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Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Eleven Plus English

Some eleven plus Local Authorities, and individual grammar schools, prefer to include English in the examination. There was some often quoted research by Hartog and Rhodes back in 1935. They investigated a wide range of subjects at various levels. They found that there was a considerable lack of agreement between markers and between the same marker on two different occasions.

The often quoted example offered by Hartog and Rhodes was a History paper where the same examiners marked a set of scripts separated by a year. In 92 out of 210 cases they changed their mind about a credit or a pass and fail.

How would you feel if your child lost out on grammar school place because the examiner did not think your child’s work warranted a pass classification? In reality today there have been a wide number of improvements brought about by standardisation of the markers. We would all like to think that the examiners not only had a comprehensive marking scheme but that individual examiners were mentored by a senior examiner.

In most examinations today a small set of scripts is set aside to be marked by a number of people to try to ensure the standard and consistency of marking. This allows adjustments to be made to the marks of an examiner who was inconsistent. If the examiner was marking too severely then all the marks could be raised. If the examiner was too lenient then changes could be made. We hear of examinations where the marks of two examiners are added and then averaged – in the hopes that reliability can be maintained. Does this happen in the eleven plus? Someone will know the answer.

The content of the eleven plus in each of the different authorities probably does not change much over the years. This means that it is likely that comparisons can be made between one year and another. Clever people can get to work to compare averages and deviations from the average.

It must be very likely that there can be little need for the great majority of today’s eleven plus parents to worry about the validity of the marks their child receives. We can easily visualise one marker taking on a set of scripts. Other markers will have similar papers to mark. The sets of marks can be averaged and compared. Reliability and validity can be maintained!

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