Assessing the revised 11-plus
THEREAREmanychanges taking place in the 11-plus assessments this year and these are causing anxiety among parents of children seeking entrance to selective schools. The current trends and changes in 11-plus assessment methods are in most cases aimed at delivering a “tutorproof” approach, but it is still possible to make sound preparations to allow students to face them with confidence.
There is obviously an impact on the right approach to students’ learning and practice for these tests and it is helpful to seek advice on how best to support children. A well-informed and professional tutor will still be able to provide the necessary focused support and level of challenge to meet the new requirements.
SCHOOL OPTIONS AT 11 schools or private schools that are also often selective. In deciding what to aim for, it is important to remember that the “right school” is where a child is going to be happy and reach his or her personal academic potential, rather than simply the school with the best league table position or overall results.
Top grammar schools are looking for standardised scores well above the national average. Applying to these schools is not for the faint-hearted and should be attempted only if the child has been assessed as having the academic ability to succeed. Assessment is key in deciding which schools are a potentially right for a child and it is only once the child’s potential is established that a plan of action to approach the exams should be made.
A child should never be intensively tutored to attempt to gain entry to a school whose academic requirements are beyond their abilities. Even if this is achieved and they escape an avoidable experience of failure, they would almost certainly struggle to keep up with their peers once they attended the school. Practice still improves performance
STATE SCHOOL TRENDS
State schools are now increasing their use of computerised tests. The combinations of tests are varied, but reasoning tests will be heavily featured, including cognitive and abstract reasoning.
Abstract reasoning testing, for example, is designed to assess lateral thinking skills — the ability to quickly identify patterns, rules and trends in given information, to integrate this and apply it to solve problems.
Practising such challenges cannot create these skills but can develop performance and help a child achieve to the best of their ability on the day.
For independent schools, interviews are often an important element and may be conducted in groups, pairs or as individuals.
One key change this year is the stated aim to really understand the way the child thinks.
Coaching children in answers to specific questions has never been a good idea and would not help at all here, but children can still benefit from practice in answering the type of questions that would reveal the way they think through and consider their answers before delivering them.
CEM OR GL?
CEM and GL are the two different exam boards that are the examiners for the 11-plus in virtually all regions where the 11-plus is still used. Both GL and CEM exams cover broadly the same 11-plus topics — English, maths, verbal and non-verbal reasoning/spatial awareness exercises, but there are very real differences between GL and CEM 11-plus exams. It is vital that you know which exam board is being used.
For both types of tests, but especially CEM-examined tests, time-management skills are of great importance. Coping with this requires plenty of timed practice in the run-up to the exams.
The primary skills required for the CEM exams are strong English, comprehension, a deep and rich vocabulary, spelling and maths skills.
CEM verbal reasoning is very different to that of GL and success is dependent on children having a much more wide-ranging vocabulary.
The CEM format differs from the GL format. One key difference between the two examining boards is that CEM papers are mixed, with one exam combining English and verbal reasoning and another combining maths and non-verbal reasoning.
The GL exam format varies from region to region, but most GL 11-plus exams are either standard format or multiple choice. The length of the test papers also varies, although 45 minutes is most common.
The primary skills required for the GL exams are strong vocabulary, logic, maths and spelling skills.
Whichever exam board is involved, the key focus areas for preparation should be the development of vocabulary and maths skills, plus plenty of practice in all the elements including the various reasoning tests.
The changing 11-plus exams may be intended to be “tutor proof”, but it is a fact that well-guided practice and preparation for any exam are never wasted.
JK Educate is an expert in preparing children for the 11-plus exams for state selective and independent schools and offers academic assessments for all children, including suitability for the 11-plus. For more details on the specific entrance requirements and new assessment approaches of the individual schools that interest you, contact JK Educate, 020 3488 0754 or see jkeducate.co.uk