parents can have a view on progress. Naturally this method relies on not going over the first paper. Memory must play a part on certain questions. Other factors affecting results may the child’s state of mind, external conditions of testing ( for example no T.V. ) and the length of time between the papers.

The eleven plus examination, however, in most areas does not allow for a second chance.

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