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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.”

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