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Monday, December 05, 2011

An Eleven Plus Haystack

Parents, working with their eleven plus children, will be very aware that there are a number of different facets to understanding and answering some types of questions. A statement that their child loves books may be very true – but does he or she have the reading skills to be able to cope with a wide range of eleven plus questions?

In one sense reading embraces the skill of transferring the letters of words, in the right order, into sounds that have meaning. Your eleven plus child looks at a group of letters taken from the alphabet – and transfers these letters into ideas, thoughts, questions and answers. Of course there is the visual component of reading. The eleven plus child has to be able to interpret words using forms of visual analysis. Another element used in reading is the ability to associate sight and sound. We can see this very clearly in exercises asking to build a word out of jumbled letters. SSLAGSE “Some see better with these:” The successful eleven plus child must also be able to make an auditory analysis of the sounds within a word in an efficient manner.

There is, however, a special kind of reading skill where your eleven plus child seems to need, at times, almost superhuman skills – that is when coping with a multiple choice answer. “Where do children play games?” [concourse, memorable, degree, abandoned]. How easy is it for an eleven plus child to be able to associate the word `playground’ with the possibly more unfamiliar word `concourse’? Chance or luck may come into the equation if the eleven plus child can select the right answer without knowing what a concourse is. It is likely that the ten year old will be able to read the words correctly – but may not be able to cope with what the words mean.

An eleven plus parent can check that their child can read the words `concourse, memorable, degree, and abandoned’ – simply by asking their child to read the words aloud. This is a form of a word recognition test. A different reading skill is that of comprehension – can the candidate explain the meaning of most of the words – and then apply this information to trying to supply a correct answer to the question.

When an eleven plus test is standardised the words used will have been tested rigorously with a sample of eleven plus – and other – children. The examiner will have made certain that a proportion of children who go on to pass the eleven plus examination can read and understand the words. If the word `memorable’, for example, was not read and recognised by a certain proportion of eleven plus children then the word would not be used in the final test.

When eleven plus children are urged to read parents are hoping that the books will contain a wide variety of graded supplementary words – some of which may come up in the examination. Is this a bit like looking for a needle in a haystack?

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