The Transfer Test Journey - Mums NI - A Hub For Parents in Northern Ireland

The Transfer Test Journey

The Transfer Test Journey

The Transfer Test Journey
Stephen McConkey
Written by Stephen McConkey on Thursday, 05 March 2020 Posted in: Your Kids Education

An experienced class teacher and headteacher talks about The Transfer Test Journey. He gives us some insights into preparation and the administration involved in the process. 

We are grateful to Stephen McConkey for his thoughts.

The Transfer Test Journey

The Transfer Test is the equivalent of the 11plus exam in England and is used to select pupils for a place in a grammar school starting in year 8 (first form to some of us). It can be a long and anxious journey for both parents and children. 

The present P7 pupils finish their journey in January in the calendar year that they will move to secondary or grammar school. They have received their AQE or GL result (maybe both) and now have a better idea if they will get that much cherished grammar school place in the following September.

While many parents think that the journey starts in P6 they must realise that the journey starts long before P6.

The Transfer Test – AQE or GL versions are based firmly on the Northern Ireland Programs of Study in both English and maths. So, a parent cannot expect their child to come to grasps with all this content in just one academic year. 

The journey starts much earlier in their school career and while this fact may not be recognised by parents everything their child learns in school will contribute to the child’s ability to compete successfully in the Transfer Tests. 

As already stated, both the AQE and GL versions of the Transfer Test are based on the English and maths taught in every primary school in Northern Ireland. This teaching starts right from P1 where a child learns the basics of reading, writing and counting. As the child progresses through school, they build their skills and knowledge year on year.

So just from this simple understanding of how a child learns in school we can see that it is a long journey to the actual Transfer Test in P7. When I taught P7 it was common for parents to comment that P7 was “the big year.” While it is usually the most intense year with regards to actually sitting the Transfer Test all the previous teaching and learning, both at home and in school, are crucial to gaining a good score in the final test.

It is unlikely, but not impossible, for a child to make up lost ground in the short period from entering P7 in September to sitting the test a few short weeks later. 

With a change in the law some years ago schools are now permitted to “teach to the test” and prepare their pupils for the Transfer Test with supplementary exam technique practice and additional classes in English and maths. The intensity of this preparation varies from school to school and this extra work often starts, for P6, after the February half-term ends.

Many parents will want to do additional preparation at home either by the parent themselves or by employing a tutor. Most parents will be capable of providing their child with opportunities to do extra tests and extra work and revision in both English and maths.

Conscious that the level of Transfer Test preparation does increase in P6 remember that the work will be based upon the knowledge gained in P4 and P5 plus earlier years in school. Slow and steady preparation will make the journey easier and less stressful for both parents and child.

As a P6 and P7 class teacher I dealt with the English and maths content needed to sit the Transfer Test but when I became a headteacher I helped parents deal with the logistics and administration related to the actual Transfer Test. I also had to manage their expectations for their child. 

So how does a parent navigate the administration aspect of the Transfer Test?

It should be remembered that these Transfer Tests are not set by the Education Authority but by two independent bodies AQE (Ltd) and PPTCNI and schools are not obliged to help parents with any administration related to the Transfer Tests. Both the above sites contain all the information you need and remember there are certain dates that cannot be missed! (Children do not have to sit any version of the Transfer Test if their parents’/guardians’ don’t want them to.)

The Calendar for the whole Transfer Test journey looks something like this:-


Children follow Northern Ireland curriculum for English and maths – the content that the Transfer Test is based upon.

February in child’s P6 year. 

Many schools begin more intensive practice and preparation for the Transfer Test.

May in child’s P6 year. 

Both organising bodies issue relevant dates on their website.

September in child’s P7 year. 

Applications to register to sit the test closes.

November/December in child’s P7 year. 

The tests and any supplementary tests (eg for a child who missed a test through illness) are taken by the children.

January in child’s P7 year. 

The results are issued to the child’s home.

There will be a deadline to ask for a remark of the test paper.

January/February/March in child’s P7 year. 

Primary school principal facilitates parents as they complete Transfer Form where they choose the school(s) they want their child to attend.

May/June in child’s P7 year. 

Parents are informed what school that their child has been placed in for the following September. Parents can appeal this decision.

As a parent and teacher, I have seen the Transfer Test from both sides and so I do hope that this information is of some use to you. 

These approximate dates are given in good faith and may change so you should confirm all details with the relevant authorities.

Tagged with: 11 plus, advice for exam time, education, preparing for the transfer test, preparing for transfer test, test papers, transfer test, transfer test papers, Transfer Test Prep, transfer test timeline
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