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.