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Monday, October 31, 2011

Chance and the Eleven Plus

When an individual joins a new company we presume that some degree of training takes place. We may also presume that the job offer is made after the C.V. and the interview are analysed and discussed. Naturally there will be some exceptions after all there can be no hard fast rules as, most probably, every case will be different.

Once the successful applicant has joined the team, and during and after the training, there will be some form of a job review. If all is going to plan the formal job offer will be made. If, however, it is obvious that the person will not fit the job – or the job will not fit the person – then there has to be a parting of the ways. This is, however, an expensive procedure. It will be expensive to the organisation in terms of the training and the effort that has been made – but also expensive to the individual because he or she will have wasted time and effort. The organisation can, possibly, make up the financial side but the individual will have lost time and effort.

After the interviews, and before the job offers, the organisation may work out that one person would have a 80% chance succeeding in the job – but a different candidate may be given a 50 : 50 chance of succeeding. It is easy to see which candidate would be chosen. For the individual, however, he or she will look at the company and think: “I probably have an 80% chance of succeeding in the job – so I’ll take a gamble and accept the job offer.”

If, however, the applicant thinks that there will only be a 50% chance of succeeding then he or she may as well flip a coin – and accept or reject the job on this basis.

Not all eleven plus children, however, are offered the choice. One set of parents could think: “Our child has an 80% chance of passing the eleven plus – so let us go for it.”

A different parent will say: “Well I’m not sure – my child has a fifty per cent chance of passing I’m not sure what to do. I know, let’s play best of three. Three flips of the coin – and heads or tails will decide.”

In job terms today’s contracting market may make even the most suitable applicant feel to be a failure. A miserable and unhelpful superior may also make life difficult.

Eleven plus children need lots of help and training – not so much in the technique of answering questions (although this is a vital part) – but help with building a positive attitude towards the amount of work involved. Once again a miserably pushy parent may not make quite a much progress with their child as one in the total environment of a supportive and caring family.

There will always be children, who start in the 50:50 category, who will pass the eleven plus. Not all the 80% children will pass.

If only parents could find a test that would tell then before they started on the eleven plus about how hard their child will work, how much the challenge of the eleven plus will be embraced and whether their child will feel successful and positive in the lead up to the examination.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Eleven Plus Short Cuts

Is there any way parents and children can take short cuts on the way to the eleven plus examination?

Some short cuts are possible in mathematics:

Double 45

(40 x 2) + (5 x 2)

80 + 10


Multiplying by 9

15 x 9

(15 x 10) – 15

150 – 15


Multiplying a two digit number by single digit

14 x 4

(10 x 4) + (4 x 4)

40 + 16



835 – 67

(800 + 30 + 5) – (60 + 7) = (800 + 20 + 15) – (60 + 7) = (700 + 120 + 15) – (60 + 7)

(700 + 60 + 8) = 768

If these methods do not capture your child’s interest you could consider learning a little Dutch for those `precious’ moments:

“Mum, are we nearly there?”

“Ja, maar het is nog tien minuten rijden, en dan zijn we er.”

Your bright eleven plus child, however, may only take seconds to work out the answer. “Yes, but there is another ten minutes driving, and then we’re there.”

"You mean we would be there now if Dad had not taken that short cut?"

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Changes in the Eleven Plus?

Years and years ago the `upper class’ used to employ tutors for their sons before sending them off to Eton and the like. The daughters were often educated by highly qualified governesses. The children were offered a personalised and appropriate education. If every parent could afford a full time teacher then some of the uncertainly of selection tests may be solved.

If your child has to attend school – and be taught in a class – then a percentage of parents would prefer their child to be taught in a reasonably homogeneous eleven plus group. Big schools make grouping more feasible – but this might not suit all children and all parents.

Some primary schools identify able children early on – and are able to provide some form of alternative education. In some schools this could, possibly, veer towards eleven plus preparation. One of the problems’ however, in eleven plus selection is that many parents want their children to attend a `good’ school. Some parents may prize the school’s ability to provide good mathematics and science programs. Others may want a broad and enlightened curriculum.

Eleven plus selection is aimed at gathering able children into grammar schools. Invariably there will be more children sitting examinations than there are tests. Grammar schools do set out clear objectives covering their objectives and purposes. Children also know the general areas they will be tested in.

We have to presume, however, that the results of the tests are continually checked with actual achievement. We would like to think that eleven plus tests are steadily refined and improved over the years. Perhaps parents could even be informed of findings and subsequent changes?

Eleven Plus Boys and Girls

Are eleven plus materials prepared for boys or girls or both sexes? Are typical eleven plus questions sanitised and androgynous? Do test writers have a responsibility to ensure a gender balance?

Some mothers and fathers may feel that their son would possibly have enjoyed his early reading exercises better if the books had reflected his interests. There may be some six year old boys, for example, who would have enjoyed early reading books about cars and tanks rather than looking at pictures of little boys and girls running through meadows.

It is possible that there will be an almost equal split between ten year old boys and girls who want to watch Top Gear. The masculine role that is created by Top Gear may resonate in the hearts of some alleged `Tom Boys’ but this is largely unverified so this statement must remain an observation!

Questions, however, can be loaded towards one sex or another:

Eight boys and seven girls divide £2.26 between them. The boys are given 2p more than each of the girls. A) How much does each one get? B) Is this fair?

The average age of a class of 21 girls is 14 years 3 months. If the oldest girl is not counted in, the average drops to 14 years 2 months. How old is she?

In both these questions the word `boy’ and the word `girl’ are interchangeable. (Astute parents will have worked out, in their heads, the 16p and the 14p along with 15 years 11 months.)

But parents could try a little experiment. One parent prepares the `test’ and leaving the rest of the family, including the `candidate’, to try to solve the problem.

Give each member of the family a paper parallelogram. Ask the family to find the area. Look for the first person to cut the ends off and put them together to form another rectangle. Widen the experiment to include other members of the family and friends. Collect and co-ordinate the evidence. Are you are able to draw any conclusions?

Look closely at the eleven plus papers and exercises your child is invited to work through. Do the questions reflect his or her ten year old attitudes and interests? If the questions do not excite some form of resonance in your child, is there any evidence that the questions are really simply reflecting the intellectual disciplines of the author, or authoress?

Eleven Plus Friendships

Do you think that a friendly well liked child will have a better chance of passing the eleven plus than a friendless unpopular child? There are some factors that could possibly influence friendship between children – and intelligence may be one of them.

With adults and children alike social status will probably also be related to popularity. Of course there will always be striking exceptions to this rule. When parents look at the friends their children enjoy it is likely, for one reason or another, the majority of the children will come from a reasonably similar background.

It is possible that popular children will be a little more conformist and more emotionally stable. Children who are socially aggressive will have friends but the relationships may be very different to those enjoyed by children who value adaptability and tolerance.

Families who move around are likely to attract fewer family friends than those living in stable environments. In just the same way children will also probably be able to develop long lasting friendships if they are not exposed to shifts of home and school.

Your eleven plus child may be able to feel emotionally stable and well liked if he or she is popular. It is possible that the happier a child is the more likely he or she will be able to do well academically. Your child’s friend or friends possible have the potential to help to build an atmosphere where security and acceptance are the norm. This could lead to considerably less stress for parents.

Go on – pick up the phone and arrange for your child to `visit’ with a friend.

Friday, October 28, 2011

An Eleven Plus Epigram

Some eleven plus parents would be hearted to think that their children continued to learn while they were asleep. (This is where mother and father drop off for a little nap in front of the television while the `candidate’ slogs through yet another paper.) We know that a quiet rhythmic noise can be soothing – while sudden sounds can be disturbing. As mother and father sit hand in hand, deep in sleep, the last thing a bright eleven plus child would want to do is make a sharp and sudden noise!

We don’t really know why the brain seems to need sleep. The brain seems to close down for a period of time. Our cat, for example, seems to have the ability to sleep for the majority of the day and probably most of the night – surfacing only for food and brief walk outside. A cat, however, has to be able to spring into action when faced by a dog – or even when playing with a mouse. An eleven plus child has to be able to spring into action when he or she hears the words: “Well children, it is time to start. Turn over your papers. Write your name. Re-read the instructions and begin work.”

Do humans also need these periods of sleep to recharge the batteries before being able to cope with the world? When we hear of a nuclear station being closed down we can summon up a picture of brave men and women, garbed in safety suits, prodding at a nuclear rod through heavy water. When we think of an eleven plus child’s brain closing down we can think, if we so wish, of the need of a child to have a little break when the going gets tough.

But how does sleep help a child’s verbal reasoning vocabulary? We know that vocabulary is simply a collection of words – gathered up over the years. Children improve their vocabulary by reading widely, using a dictionary on a regular basis and listening. A parent could hunker down beside their sleeping child to whisper: “Complete the following analogy. White is to black as sleep is to …..”

The `candidate’ could ponder an answer while asleep – and possibly even supply the answer when half awake. Pavlov discovered that almost any bodily function can be made the basis of a conditioned reflex. He also suggested that one reflex action could build on others. Your eleven plus child could continue to work through a paper simply because he or she wants to succeed Sleeping parents and sleeping children may all dream of eleven plus success. A recurring dream theme could be:

“Ah my favourite epigram: The only way for dreams to come true is to wake up.”

Some parents may wish their eleven plus child to wake up and think about the potential rewards of study and effort.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

How can a Libran make an Eleven Plus Choice?

A family has just given us the good news – their son has passed two different entrance examinations. The one grammar school is just over six miles away from where the family live. The boy is able to see the other grammar school from his bedroom window. The first grammar school (six miles away) is in the top ten in terms of GCSE results. The second school lies in the top twenty.

The allocation of school comes next near – so the family have to wait an agonising few months to learn which school has been offered. Should the family go to Grammar School Number 1 – where A Levels have been discarded for the Baccalaureate – or go to School Number 2 – where there is an amazing range of A levels?

The boy’s star sign is Libra. This means that he is probably a well-balanced person who weighs things up carefully instead of jumping to impetuous conclusions.

Conclusion 1 When it snows it will be much easier for me to get to the school that is close by.

Librans, however, often keep making comparisons – which can be undesirable.

Conclusion 2 I really liked the other school and there is a bus route that almost passes our door.

Librans are often good peace makers – because they look at both sides of a dispute.

Conclusion 3 Dad wants me to go to his old school. Mum wants me to be happy.

Librans are generally diplomatic and tolerant.

Conclusion 4 We will have to see which school we are offered. I chose to put down one school as first choice – but we may be offered the other.

Librans often have a strong desire for peace and harmony – with a liking for beauty.

Conclusion 5 The beauty is that we have been offered two schools.

What would you, your family and your successful eleven plus child do?

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Eleven Plus and Numerology

Eleven plus children often have to deal with codes or ciphers.

When the keyboard of the type writer was invented then we understand that many `spies’ used the QWERTY keyboard as the basis for the code.

Q = 1, W= 2, E = 3, R = 4, T = 5, Y = 6, U = 7, I = 8, O = 9 and P = 0.

(I wonder if 007 had to put up with this type of code?)

Some numerologists use the Latin alphabet – where A = 1, B = 2, C = 3, D = 4 and so on. I then become 1, K = 2, L = 3 etc.

Eleven Plus becomes 5 3 5 4 5 5 7 3 3 1.

We then need to add the numbers together 5+3+5+4+5+5+5+7+3+3+1 = 46 and 4 + 6 = 10 so 1 + 0 = 1. This gives Eleven Plus the lucky number of 1!

We also know from our childhood that odd numbers are considered to be masculine and even numbers feminine – though I have no idea at all of why this should have been handed down through the ages. What happens when a woman get married and changes her name? She may change from an even number to an odd number! It is all a bit too confusing for me!

As your child sails through a codes question – leaving you time to contemplate the letters of your name – you may care to consider that passing the eleven plus is not a matter of the unknown or subject to the superstitions of numerologists – but it is more to do with careful thinking and steady progress!

Eleven Plus and the Dance

`"Will you walk a little faster?" said a whiting to a snail.
"There's a porpoise close behind us, and he's treading on my
See how eagerly the lobsters and the turtles all advance!
They are waiting on the shingle--will you come and join the
Will you, won't you, will you, won't you, will you join the
Will you, won't you, will you, won't you, won't you join the

When the eleven plus meets Alice in Wonderland it may be time to recall the hoary chestnut:

Faced with a bill for treatment in a private London hospital a patient queried the anaesthetist’s charge – which seemed rather excessive.

“£900 just to put me to sleep!” she complained.

“No it is fair fee. It is to be sure that you wake up!”

Of course, at times, some parents may consider offering the candidate a little incentive to try to maintain a sound level of eleven plus work. There may be, however, in the minds of some people, a difference between a reward offered for good work and where a reward is a free and unsolicited gift. The idea of a bribe for doing good eleven plus work may be reprehensible to some parents while others would recognise the value of rewarding hard labour with some form of an incentive.

Do you remember when your son or your daughter came back to you for the first time explaining and complaining that he or she had fallen off the new `birthday bike’? Your reaction was probably crucial to your child’s immediate confidence in learning to ride. In one scenario your child was fussed over and advised to leave the bike for a spell while wound healed. Equally you may have offered your child quiet reassurance by pointing out that you had also suffered similar setbacks – and that you had survived.

If your child suffers on an eleven plus exercise you could call in the experts, hire a tutor, buy more papers, invest in additional internet quizzes – or you could try to offer your child understanding and sympathy. Suppose your child has asked you if the work done is worth a reward. The dialogue may develop along these lines.

You may offer a comment: “I will offer you a reward. Nothing shall stop me.”

Your child may then ask you: “Who will be coming with me to the shops tomorrow to buy my reward?”

You could then say: “I will. It is my turn to buy you something. Shall I need to bring my cheque book with me?”

As a true eleven plus parent you would complement your child on the correct use of the word `will’. From your own English lessons at school, no doubt, you will remember at that `shall’ and `should’ are used as auxiliaries in the first person – while `will’ and `would’ are used for other persons.

You could also remind your child that after words expressing intention or desire you should use `shall’ or `should’ – but never `will’ or `would’.

By the time your poor child has listened to your seminar – he or she may have lost all interest in receiving a reward. The Arms of Morpheus may have claimed your child – and that could have saved you £900! Will she, won't she?

Saturday, October 22, 2011

An Eleven Plus Tangent

Years ago we used to use four figure tables when we were looking up tangents of an angle.

Angle A

Tan A

Angle A

Tan A


0.466 3


1.191 8


0.577 4


1.428 1


0.700 0


1.732 1


0.839 1


2.144 5


1.000 0


2.747 5

The angle of elevation of the top of a building is 25 degrees from a point 70 m away on level ground. Find the height of the building.

The Length is 70 m

The Height is x m

The height divided by the length = 0.4663 (We find this by looking at the table where the angle of 25 degrees = 0.466 3)

So the height = 0.4663 multiplied by the 70

The height of the building = 32.641 m

So when your eleven plus child appears to be going off at a tangent and not focussing on the task in hand:

The table he or she is working on may be in the wrong place or the wrong height or you may be looking at the wrong table.

The length of time you expect your child to work may be unrealistic

The tangent may be a realistic answer – especially if your child thinks in divergent forms.

You could, sensibly, ask your child to express 32.641 m to two significant figures – so the height of the building is 33 m. Easy when you know how!

Friday, October 21, 2011

SWOT and the Eleven Plus

By this stage of the year some parents will have been making their SWOT analysis. The analysis would need to cover the activities associated with securing an eleven plus pass. The objectives do not need to be laboured or even too accurate – but broad areas could be addressed.

1. To provide the best possible opportunities for their child

2. To find out as much as possible about the eleven plus

3. To learn to distinguish between opinion, rumour and fact

4. To try to ensure that any additional help – be it a book, a paper, an on-line exercise or a tutor is as effective as possible

5. To secure the involvement of the rest of the family

The top ranking objective must be to try to provide the best possible opportunities

This can be an on-going exercise where parents learn about the eleven plus from a variety of sources – including hard won experience. A tutor, for example, who worked for one child may not be as effective with a different mother’s precious candidate. A set of papers, that `made all the difference’, may be too easy or too hard for your child. A web site or a course may be useful but not the magic wand.

Securing the help of the family may be more important than being relegated to `Number 5’ in the above list. The rest of the family made need to co-operate with the candidate. The T.V., for example, may or may not need to be turned off while papers are being worked on. Great Aunt Elizabeth may need to move from her favoured chair, by the open log fire, to try to avoid her commenting on each and every question. The twins may need to bath while the lesson is going on. Great Uncle Fred, who is still married to Great Aunt Elizabeth after 53 years may have to leave off his wine making while the `candidate’ is working because the sound of corks popping off in the wine cellar under the stairs may be off putting – especially if Great Uncle Fred starts singing tunelessly!

In the old days the word `swot’ was to do with a person who studied seriously and effectively – with a great purpose. A SWOT today is a lot more prosaic –it is a planning method used to evaluate the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats.

What are my child’s eleven plus strengths and weaknesses?

How can we make best use of opportunities?

Are there any potential threats that could scupper eleven plus success?

All you can hope is that your child becomes an eleven plus swot and makes full use of your SWOT analysis.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Does This Eleven Plus Shoe Fit?

There is a wonderful book called `The Home Preparation Book’ from Artemis Press, ISBN 0854782257. The book was first published in 1958. The copy I have is the November 1989 Edition – but the Decimal and Metric Edition was in 1971 and the book was revised and retitled in 1975.

I looked on Amazon for copies of the book, and at the time of writing, there were seven copies at £0.01 each.

There are words of advice, and comfort, to parents in the forward. “The best help you can give your child at this important stage is to foster a habit of mental alertness. If you encourage your child to think clearly and express himself clearly during his everyday life it will help him more than any book. By teaching him to use his mind and his powers of reasoning you will stimulate his mind rather than tire it.”

A little further on Edgar Cox, B.A., who was a school master with many years of teaching and invigilating young children, maintained: “The most valuable lesson your child can learn from this book is how to recognise a common problem in a new and unexpected form.”

He included some questions which could capture the imagination of some of our present eleven plus children. The date used in the question is obvious – suggesting that the format of the question had not changed much between when he wrote the question in 1958 – and in the present reprint.

“A shoe manufacturer decides that during 1958 he will produce shoes of various types. Some are brown, some black and some suede. Some have straps and some buckles. Each type will be made in sizes from 6 to 10 (but not half sizes). How many different kinds of shoe will he make?”

I looked at the answer with interest – as Mr. Cox suggested 30 kinds of shoe.

It would be interesting to see how a sample of eleven plus children preparing for their 2012 examinations would answer the question. It would also be interesting to hear from any parents who used this book for their eleven plus preparations! Did they get the answer right all those years ago?

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

An Eleven Plus Discussion

Over the weeks the parents of some eleven plus children may have noticed a new phenomenon – their children are starting to re-enjoy eleven plus papers. At the beginning of work on papers many children may have loved the challenge of the new work. Reality then may have struck : “How many more of these papers do I have to work through?” Then gradually, at the papers become easier, joy and pleasure may have edged their way back into the equation. To reignite the spark and excitement some children may respond well to a discussion about what the eleven plus is all about.

The eleven plus is not just papers, lessons and exercises. It can be, for some, a journey into the unknown that opens up just how much can be achieved. We heard today, for example, about a boy who has just passed the Kent and the Medway tests. His mother remarked that he was so laid back that he could hardly stand without support. His lessons were full of quick repartee and surges of focused work – where his attention sometimes lasted as long as two minutes! Yet he was assimilating and almost imbibing eleven plus work. Quite simply, he loved the challenge of new and different work.

What could an eleven plus discussion cover?

What are we trying to accomplish?

Have you had to do anything as academically challenging as this work before?

Are any of your friends on a similar eleven plus journey?

Would you prefer to try something different – or are you happy with what we are doing?

Should we combine our eleven plus work with any other kind of activity?

Could you leave off working on papers for a period to give yourself a break?

What would you do if we, as your parents, did nothing at all towards the eleven plus?

Do you think that it is going to be worth it in the end?

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Eleven Plus Information

Let us look at the correlation between mathematics and verbal reasoning. Suppose we took a range of children from Years 4, 5 and 6. We could develop suitable tests to cover the gap in ages. Some of the Year 4 questions would need to be easier than those offered for the more able Year 5 and Year 6 children. We would hope, if it was an eleven plus test, that the older children would be able to answer many of the more difficult questions.

To achieve a pass mark the scores of the two tests would be added together – and a pass mark would be established. Some children would, therefore, pass while other would not achieve the pass mark.

There are, however, differences in the ages of the children taking the tests. One way to try to eliminate the age difference would be to express each score as a deviation from the mean score of each Year Group. We could then see if there is a correlation between the scores on the two tests – but the correlation would be on the deviations from the mean – rather than the raw scores.

We could then use this evidence to say that the mathematics test was harder than the verbal reasoning test – or vice versa. Without this evidence we have to rely on anecdotal evidence rather than cold facts.

If, and this would be a big if, all the children could be given an I.Q. test then it would be possible to try to find a correlation between intelligence and verbal reasoning and the intelligence and mathematics. Adding a third party may help!

Correlation, however, does not imply a direct casual relationship- the connection between the correlated measures may be indirect and rely on other factors.

“All my friends found the mathematics hard. We all found the reasoning easy.”

We would all need to be rather cautions about accepting that `all my friends’ implies a strong correlation. The eleven plus board, however, do not offer any information on the tests other than to offer a pass mark or a fail. Should we be offered the opportunity to apply for more and different information?

Monday, October 17, 2011

The Eleven Plus and Intelligence

Is this a true story or is simply an eleven plus allegory?

Two mothers were in the playground enjoying a little chat while their children were waiting to go into school.

“No, you are not right. The teacher was talking last night about the intelligence quota. Everyone knows that IQ stands for Intelligence Quiz.”

If we look at the children of the mothers in the playground one may have a mental age that is roughly average – and close to his or her chronological age. One of the other ten year olds may have a mental age that is almost fifteen.

A German psychologist, Dr. William Stern, worked out that we could get a number if the mental age was divided by the chronological age. It was left to an American, Professor Lewis Terman to popularise the term. Every eleven plus mother or father knows that the result of a division is a `quotient’. This led to the term `Intelligence Quotient’.

An I.Q. is not the quotient of the two ages – it is the product of the quotient multiplied by 100 – to get rid of the decimal point. The Intelligence Quotient is the Mental Age divided by the Chronological Age multiplied by one hundred.

But what happened to that poor ten year old with the mental age of 15? When he reached 15 would his mental age still be 15 so was he now average in ability?

Imagine the mothers outside the school gates waiting for their fifteen year old children to saunter slowly towards them.

“I used to think that my son was bright because he had a mental age of fifteen when he was only ten. When I quiz him now on what he has done at school he looks at me as if I am mad. It is almost as if he has used up his intelligence quota. I would hate to give him an intelligence quiz – he may be doing well at school but I cannot ask him anything.”

“Does he answer with a grunt?”

“How did you know?”

“I think he uses up all his quota of intelligence when he is at school.”

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Eleven Plus Learning and Remembering


Some children, and their parents, may look upon the chore of working through a multitude of eleven plus papers suspiciously. After all the ability to learn something to do with the eleven plus and the ability to be able to remember how to work through a similar example in the eleven plus are not the same thing. Some children may be able to argue – successfully – that learning and remembering are quite different.

Learning, in some forms, can be to do with the ability to perform a task – usually following lots of repetition. The evidence for this is the plethora of eleven plus papers where a technique is exposed – only to be followed by a number of questions testing and evaluating understanding. This is all very well – but fatigue, boredom and level of difficulty cannot be easily controlled by the eleven plus child. Naturally meeting the same set of circumstances in more and more papers should, in theory, consolidate and drive home the ability to be able to manage the task in the examination.` Repetition’ could, in some cases, become a key eleven plus mantra.

It would, irritate some children immeasurably if they were to be aware that in some learning experiences a plateau can be reached. Too much of the same activity may not actually help. When little Oliver said: “Please Sir, can I have some more?” he was probably not talking about a steady stream of eleven plus papers!

The hypothesis that some of us probably apply is that overlearning helps. (“You only have one chance at the eleven plus, dear, so just keep on working.”) But there does not seem to be much current evidence, other than anecdotal, that working on eleven plus papers actually helps. Once a child is able to cope with verbal analogies, for example, then how many times will he or she have to work on them before the examination before the child remembers how to do analogies? The analogies a child will meet in the examination are not the analogies a child meets in practice papers.

“Again? But we did these last week!”

“Yes dear, but the questions were different.”

“I know, but I remember how to do these. They are just boring now.”

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Predicting Eleven Plus Success

Not so many years ago we were led to believe that human beings possessed some form of general ability. It was thought that the general ability a person determined how successful the person was at developing and maintaining a career. It did not matter that one person was a cow hand and someone else an international banker – it was felt that people rose to a level of expectation. If this was true today then many children would find the eleven plus trail much easier to travel. “Oh yes! My child is bright – an eleven plus pass is on the cards.”

Sadly, for some children, there could be strengths in some areas and weaknesses in others. Passing the eleven plus depends on more than a parent’s desire. One factor, that may be a determining influence, is the desire of the child to pass. It would be a brave parent, however, who would bet their house on the outcome of their child’s desire!

This is where relying on one or two tests could be unfair to some children. The eleven plus is supposed to be a form of a predictive examination. The eleven plus is designed to find children who would benefit from a grammar school education. A verbal reasoning test, for example, may be an attempt to find a `pure’ test that will enable a grammar school to find children who will be able to deliver wonderful GCSE and `A’ Level results. A verbal reasoning test, however, measures a lot more than ability with words – the test may also measure a child’s ability to stick to time limits or even, possibly, a child’s uncanny ability to guess correct answers.

Strength with verbal reasoning exercises may be a vitally important attribute to possess to be able to enjoy a grammar school education. When the individual leaves full time education at school and university, however, the ability to concentrate and check little details may not be enough to ensure a good job.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Eleven Plus Dreams

Congratulations to all who have recently passed their eleven plus. We wish the children every success in the future. Do you remember Robert Louis Stevenson’s poem `A Child’s Thought’?

At seven, when I go to bed,

I find such pictures in my head:

Castles with dragons prowling round,

Gardens where magic fruits are found;

Fair ladies prisoned in a tower,

Or lost in an enchanted bower;

While gallant children ride by streams

That border all this land of dreams

I find, so clearly in my head

At seven, when I go to bed.

We can only hope that the successful children forget very quickly the work and effort they had to make. To the children that nearly passed – our most sincere commiserations.

We hope that reading about dragons, magic fruit, imprisoned ladies and brave men helped the children to do as well as possible.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Eleven Plus Fears

What would your eleven plus child worry about during the eleven plus year? Towards `Results day’ the candidate’s fear would possibly turn to concerns about possible failure – but during the year?


Keeping and maintaining school friends.

Worrying if the friends are true friends.

How to make friends

Popularity stakes.

Life at Home

Arguments with brothers and sisters

Arguments with parents – and between parents

Too much work

Not enough attention

Too little T.V. and computer games



Liking the teachers


Amount of work

Eleven Plus

Difficulty of the work

Challenge of Eleven Plus papers

Completing exercises on time

Concerns of parents

Pressure from outside

Passing the examination

Not passing the examination

Next school

Naturally some eleven plus children will be able to devise strategies to circumvent most of the fears mentioned above. There will even be some eleven plus children who have none of the above fears. These are the children who are able to view life with equanimity and confidence.

There may be some children who are doing remarkably well at school, with happy and stable backgrounds, who feel a little twinge of concern at the idea of not being successful and living up to expectations. We can’t ask children to banish all fears – after all we would still like our eleven plus child to be fearful of the consequences of crossing a busy road but we may not want a child to feel fearful about not achieving 80% on an eleven plus paper - as is a totally different type of fear.

Of course parents of eleven plus children will treat their child’s fears in many different ways. Some parents and children will be able to talk about everything. Other parent-child relationships may be a little more complex. Some children may find it difficult to communicate their fears to their parents. It does seem likely that talk and discussion may help. Perhaps a starting point could be to ask the eleven plus child to place each of the above lists into a `Fear Order. Then ask for an overall ranking. Both sides may, possibly, learn a little about each other.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Eleven Plus and the Language We Use

We may need to go back to the 16th Century to a wise man, Vives, who had views on education that may have some relevance to today’s eleven plus examinations. Vives was concerned about the individuality of the pupil. He maintained that four times a year teachers should confer about the mental abilities of each children – and then determine the subject best suited to him.

I thought of Vives when two eleven boys were discussing how to answer a challenging eleven plus verbal reasoning question. I had used reasonably formal language to try to explain. I called for help when my explanation did not seem to be understood. The second boy left his mathematics happily and addressed himself to the problem. He saw the solution in a flash. He then started explaining it to the first boy. I was fascinated to hear the language and vocabulary that was used. Boy Number One understood instantly. I was forgotten as both boys returned to their work without even looking towards me for confirmation.

Vives wrote: “The teacher should have an exact knowledge of the vernacular language of the boys so that by that means he may more fitly and easily teach. For unless he uses the right words for the matter with which he is dealing, he will be certain to mislead the boys.”

Many parents will have experienced the twin emotions of frustration and relief when they have tried to explain something to their eleven plus child only for another member of the family to offer a different explanation – which is immediately understood.

“Well Dad, Mum is much better at English than you are. I think you are better at maths – but she has more patience and explains things in words that I understand.”

“Well Mum, Dad is much better at English than you are. I think that you are better at maths – but he has more patience and explains things in words that I understand.”

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Hunting Down Eleven Plus Solutions

Look, for a second, at a group of men hunting. Visualise a band of men on the trail working together quietly and forcefully. The men will not need to communicate with shouts or wild gestures – there could almost be an absence of words.

Think of one man hunting on his own. His thoughts and actions would probably be very different to those if he was part of a larger group. If he was to join a hunting group then, more than likely, he would adopt a very different pattern of action.

Suppose, however, a totally unexpected event was to take place. Then the men would need to be able to communicate. One man may emerge as a leader through words and actions. The leader may make gestures and encourage the remainder of the hunt to adapt their behaviour. Some men may object to how the leader intends for the group to react. Other men will be likely to fall in with the wishes of the majority.

Think of a one parent setting out on the eleven plus trail – hunting down resources, books, materials. This lone parent may use the internet, rely on playground gossip or haunt the bookshops. The parent could then join a larger group of eleven plus parents with common interests using the internet, coffee mornings and school meetings. Leaders will emerge – some will dominate others will lead by example. Books, ideas, tutors and experiences could be shared and assimilated.

We can build a picture in our minds of some parents, around fifty years ago, approaching the eleven plus with little information. `Eleven Plus Power’ lay in the hands of the few. Today eleven plus parents have many different sources of information – as well as access to a wide variety of comments and thoughts. At times parents will need to hunt on their own. It is their child, after all, that is trying to pass the eleven plus. At other times parents must be a welcome part of a much larger community.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Chunking Away at the Eleven Plus

Would some parents be grateful for the opportunity of learning a little more about the secrets of some of the topics taught at school? Let us imagine, just for a moment, that `The Eleven Plus Pupil’ has been asked by the school to do an exercise on chunking. We would expect that every primary school teacher would immediately be grateful for the opportunity of helping their children, and the parents of their children, to understand chunking. Mother and Father would be ushered into `little’ seats in the class room on `Chunking Tuesday’. The teacher would start explaining `chunking’. Mother and father would listen attentively - after all, chunking could be the difference between a pass and a fail.

Does the teacher dominate the proceedings with lots of chalk and talk or does the teacher encourage the parents to explore chunking and come up with their own solutions and understanding? Who talks the most? The teacher or the parents? Do the parents make notes if they are being lectured by the teacher or do they make notes while they are working away on the chunking assignment?

Who asks the questions? Is it the teacher or the parents? Do the parents copy anything written on the board (be it a black board or a white board) neatly onto their papers – or do they hope to understand the intricacies of chunking in such a way that they can then help their child to understand?

Do `Mother and Father’ thank the teacher on the way out – and then expect their child to thank them after experiencing their `expert’ exposition? Do `Mother and Father’ help their child to learn chunking by offering an erudite lecture – or through a gentle explanation of various options?

Should Mother and Father turn to the internet for a revision of what chunking means – or have they internalised the various operations to be able to remember how to do a chunking example after an interval of two months?

What does the poor child do if `mum and dad’ can almost remember how to chunk but inadvertently leave out a step so that nothing quite works out? Does the eleven plus child ask the teacher at school or wait patiently for `mum and dad’ to work it all out?

What happens if Mother and Father say - `Look love, why not try the way I was taught and the way our parents before us were taught?”

“But mum. But dad.”

“Oh dear, why don’t we all try a little chunking again.”

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Books and the Eleven Plus

Christmas is coming, the geese are getting fat

Please put a penny in the old man's hat

If you haven't got a penny, a ha'penny will do

If you haven't got a ha'penny, then God bless you!

Christmas is coming and your child needs more books

Please put some books in the real Christmas stocking.

If you don’t know which books to give, then get some advice

If you give `book money’ then you might promote reading!.

Children will read books recommended teachers, librarians, parents and friends. The other level of books that children may read are the books the child buys with money apportioned to the cause. If your child spends his or her own money on the books; we hope that it is likely that he or she will read.

It is possible that teachers, librarians and parents will sometimes recommend books that are a little more demanding than those chosen by the child. Most eleven plus children, however, will have been `free readers’ for some time and will be used to choosing their own books.

A major task that parents sometimes face is the effort that is needed to wean their children from the tried and tested. We would acknowledge that reading is good for eleven plus children because it can widen horizons and broaden experiences. Along the way true eleven plus reading will, hopefully, encourage comprehension and broaden reading vocabulary – as these are skills used in many types of verbal reasoning questions.

Books with a good story line and characters that a child can identify with – will probably hold a child’s attention. There are many books that continue to be read by generations of children.

Just think – Christmas Day – and the goose is cooking gently. The T.V. is off. No computer games are being played. The house is sleeping peacefully – your child is curled up reading. Oh joy!


Saturday, October 08, 2011

Parents and the Eleven Plus

When you look at your eleven plus son approaching his eleven plus work – do the words of Lyte ever cross your mind? Will your son grow up like this? Does your son approach his work in a like manner? Is this the stuff of boys who pass the eleven plus – single minded, knowledgeable and hard working?

Her husband had his avocation too;

He kept, I’ve said, a garden, where he grew

The earliest peas in all the country round,

And fruit for size and flavour far renowned;

To bud and graft, he was supremely skilled,

And aye a pruning knife his pocket filled.

How do parents help their eleven plus children to keep a balance between too much of an emphasis on eleven plus work in the eleven plus year? Family life has to go on. Other members of the family had to be tolerant and turn the T.V. off during the `Eleven Plus Bewitching Hour’. Parents have to budget time to sit with their child to help through stormy passages.

There is no parent in the country who has discovered a simple but comprehensive method of preparing their child for the eleven plus. All that parents can wish is that their child enjoys the process and comes out at the other end proud and happy.

Friday, October 07, 2011

Controlled Eleven Plus Assessments

In the rather complicated world of GCSE and `A’ Level examinations invigilators are not allowed to be present at the start of an examination - and then read the examination paper before leaving the room.

No one is allowed to enter an examination room uninvited –with the sole purpose of accessing the examination paper.

Staff are not allowed to give an opinion of the question paper to a candidate – verbally or otherwise.

There can be no communication with candidates or coaching or the providing of encouragement and support.

Anyone concerned with the examination can offer support and encouragement to candidates – up to the moment the candidates enter the examination room.

For some time now some GCSE subjects have included the provision of `Controlled Assessments’. This is the official term for course work – which some children were allowed to do with their parents at home. In eleven plus terms parents would be present while their child worked through an eleven plus selection paper, and could help with answers as well as offer opinions, and then help their child to enter the paper to the eleven plus authorities as evidence of hard work and careful preparation.

Graeme Paton, in the Telegraph has written a description of recent changes to Controlled Assessment that are being recommended. One of the comments on the article is to do, partly, with the Eleven Plus!

The events unfolding in an eleven plus room are carefully monitored. A Controlled Eleven Plus Assessment would offer plenty of scope to ambitious and concerned parents! Just think of the evidence that some families would be able to submit! Papers, test results, comments from tutors and the eleven plus diary kept by every deserving eleven plus mother!

Thursday, October 06, 2011

A Brief History of the Eleven Plus

As long ago as 1920 Dr. Ballard wrote: “If we examine at all we should examine well: and to examine well is to examine accurately.” He also said, “We need objective measurements recognised by all as final and unassailable.”

Today teachers at school are offered National Curriculum tests to replace the old termly school tests. When teachers set the old termly tests they were testing their children on what their children had been taught. This allowed teachers to have a subjective approach to tests – and what their children had learnt. A school based examination can be used to measure the child against a small and selected group – usually the teacher’s own class. The introduction of standardised tests and National Curriculum allowed a child to be measured against the class – as well as a much larger cohort.

Passing the eleven plus depends, for most children, on hard work and endeavour. Naturally the eleven plus candidate has to have ability – and some even need general intelligence. Present forms of the eleven plus do not seem to be trying to test general intelligence. Many years ago some teachers expressed fears that group intelligence tests were not always reliable and accurate. It was held, however, that finding a mental age and dividing this by chronological age – and then multiplying by 100 provided an invaluable guide to what could be expected of a child.

Over the years, before the introduction of the eleven plus, schools had moved towards `Confidential Record Cards’ – and these records will have been given a variety of names as the years have gone by. A Confidential Record Card would have recorded academic progress and expectations as well as a child’s hobbies, reading interests, ability to show an initiative, personal habits and ability at games.

As the eleven plus gathered in momentum across England in the late 1950s and early 1960s, teachers began to feel that the selective examination tended to dominate the whole curriculum. Some Local Authorities tried to select on ability as well as the findings on the cumulative record cards. The idea was that child’s future would be defined by a teacher’s view of potential rather than progress in mathematics and the like.

Today’s eleven plus children are tested on `ability’ tests. Common current ability tests are the verbal and non verbal reasoning tests.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Eleven Plus Tests

It is highly likely that the eleven plus papers we buy from shops or from the internet have been produced using sets of objectives – graded by competence. It would take a very brave author or publisher to try to develop a completely new set of questions. Would the public buy? Would other parents recommend the papers? Would the full force of the `eleven plus establishment’ come to bear on the instigator of the reformed papers? And, naturally, would the new style paper be of any use at all to the children writing the examination.

A number of eleven plus papers seem to be graded – in the sense that the papers are often progressive. The obvious objectives seem to lead from one section to another. Parents will start their children on eleven plus papers for a numbers of reasons. Where is my child up to? Will my child pass? What are the strengths and weaknesses? But what happens if the parent unwittingly chooses a paper that is inappropriate? The poor child may sit a paper that would be invaluable three weeks before the examination – but not really of much use as a diagnostic tool. How is the parent to know?

A graded paper is often organised into a system of levels. Level 1 could be for children starting on eleven plus work. Level 2 would be for children who are working steadily through a thoughtful eleven plus syllabus and Level 3 for the high fliers who really are expected to pass.

Mother to child: “Don’t worry dear, the test will start easy – but will become more difficult as it goes along.”

Child to mother: “You said that last time and I could not answer the first five questions.”

Mother to child: “Well this time it will be different. Trust me. I am your mother!”

Test publishers, however, have to be careful that their target audience is not lulled into complacency where bright eleven plus children expect all eleven plus tests to start off easy and become more difficult.

Some eleven plus tests appear to be criterion based. This means that the test is not just task orientated but that a proportion of the questions are criterion referenced – with the criteria looking at elements of ability as well as more practical elements. One of the advantages of a criterion referenced tests is that there is a strong possibility that the test has been prepared in order to affect the behaviour of the candidate.

Child to mother: “That was great. I really know now what is required on me.”

Mother to child: “Yes, dear. We have a lot of work to do but I have faith in you. We will work together as a family.”

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

In The Eleven Plus Examination Room

There are some eleven plus children still waiting to write their eleven plus examinations. Some children will write in the familiar surroundings of their own school while others will write the examination in a variety of venues. Examinations administered on the behalf of external authorities have to follow reasonably similar conditions. It would not be fair, for example, for one group of children to enjoy the warmth and comfort of a well ordered examination room while others write in poor conditions.

When you chat about the examination remind your child that the examination proper starts as soon as his or her foot crosses the threshold. (Have a small plastic packet ready for any chewing gum your child may care to leave with you. A lump of gum on the steps will probably not endear your child to the authorities!)

You child may be offered special seating – in alphabetical order, for example, or possibly by candidate numbers. Some children may be allowed to sit where ever they fancy.

In a large venue the examination may be held simultaneously over several rooms. In that case the examinations papers may be already on the table. Other children may even see the packet being opened. Plead with your child to leave the papers alone until the right moment has arrived.

Some children will have the instructions on the front cover of the paper read to them and others will be asked to read the instructions themselves.

Your child will be told about emergency measures – especially what to do with the examination paper in the case of some form of alarm. Fire exits and the like will be pointed out to your children.

Most eleven plus tests these days are in a multiple choice format. Sensible pencils and carefully selected rubbers are essential. You will not want your child to be fiddling around with erasable pens or correcting fluid.

Your child will be told when to start and will be warned about the passage of time. Please try to ensure that your child has a watch or a clock for the examination. There will need to be a clock in the room – but this may not be seen all that easily.

Monday, October 03, 2011

Eleven Plus for Golfers

It is possible, and even likely, that this information will be relevant to remarkably few eleven plus parents. After all how many parents went out to play golf over the weekend leaving their children to work on eleven plus papers? Equally how many eleven plus children went out to play golf over the weekend leaving their parents to worry about the eleven plus?

Golf course terminology and eleven plus speak is not quite the same.

Golfer: Looks like I’m stuck on the beach.

General Explanation: I am stuck in a bunker.

Eleven Plus Speak: I am really confused with this question. Help!


Golfer: Now I’m leaking oil.

General Explanation: All is collapsing around me.

Eleven Plus Explanation: I just can’t do these questions today – all is falling apart around me.


Golfer: Get up on the dance floor

General Explanation: Get onto the putting green. Remember drives for show and putts for dough.

Eleven Plus Explanation: Take your books and papers out and start work.


Golfer: I have the yips.

General Explanation: I can’t putt any more.

Eleven Plus Explanation: I can’t handle these questions.


Golfer: Nineteenth hole time.

General Explanation: I really need a good stiff drink.

Eleven Plus Explanation: Oh good, Mum and Dad have come back from the golf course a little under the weather. I am sure they won’t notice that I just copied last week’s answers.

Sunday, October 02, 2011

Eleven Plus Graphs

All characters in this blog have no existence outside the imagination of the author. There is no relationship between any eleven plus tutors or any publishers. These numbers are not even inspired by any group of eleven plus children, past or present. The mark range and the number of boys are pure invention.

Mark range






Number of Boys






Mark range






Number of Boys






If all 392 fictitious boys took the fictitious reasoning test then it would be the work of moments to group the results.

Would your eleven plus child be able to represent the figures graphically?

Would your eleven plus child be able to comment on the shape of the figures being affected by twice as many boys taking the paper?

Would your child be able to offer a reasoned explanation of why the figures may have been different if 392 girls had taken the paper?

Do questions of this nature allow a bright eleven plus child to show his or her ability in a very different way to slogging through multiple choice questions?

For example:

How many boys scored between 21-30?

A 73

B 34

C 55

D 18