When an eleven plus child sits a multiple choice paper, there could be a chance of him or her making a number of random errors. A random error on a paper may, for example, be meaning to select one answer and marking a different one. A constant error would be a child choosing to fill in the second multiple choice answer on every question. This would produce a random error – but would be a random error by design. Some questions, at least, would be correct!
When the examiners design eleven papers they try to eliminate all the possible sources of constant errors. They cannot, however, do anything about a child who finds the paper too hard and thus adopts a comforting strategy of selecting answers at random.
If examiners tried to eliminate random errors on eleven plus papers then they would have to work with a cohort of children of identical ability and having the same educational opportunities. Some comprehension questions, for example, may require a strong reading vocabulary while other questions look for inferences.
On the day of the examination all the children would need to have the same breakfast, arrive at school in the same calm but positive frame of mind and all the children would need to have the same number of sharpened pencils. The list to try to eliminate randomness must go on and on. On an eleven plus mock day, some time ago, there was an accident in the road near to one family’s house. There was a hold up while the cars were moved. The candidate’s car was not affected – but could not turn around because of the build-up of traffic. A rather stressed mother arrived dragging her child by the arm. “Are we too late?”
Eleven plus examiners have much to answer for – but cannot take into account any or all random events beyond their control.