Would it be true to say that there is a good deal of spurious accuracy in any single figure that purports to show the true ability of a child? A child who achieves 125 in verbal reasoning and 130 in mathematics but only 112 in nonverbal reasoning can easily fail the eleven plus. The same child may be amazing good at playing the flute and a master of chess – but still achieve a low mark in the actual examination.
We do not, however, have to assume that variability is the fault of the nonverbal test. The child may simply have shown some degree of variability in performance.
Suppose, however, that the same child had constantly done very well with any preparation exercises? What if the child had always done very well on earlier school tests with reasonable consistency? Any subsequent effort on the part of the school or the parents would be reduced to decisions beyond their control.
The value and provenance of ability tests are sometimes questioned. Anecdotal experience, however, seems to suggest that coaching and expert tutoring can help children to do well on ability tests.
Reading and then understanding the instructions at the beginning of the test can affect performance. Children also have to be confident that there are no trick questions. They should also be aware that they should often consider a variety of options before answering a question.
A different problem for some children is time. There is limited time for tests and children have to take this into account. If a child lingers too long over one question he or she may leave too little time to be able to complete the paper.