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Wednesday, October 31, 2012

An Eleven Plus Verbal Question

Pumpkins are a hot topic of conversation this week and the week before. There is a hallowed recipe from Zimbabwe which some may care to try once the pumpkin has been hollowed.

1 pumpkin
1 or 2 onions
1 tea cup of cold water
1 dessert spoon of fat
I dessert spoon of flour
(Some may now add some chunks of meat- but this is optional.)
Hollow the pumpkin
Heat the fat
Fry the onions
Add the pumpkin
Stir in flour
Add water
Add salt
Serve hot!

Why a recipe?

An eleven plus verbal reasoning question:

Add either (hallowed or hollowed) to the sentence.

The porter threw the __________ pumpkin at the ____________ ground.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The Eleven Plus and Yellow Fever

Parents working with their children during the eleven plus year have to play many parts. Obviously they have to be a mother or a father. At times they will also need to be social workers, psychologists and doctors.
Parents will need to be able to cope with intelligence testing, personality development, social behaviour and eleven plus work.

Eleven Plus parents do not have the questionable luxury, however, of being able to experiment on their children. They cannot advise their child that a score of less than 70% is punishable. Parents, very likely, have remarkably little desire to offer their child any form of retribution for low marks.

How are parents going to be sure that they have chosen the right books and eleven plus papers? You will probably remember your science teacher, many years ago, telling you about medical research in days gone by.

A group of men were exposed to mosquitoes known to have bitten yellow fever patients. Most of the men became ill.

A control group was exposed to all other possible causes of the disease. The control group was not subjected to mosquito bites.

None of the control group contracted yellow fever.

The evidence was clear- yellow fever is transmitted by mosquitoes.

It is very difficult for parents, however, to predict that all their children will pass the eleven plus. If, for example, other members of the family had passed with the same tutor and the same eleven plus papers – would the third child in the family also pass with the same tutor and the same books?

There may even be some parents who knew about other people who had taken performance enhancing drugs – like Benzedrine. A control group was offered Benzedrine before an examination. The control group was given a placebo. It was found that Benzedrine did not affect mental ability significantly.

Fortunately for many eleven plus children, many parents seem to realise that a variety of methods and approaches is needed. There is not one path that will lead to an eleven plus pass. The way to the eleven plus, at times, can be tortuous and winding. It can also be an exhilarating ride full of success and promise.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Eleven Plus Reading

Reading plays a large part in eleven plus examinations. Children have to be able to read in order to answer questions. Some children find the eleven plus year so demanding that they have little time to read for pleasure.

When parents exhort their children to read for pleasure many will suggest: “Do not try to read every word. It is perfectly all right to `skim’.”

Of course reading to learn something is very different. Here many parents will draw on their own schools days to remind their children about `The Secrets of Learning from Books.”

Read the title page and the list of contents – and decide if you need to read the whole book or simply chosen sections.

Read the `blurb’ on the back cover together. Explain how this often gives insight into the scope and extent of the book.

Show your child that he or she may only need to read one or two chapters.

Look at any diagrams, photographs, pictures or maps. These are used to explain points and often offer a succinct summary.

And finally, help your child to make notes! Explain to your child that making simple notes may save him or her having to re-read almost everything.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

The Eleven Plus Ace

Probability questions, at the eleven plus level, often seem to involve cards. For some reason or another the writers of some eleven plus mathematics papers appear to take it for granted that all eleven plus children have access to packs of cards at school or at home. There will be some children, for one reason or another, who are not sure how many colour cards there are in a pack, how many cards in a suite and why the value of an Ace can vary between one and eleven!

For those children who are allowed to play cards `21s’ provides a very quick introduction.

Explain to your child that the aim of the game is to score 21 points.

An Ace is worth 1 or 11

The King, Queen and Jack are worth 10

Cards 2 to 10 are worth their face value.

Deal one card face down to each of players. Deal a second card face up.

Players are trying to get as close as possible to 21.

It is also possible to be a winner if one of the players reaches 21 with five cards.

The game can move along very quickly – but sometimes one or more player seems to take an age to make up his or her mind.

What happens, though, if your eleven plus child asks you: “Why is an Ace worth both one and eleven?”

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Eleven Plus Questions and Answers

Some Questions

Why do you want your child to do the eleven plus?
To have the opportunity of being able to choose a school – be it grammar or some other school.

When do you think you need to start eleven plus work?
This will vary from child to child. Some children do not seem to need extra work. Other children start work years ahead of the examination. We are just playing it by ear.

Can you do the eleven plus preparation yourself?
My child and I enjoy a good working relationship. It is likely that we will do it ourselves.

Do you have favourite books and papers to work from?
Years ago, when my oldest daughter was doing the eleven plus, we all had to rely on the two `big’ publishers. The internet now gives us lots of choice.

Does your school know you are interested in preparing your child?
The school is very supportive. I have, however, heard of other schools where the eleven plus is frowned on – but our school is fine.

Do you talk to other parents about your ambition?
Of course! This is where we all share experiences.

Are you looking forward to the grind?
Oh yes. We only get one chance at the examination.

Friday, October 26, 2012

An Eleven Plus Rune

About two thousand years ago the Ancient Norse used runes as an alphabet. Runes are marks on stones or wood – so it is likely that the symbols are even older. The words `rune’ is linked with the Old Norse word for `mystery’ or `secret’.

When children are using the alphabet for eleven plus work it may sometimes pass through the minds that the word alphabet comes from the first two Greek letters `alpha’ and `beta’. The usual name for the runic alphabet, however, is `Futhark’.

(If an eleven plus child says: “My answer has gone `phut’!” Does the meaning of the word `phut’ come from Futhark?)

We know that the Norse gave us many words.

Tuesday – Tyr - the defender god

Wednesday – Odin or Wodan - the All-Father

Thursday – Thor – thunder

Friday – Frigg - the spinner of thread

I am not sure what happened to the Norse men and women – but what did they do on the other days of the week?

The Norse used to believe that if you receive a gift you must give something in return. Perhaps that is why many eleven plus children say a respectful `Thank You’ when they have been taught something new.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

An Analysis of the Eleven Plus Year

Systems Analysis is the process of breaking a complex problem into its component parts, examining those parts and then reorganising them a more efficient whole. Eleven Plus parents do this all the time!

The first step is trying to make sense of the plethora of information. It comes at parents from all sides.

Then comes decisions of whether to work with the candidate at home or call in outside help.

Things will go reasonably smoothly until the time arrives for `Work On Papers’. Early exercises can be rather stressful for all concerned.

The August / September holidays before the examinations can also be challenging. How much work still needs to be done? Is there time for a family holiday? Is it possible to have a week free of any mention of the eleven plus?

The final days and hours leading up to the actual examination can be interesting. Both sides (parents and children alike) will be trying to avoid any stressful situations   and challenging moments.

What about the day before the examination? Oh dear! Keep calm. Should there be any last minute work?

Each of the situations and events need some form of analysis. A system is needed for all concerned!

(Should eleven plus parents be paid an extra allowance for the stresses and strains of the eleven plus year?)

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Eleven Plus Ethics

Just a thought  .. what about asking your partner if he or she will record the events taking place in a typical plus exercise at home?

Before you start there must be some ethical considerations. Whatever you observe of your partner and your child could make a permanent record – be it a video or simply a written account with pertinent observations and impressions.

Do you need to ask your child’s permission?

This must depend on the scope and nature of the observation. If the `diary’ is to be used as a weapon in an attempt to encourage diligence then some serious discussion is needed. If, however, the findings are not be used in a negative manner then your child’s views can simply be taken into account.

Do you tell your child that he or she is being observed?

Is it likely that behaviour will change for the better if he or she knows that an act of observation is taking place? Are you rather vague about the reason for the observation? Are there any circumstances when the element of basic trust can be broken?

Do you discuss the results with your child?

Conscience plays a large part in the thoughts and feelings of most parents!

Do you discuss the results with others?

Is this in front or your child? Will you be able to have a freer discussion if your child is not present?

There may be some elements in any recording of an eleven plus lesson that simply do not need to be stored for posterity.  Slips of the tongue, fumbles over simple points and anguish over errors may not be germane to any future discussions.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Little Fish

Little Fish looked up at the stars and thought: “How the bubbles am I going to get up there?”

So he went to see a man who had a rocket.

Next stop SPACE!

“Slipperty flippers!” exclaimed Little Fish, “Look at all this,
 being an astronaut is GREAT!”

He thought, “But I was born to be a fish!”

 So he went back home.

By Kai

Dopplers, Bugs, Time and the Eleven Plus

Can one approach of the Eleven Plus be likened to the Doppler Effect? There is a wonderful description of the Doppler Effect in a `ThePhysics Classroom’. The lesson is about a little bug making waves. (No eleven plus child can be called a little bug – and no eleven plus child will ever make waves!) If the bug shakes his or her legs then waves flow out and cause a disturbance. (Who ever thought of an eleven plus child causing a disturbance?)

In many explanations of the Doppler Effect the example is used of the siren of an ambulance approaching. We hear the sound grow closer and closer – then there is the moment that the ambulance passes – with the sound fading. In the eyes of some the Eleven Plus can be likened to the awareness that the examination is approaching – the impact of the actual examination on the family – and then the urgency leaving – only to be stirred up again by the results.

Hindsight, however, is wonderful. We use hindsight to look back and think of what might have been. Suppose, for example, that a question on time stumped your candidate in the examination. You look back to when your little one was three yours old and you were teaching time. Your `self-help’ books on child rearing probably told you that it is difficult for a three year old to recognise that to be orientated in time he or she needs to be able to classify events of the past in terms of what happened first. (Try explaining that to your three year old!)

But parents  persevere, don’t they? They teach today, tomorrow and yesterday. They work on the days of the week, months of the year and then the concept of a year. Almost every parent will use the notion of a birthday or Christmas to explain the passage of time.

It is these little ripples of awareness that the eleven plus child draws on. When a question arises to do with time your child may possible use elements of the Doppler Effect. He or she may recall your happy, excited and motivated voice talking about the passage of time. A shiver will go down your child’s spine as he or she recalls that there are sixty minutes in an hour – and that some calculations will require an hour to be changed to sixty minutes.

Monday, October 22, 2012

The Eleven Plus Room

Years ago I remember reading about John Searle. He lived and worked over in America – but he did come to England as a Rhodes Scholar. He was interested in intelligence and talked about the `Chinese Room’.
You have to imagine yourself as an English speaker – and not know any Chinese. You will be confined in a room into which batches of instructions are posted. You are given:

A Pile of Chinese Symbols
A long rule book
The rule book explains how to post out Chinese symbols in response to symbols posted into the room.

He hoped that in time a person would become so adept at interpreting and responding to the symbols that he or she become almost indistinguishable from a native Chinese speaker.

You could try this at home.

Place your child in a room with a pile of eleven plus papers and a rule book. Post instructions . Ask your child to interrogate the rule book. Wait with bated breath to see if your child comes up with the right answer.
Expecting an appropriate output in response to inputs can be the ultimate Eleven Plus dream. To ginger up motivation to keep learning parents could say: “After all I have done for you. I brought you up as a baby. I feed you. I clothe you. I give you this wonderful eleven plus opportunity and what do you do?”

On the other hand praise would probably be even more effective!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Eleven Plus Certainty

A teacher, who was very well known for gaining outstanding eleven plus successes, took a bit of a gamble by trying a fresh approach. For years the teacher would only take on children she thought would pass. Parents would do almost anything to try to entice her to tutor their children.

She asked prospective parents if they would be prepared to take part in a trial. The teacher maintained that she would take on any children for the eleven plus – whether they were eleven plus material or not. Of course the floodgates opened as playground gossip swept across the schools. All parents were asked to do was text a number with the single word `please’.

The twenty five children to take part in the trial were then drawn at random from the hundreds that applied. (The eleven plus teacher had just completed a statistics module in her further studies.) She predicted that that the probability of all 25 passing was 0.3.

This gave the intrepid teacher some food for thought. She postulated that:

F              Four or fewer would nearly pass
S              Six would pass
                More than two would fail dismally.

The teacher had to take into account that some families would have to drive long distances – and may be forced to drop out. Other children could simply leave the scheme before taking the examination. The teacher wondered that if she actually started with forty children she may land up with twenty five.  She did not know the drop-out rate for eleven plus children who were not certain to pass.

Some even plus parents may have had to re-study probability as they work with their children on exercises and papers and will recognise the nature of this problem. Essentially the chosen twenty five will either pass or fail. If more pass than those predicted is the teacher a `super teacher’? If more fail than those predicted is the teacher a charlatan and a fraud? Will the teacher build her reputation or lose it?

Is there any certainty in the eleven plus?

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Is there an Eleven Plus Mantra?

When we look through the depth and range of eleven plus papers it is no wonder that some parents must wonder if they are setting their child the right work.

Is it possible that, occasionally, even some eleven plus teachers and tutors may also have this dilemma. Of course children are learning things when the teacher is not teaching – but is teaching simply explaining how to a range of examples drawn from an `eleven plus paper’?  

When parents are working with their children at home it is likely that their children will be learning.

I met a man today in a park. He showed, I think, great originality and a desire to fend for himself. He explained that he takes his repair stand to a variety of parks and has built up a wide circle of friends and clients.

How does he know he is at the right park? How does he know how much he can charge? I wonder if he is supporting any children through the eleven plus. But eleven plus parents do not need to take on the cares of the world. For a few short months they must focus on their children. Is a reasonable eleven plus mantra: “Any work is better than no work.”?

Friday, October 19, 2012

Pace and the Eleven Plus

During the build-up to the eleven plus examination next year some parents may feel, at times, a little overwhelmed by the sheer volume of eleven plus preparation. There are books to buy, papers to work through, home work to be done and exercises to be completed. How do parents keep track of it all?

The `Advanced Course on Eleven Plus’ may help. Of course all parents in the know call this `Pace’. We know that anagrams have been used for many years. Most parents will remember: “The sum on the square on the hypotenuse is equal to the sum of the squares on the other two sides.” Pythagoras, apparently, postulated this well-known mathematical theory and he also used anagrams in his teaching. When parents use the anagram `PACE’, they know they are following a rich tradition!

PACE requires basic familiarity with a spread-sheet.

Type of Data

Fractions to Decimals

Revision of Area

Work on 10 questions from Paper 2

A different use of the spread sheet could be to display key data pictorially.

Raw Score

Paper 3
Paper 6
Paper 7

Your Eleven Plus exercise with your resident child genius?

1.       Draw the graph
2.       Complete the labelling.
3.       Discuss why a pie graph is called a pie graph.
4.       Ask if the data could be shown differently.
5.       Remind all concerned about Pythagoras
6.       Chat about the part that anagrams play in verbal reasoning

Take your completed Pace exercise to your friend’s house and discuss progress. Try not to spend too long agonising about the eleven plus. As you know `All He Eon’ is  approaching and a discussion on costumes and food is far more important.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

An Eleven Plus Paradox

It is a pity that the eleven plus has evolved into a race for time through sets of papers. Few children have the luxury of being able to reflect and think during the test. The clock ticks remorselessly.

There has been much recent discussion about GCSE and A Level examinations. Eleven plus parents and schools do not seem to have same opportunities. Is this a case of: “Be thankful for the mark you are given. There are plenty more who would like your place!”?

Not all children who are bright and intelligent find themselves able to do justice to demands of the examination. There could be a select few who may benefit from a different type of eleven plus. Why can’t some children enjoy an eleven plus where the ability to think and come to conclusions is venerated?

What about the barber paradox?

“In the village there lives a barber who shaves all and only the people who do not shave themselves. So who shaves the barber? If he shaves himself, he does not; if he does not shave himself, he does.”

Would a group of nine or ten potential eleven plus children enjoy debating this paradox? Would leaders and the truly `grammar stream material’ emerge?

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Eleven Plus Pain - Or a Role Reversal

Parents, usually, simply want the best for their children. Observers of some parents, however, may feel the eleven plus experience is as painful for parents as their children. The pain experienced parents, however, and that of their children is not the same.
A mother can rationalise the pain by thinking: “It will be in his/her own good.”

 A child, however, could feel:” I know I have to put up with this pain because I really want to pass.” (Or words to that effect.)
We are left to an American to try to explain a little more about pain. Stanley Milgram did some research which appeared to show that many people will willingly obey orders even if not threatened with punishment. (Could this be news to any eleven plus child?)

The subjects in his experiments were required to act as teachers and learners. The teachers used a simulated shock generator and administered a shock every time the learner made a mistake. Some teachers went on to administer shocks even when they believed they would seriously harm the learner.
If any parents wish to try this experiment with their eleven children it is hoped that the pain of the shock is not too severe!

If anyone is interested then there are some basics:
Cardboard Tube
Light Bulb

Wind the wire round the tube
Suspend the magnet
Join the wire to the light bulb.

Ask your child to activate the coil.
If all this works replace the bulb with YOUR little finger.

If you are shocked – you are the learner – and your child the eleven plus teacher. This in itself could be worth the pain! (Think of the laughter!)

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

An Eleven Plus Joke

The eleven plus is quite a stuffy world. There are many experts who tell other people what to do. There seem to be many with special skills and knowledge who we listen to with bated breath as they expound the virtues of following their methods and approaches. We deal, however, with children. Why can’t the eleven plus have a little more humour?

Some of us will recall the 1982 bylaw that was passed in a town in Oregon. The council decided that at least one joke had to be told at every meeting. What about parents asking their eleven plus children to tell a joke before starting work?

A cowboy went into town on Friday and stayed there for three days. He left on Friday.
How did he do it?

Do you want the answer?
The cowboy’s horse was named `Friday’.

(As told by Kai.)
Of course mothers are always right. Take the scenario of settling on how much eleven plus work needs to be completed.

Mum to eleven plus child:
“I know a great method of setting this argument.”

“Oh yes? How?”
“You simply admit that you are wrong. I know that I am always right.”

 If your child does not appreciate your humour you could always try to lighten the atmosphere by telling another joke.
“My brother used to be in the tent business.”

“What happened?”
“It folded.”

If your child still does not understand the quickness of your wit you could ask for the joke about the vampire the garlic and the eleven plus paper. Do you remember it?

Monday, October 15, 2012

Seventy Days to Christmas

There are but seventy days left to Christmas. Can you combine Christmas presents with eleven plus presents? What a saving that would be! Your delighted child could wake up on Christmas day without yet another Harry Potter – but could have yet another eleven plus paper! Oh joy!

There is, naturally another path. This journey, perhaps, will not be as emotionally draining as coping with tears on Christmas Day but could more of a voyage of discovery. You could tidy `the bed room’. Most eleven plus bedrooms will be models of tidiness and control. Everything in its place and a place for everything! Some, however, may need a little attention. You, and the candidate, may need a plan and a strategy!

You must immediately discount the idea of the loft. Work on the `use it or lose it’ plan. Start with four large baskets.

Basket 1 – “That is my favourite. I cannot get rid of that.”

Basket 2 – “Well, let us keep that. I’ll just put it to one side. I may want it sometime in the future.”

Basket 3 – “No I don’t want that – just dump it, please.”

Basket 4 – “We can give these away. Let us find a home for these toys and books.”

If, by chance, you leave the room and return to find Basket 3 full of eleven plus paraphernalia then it time to take stock. Does your child really want to take the examination? “Oh dear, what have we done?”

You may have a tidy room – but have you lost your child? Is the eleven plus your dream, or that of your child?

With seventy day to Christmas you have plenty of time for introspection.


Sunday, October 14, 2012

The Eleven Plus Power Base

During the Middle Ages bards often used to wander the country spreading new messages and disseminating fresh ideas. Travelling artisans brought information about building and building materials. Of course the saints played a powerful role in bringing religion to the masses.

There was, however, a different model of diffusion of ideas – the universities. The brightest and the best were attracted to universities to learn at the feet of masters. Some of the oldest schools fed the universities. England still remains a magnet for students from other nations because of England’s reputation and sound teaching.

In today’s world a new form of teaching, commincation and learning has emerged. The internet has allowed a proliferation of innovative teaching methods. Social media also plays its part. Families do not need to wait for the arrival of a wandering minstrel to hear and share gossip. A Facebook or Twitter post is now available to many at the touch of a button.

Unlike the Eleven Plus parents of twenty years ago, families today can read and share thoughts and opinions without regard to physical boundaries. The power base which used to settle in the hands of few has now shifted.

John Lennon wrote a seminal song `Power To The People’ back in the early seventies. We must wonder why he didn’t add a verse  about `Power to The Eleven Plus People’.



Saturday, October 13, 2012

11+ Stones

Eleven plus children have to assimilate a lot of information in a remarkably short time. As well as assembling data and diverse problem solving skills the children have to learn how to apply what they have learnt.

At one time I must have read about `sarcen’ stones on visits to Stonehenge but, I am ashamed to say, the word did not really have much impact.  It seems that sarcen stones are found on the plains of Wiltshire and in Kent. I was out on my bike today and came across these four stones. It seems that they are made of limestone and form natural blocks.



If your child meets a verbal reasoning question

Stone is to sarcen as block is to …

You will be able to give the answer `sandstone’ with full confidence.

Friday, October 12, 2012


The Great British Bake Off is, to some of us, entertaining television. An extra ordinary range of human emotions are laid out for our delectation. We have tears and unparalleled joy. It looks as though it is not the winning but the taking part!


The recent program on `Patisserie’ allowed us an insight into the complexity of French baking. It did look, at times, as if a glorious fail was just as important as a soul searing win. The children among us (and here I include myself) would possibly have preferred a good old fashioned fudge.


Two and a half cups of water

Half a pint of water

One tin sweetened condensed milk

Four ounces of butter

Two tablespoons of golden syrup

One teaspoon of vanilla essence

It really is simple:

Put all the ingredients into a large saucepan.

Bring to boil for around twenty five minutes

Stir until the mixture cools.

Cut into squares

Eat whilst ploughing through an eleven plus verbal reasoning paper.




Thursday, October 11, 2012


Well done to all successful 11+ children.

Best wishes too to their parents and relatives.