Dr Jalal wrote:
Thank you for your kind words. I also have a daughter who is preparing for the upcoming 2007 11+ exams. So I wish you all the best in your endeavours. The following will hopefully give you some ideas on how to prepare your child for the task ahead.
WOW! That's an impressive amount of work your boy's put in along the way Dr Jalal!
I'm so glad that all that effort presented your son with such a wonderful choice of schools.
I would like to give a little hope to parents who are not quite as organized as you clearly were and who, perhaps, have children a little less dedicated to their school work than your exemplary son.
I have a big problem just with the language around “preparation” when I'm talking about this. Do say you started when they were three because you read/talked to them a lot; always encouraged questions and asked what they thought before answering? Do you say you started when you first showed them a NVR paper two months before they exam? Well, I'm just not sure...
I found that taking my son to all the school open days in year 5, a year early in other words, was a great motivator. Such a simple thing but not an opportunity to be missed.
We then did far, far less specific exam preparation than your son. Starting around three months before the KEG exams on VR/NVR skills and a little extra maths towards the end. Whenever you start preparing, I whole heartedly agree that you really must know how your child works best. This is something that I got completely wrong with my son. I simply began preparing him in exactly the same way as I had my daughter, failed to take account of the fact they're very different people and got off to quite a bad start.
A child must be well prepared emotionally for the fact they will not understand or complete all questions, probably very different from anything they've experienced in primary school. The KES exam warns that reasonable candidates may still only make a good attempt at around half the questions, though scholarship candidates will go further. The KEG exams are equally designed to test more than the full range of ability. Exam day is not the time for a child to find this out! It was very easy for my children to focus on what they don't know in an exam rather than the questions they can actually answer – this is how much learning happens and a it's a good instinct, deadly in an exam though.
It's surprising that most people don't mention their Primary school when talking about “How we got in”, yet I don't think there's any way I could have countered the effects of a “bad” primary school. My son's is a state primary, middle to lower end of any league table currently around. But it's a school with (generally) good teachers who are prepared to put in the effort with kids outside 'normal' ability range and a great atmosphere and attitude to academic success.
If a child is in a school where teachers soft-peddle on students once they've reached the 'required' SATS grade; where they have to hide their talents to stay popular or are just loosing friends when refusing to do that – time to move, and the quicker the better.
The only problem I found with relying on his school to teach him most of what was needed in English/Maths (ie. Not employing a tutor) was that even working at level 5(a) my lad employed techniques in written multiplication and division which are simply too slow and error prone. It's what they're taught - but it's just not good enough. Even with a good primary school there is a problem of timing in year six; some material which will be examined in November may well not have been covered in primary by that time. Ask what the curriculum is for the last two terms, you may even get some resources/assistance from them, and cover that early.
A trusting, honest relationship with your child's primary teacher(s) can be invaluable. Children are monitored intensely in primary schools and this information can be critical, but a teachers instincts may be heavily biased towards putting the best possible gloss on you child's successes and just not mentioning where achievement falls below your child's expected standards. Beware the kindly primary teacher who silently 'forgives' a lack of ability in a narrow area which should really have limited your child's SAT score.
Where you mention SATs results and 'Level' five – I think parents have to be a little careful. “Level 5” covers a very wide range of ability and if you can discover whether your child is at 5a, 5b or 5c (running highest to lowest) then you'll have a much better idea of their ability. If you read what targets they have to hit for these levels then that might give some ideas for further work.
The three hours or so of the exam is obviously critical too. Fortunately I'm running out of time now so I can't rattle on about it :-) but building a calm confidence, both with the prospect of failure and success, is just as important as anything else – and not the work of a few weeks before the exam.