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The Buckinghamshire Eleven Plus School Entrance Test
How the Exam Works.
There are 21 identifiable question types that may appear in the Buckinghamshire 11 plus selection test.
There are two eleven plus papers taken over a period of a week around the beginning October by children in year 6.
Each paper contains 80 questions and covers 12 different question types.Each paper therefore has a different mixture of question types. Each type of question could be covered at least once over the two papers, some may appear twice.
Children answer the questions using a multiple choice answer sheet. They need to mark one or two answers from a choice of five or six options, depending on the question type.
The answer sheets bear a resemblance to lottery number forms and are completed by striking through the appropriate answer box with a pencil.
Children get the chance to experience all these types of questions in the familiarization pack provided by Bucks County Council. This contains a work book covering all the types of questions that might appear on the real test. This year there are 3 practice papers, although we are not sure whether all three will be part of the pack. The familiarization sessions will be starting in school before the sumer holidays and the practice tests taken in school in September. If you are an applicant from outside the county, or in a school outside the county, the pack will be mailed to you or your primary school only when you register to take the examination.
Children have 50 minutes to complete each test.
How the System Works.
The county of Buckinghamshire is one of the very few in the country to still operate a selective secondary education system. Selection exams take place at the beginning of Year 6 for children aged 10/11. The results of these exams form the basis of the selection process. The children with the very best results will be “passed”, but a significant number of places are held back. Some of these will be taken by children who live outside the county, the remaining places will be allocated after “appeals” have been heard.
Preparation for the examination is limited in the county’s state primary schools where a strict procedure must be adhered to. Private schools. however, seem to have more scope in their preparations.
How the scores are calculated.
Children take two papers, each containing 80 questions. These papers are provided by NFER.
The papers are then sent back to Bucks County Council who forward them to NFER to be marked. The multiple choice answer sheets are automatically marked by an electronic optical reader.
Apparently the higher of the two scores will be used. We need to confirm this as we were first told that an average of the two would be used. We will update this page as soon as we know for sure.
A computer programme then standardizes this score. It also calculates the initial “pass” score. This will be calculated using such information as the number of grammar school places available in a specific area. Children who achieve this score should be offered a place at a grammar school without the need to resort to the review and appeals procedures. Standardisation.
Standardization is the process used in many educational tests that creates a level playing field between entrants by making adjustments because of their variety in age. Adjustments may be made using other criteria, but we cannot find anyone to confirm or deny this. Our research continues!
Scores obtained from the test sheets are known as raw scores. A computer program then makes mathematical adjustments using the standardization criteria. The final score is known as the standardized score. This is the score that parents become aware of and is used in the selection process. This standardized score is NOT a score out of 160. ( I.e. two papers of 80 marks each.)
Usually the top score obtainable is 141, and the pass mark is around 121.
How Many Children Are Selected?
There have been a variety of figures, published and hearsay, regarding the proportion of entrants who achieve selection to the grammar school system. The figure of 30% that so many parents seem to be aware of is TOTALLY INACCURATE.
We are currently researching the numbers of children from state primary schools that achieve selection.
We know that there are many children who take the test who attend independent schools. Rightly or wrongly, these schools are allowed to practise 11+ technique much more than State schools.
There is also a significant number of children who are admitted to the county’s grammar schools from outside the county. However, there is evidence that this is changing and that the number is coming down.
It may be that 30% of pupils of secondary school age attend the county’s grammar schools. This takes into account the large number of pupils in the 6th forms. Grammar schools have large 6th forms compared with other secondary schools. This does not take into account those who attended other secondary schools and go on to train at colleges of further education. College numbers do not contribute to the education authority’s figures.
We need to look at the percentage of children who are “selected” at the end of year 6. This is certainly not 30% from state primary schools in Buckinghamshire.
With the enormous numbers of new family homes being built in the county the number of children is increasing all the time, but the number of grammar school places remains fairly static – so expect the percentage of pupils achieving a place to decline.
Preparation for the Buckinghamshire 11+ Test.
“When anyone takes the test it is important that they understand exactly what they have to do. If some people are more used to taking tests than others, this could lead to differences in performance. For example, people with more experience might be more relaxed about taking the test, need to spend less time reading the instructions, and have more time to think about what answers to give.”
©NFER-Nelson 1999 from familiarization booklet for 2002 allocation.In School: Year 6 children attending primary schools in Buckinghamshire will work on the materials in the familiarization pack in class. Schools should allow 5 lessons for children to work on practice questions. The teacher will help to explain the techniques involved in each type of question.
From this year participating children will then undertake THREE complete practice papers lasting 50 minutes and comprised of 80 questions. These should be administered by the school under examination conditions.
Private schools are provided with a Bucks’ familiarization pack for each participating child. They will administer familiarization practice sessions and tests in the same way as state schools.
We are aware, however, that some private schools also use some of the commercially available materials and have regular verbal reasoning lessons and tests in class. This is not “encouraged” in state schools. Other Entrants:: Entrants attending schools outside the county will receive a familiarization pack from the county through the post or through their local school. They will need to work through the familiarization process themselves. Types of Question: We regard the types of questions in the Buckinghamshire 11+ test as falling into three broad categories:
Those that require vocabulary skills.
Those that require mental maths skills.
Those that require a child to identify, copy and complete patterns/codes.
The technique for the last category can be taught and practised close to the examination, but the level of vocabulary and mental maths skills required for the other two types needs to be built up over a much greater period of time regardless of time spent practising technique.Practice papers: Many parents will buy practice papers for their children to work through at home.
Buckinghamshire, however, is not the only authority to use the 11 plus examination as a means of selection for secondary school entrance. There are also many individual schools around the country that use similar tests as part of their admissions programme.
These examinations differ from area to area and school to school.
There are many published papers that cover the 11 plus. Whilst all of these are professionally produced and contain good material they are not necessarily of benefit for children working towards the 11+ in Buckinghamshire.
Buckinghamshire uses NFER to provide the tests used in the “real” test. However, the NFER practice packs that are on sale in bookshops DO NOT COVER ALL THE TYPES OF QUESTION USED IN THE BUCKINGHAMSHIRE TEST, despite claiming that their practice tests “mirror” the real thing …. THEY DON’T. 6 out of the 21 types of question do not appear in these papers. That is 29% not covered. This is based on the question types used by NFER in the Familiarization Pack, which every entrant receives or uses in school.
You should also be aware that Buckinghamshire only uses Verbal Reasoning papers. ( You do not need to buy non-verbal reasoning, Maths or English 11+ materials.)
One publisher that covers ALL the question types in EXACTLY THE SAME WAY as they may occur in the “real” Buckinghamshire test is IPS Educational Publishing.
CD Roms: Once again, a growth industry. Remember that your child is going to be sitting an exam in a hall or classroom with a piece of paper and a pencil … NOT a computer keyboard, screen and mouse! Tutors: Many parents are now using the services of private tutors or extra summer classes to make sure that their children attain their highest potential.
Sadly, we seem to be at the stage when many of those children who haven’t had extra tuition or practice at home will stand little chance of getting through the selection procedure and entering a grammar school.
Over the past year we have become aware of many tutors and group classes who don’t seem to know much about the 11+ in Bucks. They “teach” using materials that are not really suitable for the Bucks 11 Plus. Others teach using standard format papers and materials. There are different techniques that can be applied to MULTIPLE CHOICE papers. If the tutor or group class is worth their money they should be explaining these as well.
If you want to see what type of questions your child will get in the exam we suggest that you look at the IPS papers which cover ALL the question types used in the Bucks exam.
There are some tutors out there who will claim very high success rates. Some of these people will often vet the children they tutor, choosing only the ones who have very high potential, then charge an absolute fortune ( because of their high success rate! ) and actually do very little except baby-sit whilst your child does some papers.
There are some excellent, caring professionals out there who do a great job in maximizing a child’s potential, but take your time in selecting a tutor. Go on personal recommendation if you can and monitor what is going on in the lessons.
Tutoring is a growth business, and as with many businesses there are those who are out to make lots of money for little work. Check what the tutors will be teaching before you sign up, ask what practice papers will be used, etc. Keep monitoring the situation. Expect to pay for copies of good materials, Beware of those who buy a few books in Smiths and photocopy the pages time and time again. If they can screw the publishers and writers they will have no qualms in screwing you!
We are sure that we do not have to remind you about employing someone who has not had a police check carried out. Serving teachers are automatically checked by the local authority. On-line Tutors: Remember that these sites often try to cater for clients in all parts of the country, not just Bucks.
We have seen some outrageous prices asked for “on-line” services. Before signing up make sure you know what you are going to get. Look at examples, ask for references and endorsements. Ring up and speak to satisfied customers. CHECK, CHECK, CHECK. Make sure that the tutors know about the Bucks 11+ exam. Ask what materials they will be using. Several of these sites don’t even have examples, or have so few that you cannot judge the content of the course. Make sure that you know the policy about getting your money back if you are not satisfied within the first few weeks. Once again we have heard a couple of horror stories about people who have signed up, paid a substantial sum, found that the course was not up to scratch, and been told that they cannot get their money back.
Some people will offer a “service” whereby you do some papers and they tell you what to work on. We are sure that if you buy a few papers yourself you will be able to see where the child is going wrong – not rocket science. Buy a good tutorial or method and technique book and save money.
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