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16 key questions and answers about new 11+ exams
6:00pm Wednesday 9th January 2013 in News
AS the new style 11+ exams are this evening revealed by the 13 grammar schools in Bucks, here is a list of key questions and answers they have compiled to address parents' queries.
1. Why do there have to be tests?
Buckinghamshire is a selective authority for secondary school admissions and the Department for Education (DfE) determined that the grammar schools should retain their selective status when they became academies. As a result there has to be an objective and independent way of determining which children are admitted to the grammar schools in the County. Externally set tests are therefore a way of ensuring that the admissions system is as fair as possible for all pupils.
2. How many tests will there be?
There will be two tests.
3. How long will each test take?
Each test will take about 45-50 minutes so that it can be taken within a normal lesson time.
4. Why are these tests different from the current tests?
The new tests reflect modern research into the nature of ability and the quite widely-held view that people have multiple abilities. It is therefore appropriate to the pupils to test their ability to think in a range of different contexts.
5. What do the tests assess?
The tests are tests of ability: they assess verbal ability, numerical ability and non-verbal ability. This enables children to demonstrate their abilities in a range of contexts and not just verbally as with the current tests.
6. Who is providing the tests?
The test provider was selected after a full tendering process undertaken by the grammar schools. The successful tenderer is CEM: The Centre for Evaluation and Monitoring at Durham University. CEM has a long and successful track record of developing tests for use in selection (for both independent and state schools) and for monitoring and analysing pupil progress (mainly in secondary schools).
7. When will the tests be taken?
The tests will be taken in September, probably during the second week of the month, although a definite test date has not yet been confirmed. This timetable is driven by the requirement of the government that pupils should know the outcomes of selective assessments before finalising their secondary school preferences at the end of October.
8. Will the tests be on separate days?
Both tests will probably be taken on the same day. CEM’s advice and experience is that this is both feasible within a primary school timetable and desirable in terms of reducing the stress on the children. They will, after all, be taking more than one SAT test on the same day towards the end of Year 6.
9. How will the tests be marked?
The two tests will be machine-marked. The tests will be in a multiple-choice format and the pupils will complete machine-readable answer sheets.
10. What allowances will be made for pupils with special needs?
Details of these allowances have still to be agreed with County officers but, for example, there will be the opportunity for pupils to be given up to 25% extra time, which is a standard allowance for some pupils with special needs, and large print versions will be available.
11. What will the qualifying mark be?
The 11+ tests do not have a pass mark. There is a qualifying score for admission to grammar school and that will remain at an age-standardised score of 121.
12. Will pupils be able to practise for the tests?
Yes. First, they will be given a leaflet familiarising them with the testing procedure, giving them some test-taking advice and giving them a few example questions. They will be able to take this home. Then, before taking the tests the pupils will be given two preparation papers each lasting about 25-30 minutes containing test items that mirror what they will find in the full tests. The purpose of this exercise is to give the pupils experience of test-taking conditions as well as giving them the opportunity to work through example test material. The preparation papers will not be marked or taken away from the school.
13. Why can’t parents see the preparation papers?
CEM does not publish any practice books of its types of tests and it wants circulation of test materials to be kept to a minimum so as to maintain the integrity and fairness of its tests. The grammar schools are responding to these concerns.
14. How can parents best help their children to prepare for the tests?
There are a number of things that parents can do to help their children. They can ensure that they have experience of working quietly on their own, uninterrupted by noise or distractions. They can ensure that they do any homework that is set. They can help their children to read with understanding, for example by asking them what certain words mean and what is happening in the passage or book that they are reading. They can encourage them to solve problems by themselves or to look up things for themselves.
15. How do you know these new tests are going to work?
As is their usual practice, CEM trials materials that are developed for its tests and, as part of this process, one of three sets of trials this year will be held in Buckinghamshire to ensure that the new tests are of the appropriate standard. It is proposed that about 1000 primary school pupils will take part in this trial later in the Spring term. The tests taken next September will of course comprise entirely new material.
16. Will primary schools be measured by their 11+ results?
No. All schools aim to give their pupils a thorough grounding in key skills and a broad introduction to areas of knowledge so that they are properly prepared for their later education whichever type of school they go to. Primary schools (like all schools) are measured by the quality of their teaching and learning.