Eleven plus

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11+ selection tests

In order to provide information for parents/carers we have assembled the frequently asked questions listed here.

Please note that we do not answer enquiries on schools or the individual achievement of pupils in the 11+ selection tests. Please direct your query to the school or Local Authority concerned.

All the information that we have available will be found on this web page.

Frequently Asked Questions

What tests do the pupils take?
How do I get past papers?
What is the 11+ pass mark?
Is it expected that candidates will complete the papers in the time allowed?
What are test scores?
Why are standardised scores not available prior to testing?
How are the results standardised to take into account the age of the candidate?
Is an allowance made for the gender of the candidate?
Are there any special arrangements for children who have special educational needs?
What are the effects of practice and coaching?

(See also: 11+ research)

What tests do the pupils take?
The school or LA (Local Authority) should be able to tell you what to expect. You may find this information on their website or published admissions guide.

Usually the Local Authority or school will have chosen to administer two, three or occasionally more of the following four types of test:

In some cases, the tests will be of a different kind, e.g. a verbal reasoning and a mathematics test and in other cases the tests will be two or more of the same kind, e.g. two or three verbal reasoning tests.

Most schools and LAs choose to administer at least one verbal reasoning test. Use of non-verbal reasoning tests is also common, with less use being made of mathematics tests and relatively low usage of English tests.

How do I get past papers?
Unlike public examinations such as National Curriculum tests, GCSEs and A levels, NFER 11+ past papers are not published.

Practice papers are available in some high street shops such as larger branches of newsagents and booksellers.

What is the 11+ pass mark?
The pass mark is determined by the Local Authority or school; therefore you should direct your enquiry to them.

Is it expected that candidates will complete the papers in the time allowed?
The selection tests are designed to be speeded. However, it is possible to complete the papers in the time allowed.

What are test scores?
Eleven-plus test scores are published by the school or Local Authority in the form of standardised scores. If more than one test is administered, the scores may be given for each test separately, or it may be that only a composite score is given. If a composite is given, it will be either the total standardised score or the average (mean) of the standardised scores.

Sometimes raw scores might also be provided. A pupil’s raw score is simply the number of questions in the test that the pupil has answered correctly.

A standardised test score is the result of translating the number of correct answers in a test (the 'raw score') into a more user-friendly score on a completely different scale, that also enables account to be taken of the pupil's age, and that allows scores from more than one test to be meaningfully added together. This process of converting raw scores to standardised scores may be referred to as standardising a test, or simply 'standardisation'.

Why are standardised scores not available prior to testing?
Tests that are sold to schools 'off-the-shelf', for purposes other than secondary selection, are usually accompanied by a standardisation table that enables the teacher to look up a pupil's standardised score. This table can be computed in advance because, prior to publication of the test, it has been administered to a large representative national sample of pupils and the standardised scores that are in the table are a reflection of the raw scores and ages of all the pupils in a national population.

In contrast, 11+ tests are generally constructed exclusively for a school or Local Authority and this is not taken before or after by any other group of pupils. Therefore, the tests are standardised using the first and only group of pupils to take the tests - the 11+ candidates - and this is known as a "local standardisation".

It should be understood that, without special adjustment, locally standardised scores are not comparable to nationally standardised scores. This is because the pupils in a national sample are specially chosen to be nationally representative, whereas this cannot necessarily be said for the group of pupils that is entered for the secondary selection tests at one particular school or in one particular Local Authority.

Click here for more information about test scores.

How are the results standardised to take into account the age of the candidates?
The age of the child is taken to the nearest completed month e.g. a child born on 03 March 1998 who takes the test on 01 November 2008 will be 10 years and 7 months. His/her scores will be standardised by taking into account the scores and ages of all the candidates that took the test on the same day. There is no set table because the candidates are compared with their cohort of children who took the test at that school on that day. For more information click here. For an example of an age standardisation table click here

Is an allowance made for the gender of the candidate?
No. Tests from boys and girls are marked and standardised in exactly the same way.

Are there any special arrangements for children who have special educational needs?
Some pupils who apply to enter a secondary selection procedure may be considered to be at a disadvantage due to the testing arrangements that would normally apply. NFER issues the following guidelines to schools and Local Authorities concerning the issue of special arrangements for such pupils. However, the National Foundation for Educational Research cannot accept any liability arising from the use of the guidelines contained in this document howsoever arising. It remains the responsibility of the Local Authority or school conducting the selection to ensure that their selection procedures or special educational needs are in accordance with the Code of Practice contained in the Disability Discrimination Act 2001. The use of these guidelines cannot be relied upon by the Local Authority or school as ensuring that their procedures are in accordance with the requirements of the Disability Discrimination Act.

The Special Educational Needs and Disability Act 2001 requires responsible bodies to take reasonable steps to ensure that disabled pupils are not placed at a substantial disadvantage. In deciding which pupils should be granted special arrangements, it is recommended that schools or Local Authorities should refer to the guidance within the Disability Discrimination Act Code of Practice (Schools). The provision of special arrangements should be based on the on-going support that individual pupils normally receive and therefore, wherever possible, the test conditions should mirror those in which the pupil normally works. Such decisions would typically be based on evidence gathered over a period of time by the pupil's school, although there may be a need to evaluate information provided from outside of the school that is presented closer to the time of testing. The responsible authority should ensure that information is from an appropriate professional source.

Some examples of special arrangements are large-print tests for visually impaired pupils, an amanuensis for pupils with writing difficulty and extra time for pupils with a statement of special educational needs that indicates this is necessary. Other arrangements may include rest breaks, the use of a reader, or a longer practice period. Generally, schools are advised to offer the same level of support as would be given in normal classroom practice. Special arrangements that offer candidates an unfair advantage over others or that give rise to misleading information should not be made. Where extra testing time is allowed, this should not normally exceed an extra 25 per cent.

Because it may not be possible to establish for certain that the special arrangements perfectly compensate for the nature and extent of the disadvantage, the special testing arrangement should be noted alongside the test score and taken into account in any borderline decision.

Consideration should always be given to the individual needs of pupils. In all the above, it is assumed that the school or LA has taken the decision in the first place that the test papers and their method of administration constitute a suitable form of assessment for the disadvantaged pupil. In certain circumstances, it may be decided that a test is wholly inappropriate for a particular pupil.

Therefore, whilst the responsibility for the selection procedure rests with the school or Local Authority, NFER's recommendation is that all results must be interpreted in the light of the specific circumstances of individual pupils and a professional judgement made.

What are the effects of practice and coaching?
Strictly speaking, practice and coaching are separate activities. Coaching takes place when children are actually taught the best way to answer the test questions. Practice is simply sitting down and attempting to answer questions that are similar to the ones in the real test.

In the past, much research was conducted by psychologists into the effects of practice and coaching. This research was summarised by Jensen (1980) and found, for example:

  • practice and coaching effects can be slightly greater for non-verbal tests than for verbal
  • more able and moderately bright pupils can gain more from practice and coaching than less able pupils
  • practice effects are greater for tests that have a time-limit compared to those without a time limit

The research also found diminishing returns with increased practice and coaching. For example the practice gain between the first and second sessions was usually as great as the total benefit from all further practice. This research went on to suggest that there is no significant gain after about five practice sessions and that there is no significant benefit from more than a few hours of coaching. Furthermore the typical gains in test scores resulting from practice were in the region of 4 to 5 standardised score points and the gains in score resulting from coaching were also around 4 to 5 standardised score points.

More recently, research has also been conducted by Bunting & Mooney (2001) into the effects of familiarisation/practice and coaching on verbal and numerical test scores. The scores obtained from the tests which were originally developed for the Northern Ireland transfer procedure in the 1980s, found that “the effects of familiarisation/practice did not produce a significant change in the means.  Coaching for a period of 3 hours did produce a statistically significant shift in the means, though the individuals maintained their rank order.  The effect of sustained coaching over a period of 9 months is shown to be substantial.” (Standardised score point gains however are not discussed in this study).The research did not incorporate multi level modelling to take account of the hierarchical nature of the data. Also, without a comparison group it is difficult to know whether some of the long term benefits of coaching might just be attributable to normal child development.


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