Our resident Educational Expert, Clare Rimmer answers a Mums question about the transfer test (or 11 plus). If you're confused or worried about the transfer test and how your child will cope, this advice will help you and your child prepare as best you can for the stress of the 11 plus.
A regular MumsNI Mum Pattie asked this question in the forum topic "Advice about Transfer Tests":
I am wondering if anyone can give me some advice about the transfer tests.
My oldest is in P4 and I'm not looking forward to the next few years when he's preparing for moving schools.
There's so much misinformation out there and the school is no help! The other parents are no help because they have different opinions as well.
He goes to a catholic school and I'd love him to go to the local grammar if possible.
Can anyone give me an idiots guide to what's happening with transfer tests?
We are very grateful for Clare Rimmer who offered this amazingly helpful advice to Pattie, and all mums who need advice on the transfer test.
Firstly, don’t panic. Your son is in P4 and has plenty of time left to learn the Transfer curriculum and do well enough to get a grammar school place. Your main aim at the moment is just to make sure he is a happy, confident learner and that there are not any gaps in his learning. If you are happy and his teacher is happy at this stage then you are doing the right thing and he is on track.
Having now gone through the Transfer Test process with my own daughter in 2015 I know the system from both the side of the teacher and the stressed parent. As the owner of On Target Tuition in Lisburn we guide parents and students through this process every year. It can be stressful but if you are in possession of the right information and you stay focussed on keeping your child calm you will come out the other end, hopefully with the results you want.
The first important thing to remember is that the Transfer Tests are now unregulated exams. Primary schools are not involved in the administrative side of the tests, therefore parents have to register their child for either the CEA (Common Entrance Tests) organised by AQE or the GL test organised by the (Post Primary Transfer Consortium).
As a parent it is up to you to decide which tests your child will take and it really depends on the selection of Grammar schools you have on your wish list. I would highly advise visiting the schools on their open days in your child’s P6 year. This gives you a chance to make a considered decision. It will also allow your child to understand what all their hard work is for. I found with my own daughter that it wasn’t until she made the decision that she really wanted to go to a particular school that she had the drive to do the extra work required to get her there! Some schools accept both the AQE and the GL results and many parents depending on the pool of schools they are looking at decide that their child will sit both tests to give them the best chance. Parents need to check which schools accept which tests as this has varied from year to year. Generally the Catholic Grammars use the GL test.
The tests take place over a four week period beginning around the middle of November. AQE offer three tests which take place on the first, third and fourth Saturday finishing in the first week of December. Only the marks in the better two tests in the AQE will count, but it is recommended to sit the three tests making allowance for an ‘off’ day. The GL test takes place in the second week and is only one test using a multiple choice format.
The application process opens around May for both tests. Forms are available online at aqe.org.uk or from pptcni.com.
There is an administrative fee for the AQE test of £48 and no charge for the GL test. You have to nominate a school to take the test and places are offered on a first come first-served basis. Ideally, you want the school nearest to you which lessens the stress of arriving on time for the test on a Saturday morning. It doesn’t have to be the school that you wish your child to attend at the end of the process.
Your child will have to take on board the P6 and most of the P7 curriculum by the November of their P7 year and this can understandably be overwhelming. It is really important to make sure that by the end of P5 they have a strong grasp of their times tables and division. Consider how confident they are at problem solving questions in maths. This is often a weakness and may be something your child needs support with. The maths element of the test is heavily weighted towards problems.
If you can encourage your child to read regularly then this will also be an enormous bonus. Children who are fluent readers and have a developed vocabulary will perform well in the English part of the test. There is sufficient time to cover all areas of the curriculum in P6 and P7, but at the same time there is hard work ahead.
The tests are based on the KS2 curriculum. In maths the starting point is time tables – these must be known in order to be able to confidently take on board fractions, decimals and percentages. Maths questions vary with one step, two step and on occasion three steps of working required to reach an answer.
In English what is tested includes reading comprehension, synonyms, antonyms, spelling, grammar and punctuation, homophones, alphabetical order and ability to recognise onomatopoeia and alliteration and rhyme in poetry.
Don’t be tempted to make your child sit past papers too early on in the process. They need to have covered the majority of the curriculum if they are going to have any chance of success. If you start with papers too early you risk making them feel like a failure and knocking their confidence. Most schools wait until after Easter of the P6 year before introducing full past papers. The questions should be used wisely as a tool to address any areas to be revised and also to give your child a flavour of how to answer the questions. Exam technique is crucial. In the AQE test you may need to answer more than one question correctly before a mark is given. In the GL multiple choice format test, the student needs to be confident to choose the answer they consider correct and not be persuaded by another ‘better looking’ answer.
I hope that information helps.
Note from MumsNI:
We are very grateful for Clare for offering this advice and we'd love you to visit her site and check out her excellent tuition service where she offers this type of amazing advice for parents and kids.
If you wish to discuss any aspect of your child's education with other mums then please visit the forums here.Tagged with: 11 plus, advice for exam time, exam stress, mental health for kids, preparing for transfer test
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