The Wirral 11+ Selection Test
|Author: Mike Edwards||Published: 30th August 2010 15:47|
The aims of this article are to inform parents of children who are considering entering their children for the Wirral LEA Grammar school 11+ selection tests.
We will guide you through the process, format and content of the tests and give you the knowledge that will help you prepare your children effectively, using the correct resources and techniques.
Each year many children from Neston and the surrounding area sit 11+ selection tests for Wirral grammar schools.
Children who do not attend a Wirral primary school are labelled "Out of County" (OOC) and are a separate category within the cohort that takes the test.
An OOC child does not receive the full familiarisation programme provided in the Wirral primary schools and a pass does not guarantee a place, because criteria such as the distance a child lives from the school and whether the child has a sibling at the school are taken into account. What is definite is that an OOC child that does not pass the test will not be offered a grammar school place.
Parents of children who do pass the test but are not offered a place often find themselves entering the Appeals Process which although independent of the Local Authority can be a lottery, particularly if the child attends a primary school where the headteacher does not agree with the selection process and refuses to be supportive.
These issues aside, the main chance of attaining a grammar school place for an OOC child is for the child to pass the selection test. This in itself is a difficult task because of the high pass mark; in the region of 85-90%. As such parents depend on their own knowledge and abilities or the services of a private tutor to provide intensive preparation for the selection tests. Close to 100% of all children who pass the selection tests would have received such tuition.
OOC parents find themselves at a number of disadvantages; unfamiliarity with the selection process and the format and content of the tests are the key issues, together with their tutoring skills and importantly whether they can afford resources and the services of a private tutor. Parents who are familiar with the process and can afford it spend around £25 per hour for tuition and a further amount on purchasing resources. The cost can be in excess of £2500 for children tutored over a two year period, which is not uncommon.
A further disadvantage occurs because of the high number of children attending independent schools who now sit the grammar school selection tests. These children are intensively coached within their preparatory schools and parents of these children also pay for additional private tuition.
Wirral LEA set one of the easier formatted 11+ selection tests in the country; which is one reason why the pass mark is so high. A good private tutor will coach a child to complete practice papers quickly and accurately to around 90% immediately before the actual test.
There are two separate tests of 80 questions to be completed in 50 minutes. The scores for the two tests are added together to give a raw score then standardised for age differences to give a final score. The LEA then selects a cut-off point depending on the number of school places available. This cut-off point can vary from year to year, but for general guidance a raw score between 85-90% should be high enough for a pass.
The content of the test is Verbal Reasoning with multiple-choice questions. The questions come from a database provided by the National Federation for Education Research (NFER) and is administered by GL Assessment (formally NFERnelson). There are 21 different question types with variances within the question types and a range of difficulty levels.
Verbal Reasoning is not part of the National Curriculum, although there are some elements of the questions that would be covered the multiple-choice and logic is not. This is why children need to be prepared independently of their primary school.
Some parents start the preparation process up to two years prior to the tests. However the process can be condensed into about twelve weeks, without being too intensive, if both the parent and child are committed to a fixed time frame.
Before introducing the child to the process the parent must familiarise themselves with the question types and the methods and techniques needed to complete them.
Set aside two one hour periods for tuition time that must be fixed, it is important that these times are fixed and there should be no excuses for cancelling them. However, if this is not possible any cancelled session must be rearranged.
In the first six weeks the child should be introduced to the individual question types, shown the methods and techniques and complete some sample questions. Monitor their performance there will be some questions that they find easy, so encourage them to complete these questions quickly. They will also find some questions difficult and will need to spend more time on them, but practice will always improve their knowledge and accuracy.
Always encourage the child and end each session with a positive comment. Start introducing the 11+ process into general conversations and let family members and friends know how well the child is progressing and how much you are enjoying the process.
Around the seventh week introduce the first full test paper, but do not expect your child to complete it within the time limit, accuracy is more important than speed. Speed will increase with practice. Let the child work at their own pace; if they are stuck on a question encourage them to move on, most questions can be completed in less than thirty seconds. Review the test paper with the child, there will be some question types that will need revising, go back to the methods and techniques for these questions.
On the tenth week introduce two additional half hour sessions. These sessions are to be used to complete short practice papers; preparation is starting to become a continuous process as it leads towards the actual test.
Wirral LEA provides two mock tests immediately before the actual test. Children often find the first test difficult due to unfamiliarity of the surroundings and the formality of the process. It is usual for children to think that they have not done well because they missed out one or two questions. There is no feedback given for the tests. Now is not the time to worry or create anxieties, try to stay calm.
Two days before the actual test, set up a mock test with a paper that the child has not seen. Ensure that you create an environment close to the real thing, there must be no distractions. You will need to time the test accurately and let the child know when there is fifteen minutes; then five minutes left.
On the day of the first test give the child a short paper to complete as a means of focussing their minds on verbal reasoning; then make sure they go to the toilet.
After the test, discuss the content of the paper and identify the question types that were on it, there will be eight or nine types that were not included; these will definitely appear on the second paper so you need to focus on them using the method and technique questions.
Once the second test is completed there is nothing more you can do, there will be a sense of anti-climax, go and treat yourself.
The results will be given to you in the first week of March.
It is important that you only obtain Verbal Reasoning resources.
Method and Technique course covering all 21 question types from the NFER database with graded sample questions. The course must include a wide range of variances within the question types.
Long test papers that mirror the actual test; all 21 question types must be included across two papers.
Short test papers for supplementary use and continual practice; all 21 question types must be included within each set of papers.
Interactive CD-downloads covering all 21 question types and full test papers.
Article by Mike Edwards