Do you remember being told about Yerkes when you were at school? He is an important name to remember when you are working through multiple choice eleven plus papers with your child. His findings have probably played a significant part in understanding what happens when a `subject’ is confronted by a multiple choice puzzle. Yerkes published his findings in 1908 – over a hundred years ago – so there is nothing much new in education!
He conducted a historic experiment on human problem solving. He used a box where twelve keys were extended towards the subject. On any given trial only one of the keys is the correct key. The subject must discover which it is – in other words its relationship to the other keys. Of course the correct key was changed from trial to trial! The subject had to discover by what rule the change was made.
In the first test the key could be the second from the left.
The next rule would have the key appearing in the middle.
The third key from the right.
The right hand key and the left end key.
The first key to the left of the middle and the key to the right of it.
We hope that our eleven plus child would be able to solve these problems. We know that any eleven plus parent would manage them easily. Mothers and fathers can do anything!
When helping your child to reject the multiple choice answers that simply cannot be correct then remember Yerkes. He showed that it was possible to work out strategies for coping with multiple choice questions. For example: If the question asked for the answer in kilometres then a multiple choice answer that had millimetres should not be selected.
Children of course know better. You have told your child to guess the last few answers if time is running out. “You have one chance in four in getting the answers right.” One child will choose all the left hand answers. Another strategy could be to choose all the answers second from the right. A third option could be to choose answers at random. Yerkes, however, showed us that it was possible to develop a method of working out how to select the right answer. Why not sit with your child and look closely at the answers. You may find that, sometimes, you simply need to read the question and look at the answers without doing the working out. You then reject the answers which cannot be correct. You then do the working out to confirm the correct answer. If this works for you it may work for your child.