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Friday, January 06, 2012

A Fairer Eleven Plus

Is the eleven plus a fair examination? Some would argue that it is – but others would maintain that the examination is flawed. One wonders if enough is done to counter the effects of practice and coaching. Is it unfair to compare the score of a child who had had extensive preparation with a child who simply sits the practice tests a few days before the examination? Do the eleven plus examiners need to prove that coaching does not have an effect on scores?

Would most children reach higher scores on ability tests if they had a few practice sessions? The questions could be different – but the basic examination could remain remarkably similar. What could account for a rise in scores?

Test sophistication

Knowledge of procedure

Reduction in anxiety

Practice in doing tests

There were, however, some findings a few months ago that if a person could not pass a driving test after two or three attempts – it became far more difficult to pass when the number of failed tests rose to around ten. If the same `halo’ effect took place with children writing eleven plus papers – then many children would be able to breathe a great sigh of relief! (Give over Mum. You know that research says I only need to do three papers.”)

There is plenty of anecdotal evidence available to parents about the value that expert coaching can add to a child’s performance. Some parents may even have feelings that unskilled coaching can be of considerable disservice. The plethora of eleven plus books and exercises, however, must give parents considerable reassurance that they are on the right lines.

What happens if we change some of the questions in the eleven plus to try to find fairer tests. Is this a question which may not be `fair’?

What is the word that means the same as the two words outside the brackets?

Smart ( . . . . . . . . . ) Bulge

The answer is `swell’ – because a swell is smart and a bulge can swell. Some children may never at home, or at school, come across the word `swell’ used in the same series as `smart’. If a child failed the eleven plus simply because of a rather old fashioned use of a word – would that be fair?

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