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PostPosted: Tue Mar 31, 2009 9:18 am 
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Hello all,
Was lying in bed, unable to sleep, and had an idea to start this thread. 8)

I hope it will be an encouragement to those of you unable/unwilling to hire a tutor for whatever reason.I don't want to start a debate on that because there are lots of those on this site.

I have now prepared both daughters for the Chelmsford grammar school and they both have places.However one "flew in" and one scraped in and the latter has taught me a lot.

Both girls had similar academic abilities and SATS grades etc.The older is more of a writer but that isn't tested in Essex.
I heard all the scare stories about girls having to ensure they had 90% + to get in. I certainly think that it helps to be getting that in preparation by the end, to have a really secure chance.BUT, most of all, I think that you should aim for those high scores to allow for a drop on the day.My younger one dropped at least 10 - 15% in every paper from her test scores.Older one kept the same scores on the day.
This forum is full of parents whose children also dropped that amount on the day.

My little pearl of wisdom from hindsight, if I have any :roll: , is that I didn't replicate test conditions at all.Yes she did timed papers but in her cosy bedroom on her own.
If I had my time again, I would find some other children who were sitting tests, even just two and sit her in another room/ place and try to replicate a FULL test somehow.
Without wanting to spark a controversy, I KNOW several private schools who run mock tests in their school hall for 3 - 4 weeks running prior to the 11+. State school kids obv don't have that.
I don't think it made any diff to my older one but my younger one did come out saying "that was really scary". :cry: Its just a temperament thing.She found the experience of being in the hall with 60 girls, without a familiar face very daunting.
So if I could have my time again, I would try to replicate some kind of exam conditions because her first experience of a test affected her.
I think as well, not wanting to put anyone off, that numbers are on the increase.140 more girls sat for Chelmsford this year and the scores to get in were up this year.(Know this from comparing year on year) I don't want to scare anyone but I think I was perhaps a tad too laid back.

I NEVER want to advocate intensive coaching, as they are only 10 after all.However we started at Easter, doing an hour on Sundays but not every week and no more than that until two weeks before.We didn't do any in the holidays even the Summer.Not sure that was a good idea now.

It didn't dawn on me until after, talking to people, how much everyone else was doing, which obviously has a knock on affect in getting in.
I am not saying this is right ,but that realistically, with hindsight, I should have done a bit more.Please don't all write back saying how pressured this could be, I am aiming this thread at those who have already made the decision to give it a go.
I found the free resources on this site very helpful and the NFER and Bright sparks books good. I saved the real CSSE English till near the end as they were daunting and just did home spun English before , based on the classics. I found the NFER and Bond full papers good practice too for Maths.
Overall I just want to say, it can be done from home. (but don't be quite as laid back as me :wink: ) Regular practice and some exam experience of all three papers, however you work that out, are very important.
Good luck all home preparers. 8)


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PostPosted: Tue Mar 31, 2009 10:44 am 
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Think you have made some very valid points here. My daughter did have a tutor, albeit once a fortnight for a few months before the test. We were lucky that we got a tutor at a reduced rate. Other than that I occasionally gave my daughter a practice paper to do if she was hanging round the house claiming to be bored :wink: , I have 2 younger children as well and could not give her hours of my time every night and weekend.

Some children really dont do well in an exam situation, again we are fortunate that our daughter enjoys exams (strange child) but to those whose children arent as confident it might be worth considering sitting the exam in another school to your top preference (if your top preference is everyone else's top preference :wink: ). From what I have heard some of the schools were very low key and friendly on the day, others much more formal.

And please think really carefully about it. Unless your child is up in the top set of their primary school for maths and english it really is not in their best interests to put them through this much stress. There are so many children competing for so few places that standards are incredibly high. I have heard such horrible stories of children being pushed, pushed, pushed and then feeling like failures when they dont gain a grammar place.

Oh and wishing you all good luck too! I am glad I wont be going through this again for a while!


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 Post subject: good point!
PostPosted: Tue Mar 31, 2009 10:56 am 
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Great point about sitting it somewhere else.Def think my daughter would have found it less scary if she had been at another, smaller and less daunting venue which I believe some of the others are.

Also can't reiterate enough the value of practice test conditions because ultimately we didn't know it was going to bother her until the day.Her school is, rightly, very laid back about tests and they are always done in class, not in hall and in a relaxed fashion.

I too have younger children and that is why we got fairly minimal practice done many weeks.I would be a bit more ruthless about getting them taken out or go to Grans sometimes if I had the time back.
Anyway we had a happy outcome but just want to give everyone, who can't afford to tutor, the benefit of my very small bit of wisdom gained from hindsight - for what it is worth :wink:


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PostPosted: Tue Mar 31, 2009 11:32 am 
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Joined: Thu Mar 27, 2008 8:20 pm
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Location: essex
I would add that sitting any "mock" should be replicated in real time, including the breaks. Its not so much timing each individual test but putting the three of them back to back over a morning/afternoon that is so alien.


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PostPosted: Tue Mar 31, 2009 3:39 pm 
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Joined: Sat Nov 24, 2007 11:09 pm
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Hi, Chelmsford mum

Thank you for your input and I totally agreed with you about the 'Mock exam' with time pressure before the actual exam. IMHO, I think this is particularly important to those children who study in the state schools. Apart from SAT exams, they do not really have much experience in doing exams at school. BTW, my son also studied in a state primary school.

I remember I gave my son the MOCK exam experience 3 times over 3 weeks before the actual 11+ exam. The first week, he did 2 papers in one go, the second and third week 3 papers altogether just liked the real exam with break times in between. He found it daunting the first 2 times but getting better at the last one. He was telling me that the concentration level was not easy to maintain even after 2 papers. For my son, the MOCK Exam experience was a valuable one. It has certainly made him fully aware what the real thing is like on the actual exam date.


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PostPosted: Tue Mar 31, 2009 4:20 pm 
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Joined: Fri Oct 12, 2007 12:42 pm
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Location: Chelmsford and pleased
I've put up what I recommend for my pupils. Hopefully my experience can help someone who is unable/unwilling to use a tutor.

Try to make it fun, word and DS games, etc, as well as papers. www.freerice.com etc

My pupils begin in January in a relaxed way. By September and October they have usually covered all of the basic skills and need papers to work through. As the exam does not test writing there is a bias towards maths and reasoning skills. General arithmetic and word building skills help.

English
They do an English paper each week as homework, using the computer for a dictionary and thesaurus, looking up all the new words they come across. The early English papers are easy as this builds up their confidence. I expect them to get about 90% in these papers. The Bond books for English are also useful. English is a decoding exercise so plenty of work on parts of speech and punctuation. I leave the Tess paper until a child is very confident and even then only give it with the advice that any mark over 50% is good.

Maths
I begin with an end of year 5 SATs style paper to find any gaps http://wiganschoolsonline.net/curriculu ... ssess.shtm I work through any existing problems and then build on new skills. I focus on building up the required skills and lots of repetition to make it stick. Most children need problem solving skills and I set these as fun homework. (Useful resources are: the DSF maths challenges for able pupils http://publications.teachernet.gov.uk/e ... 3-2000.pdf and the primary maths challenge book of exercises. For the very able the first 15 questions of the junior maths challenge. Nrich has good problems too.)

VR
One type per week until all 21 types have been covered. Then some early easy papers, building up to harder in September/October. Make sure that your child is very familiar with the VR answer sheet and uses it to help answer the question where possible. Make sure that the 100% questions (codes, sums, etc) are very solid.

In the week before the exam I do not set timed work or whole papers. I encourage plenty of relaxation, healthy eating and early nights.

Being positive with the children, allowing them to believe that they can get through helps. I also remind them why they are working hard.

From September/October I give three papers each week of 11+ standard. I ask the children to do these in exam style conditions without the aid of notes or a dictionary. The children mark their papers and we then spend the lessons covering the problems they have had and still do not understand.

Sadly the exam is one that is coached for, the papers are tough and not like the work they do in school. A tutor is not necessary but good resources are. Luckily there are plenty available on this site.


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PostPosted: Tue Mar 31, 2009 4:29 pm 
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That's interesting. I have always wondered just how much work people do with tutors and lots of parents are quite secretive about it.So I am sure it will be helpful for some for next year.


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PostPosted: Tue Mar 31, 2009 4:34 pm 
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I think that I would also add to the point about thinking about where your child sits the test too - but also where they are coming from in terms of primary school.

Our DD went to a large, 2-form entry primary, so sitting in a hall with 60 other children would not have been an issue for her. However, I know that within rural parts of the County, there are schools with only about 15 in an entire year group - so a different prospect altogether.

Also, DD sat her test at WHSG. We were split into groups and when we arrived and checked her in, she was taken to a normal sized classroom, so sat the test in a smallish room (not a hall or gym or dance studio) with a group of about 15 - 20. This was more like a 'normal' class situation for her. This made it less daunting - if that is possible!

I do know of other people who have applied to sit the test at the least popular centres - with the reasoning behind this being about smaller numbers, whilst others have opted specifically for the first choice school with motiviation in mind!

One other point if I may...

We did have a tutor - primarily because our own primary did not cover VR. He did one exam conditions test with his group, a couple of weeks before the real thing. However, one thing we did talk to DD about ourselves was exam technique. You know the sort of thing - watching the time; not getting bogged down on any one question; not getting into a panic if there is a word/question you don't understand; reading everything before putting pen to paper; going back at the end to anything missed out on the way - or having a last read through if possible etc. Hard to know if this helped - but at least we felt we were doing something!!

I think there is a lot to be said for knowing and understanding your own child and how you support them best.


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PostPosted: Tue Mar 31, 2009 4:49 pm 
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With exam technique, I would like to mention that since the format of VR was changed to multiple choice. I reminded my son that he had to make sure the question number on the test paper had to match the exact number on the answer sheet when he put the answer in. Otherwise, all the answers would be wrong on the answer sheet i.e question 2 answer has gone to question 3, Q3 has gone to Q4 and so on.


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PostPosted: Tue Mar 31, 2009 5:59 pm 
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Even though WHSB was his first choice, my son sat the exam over the road at STM. We did this because we didn't want him to be daunted by unfamiliar surroundings. He was quite familiar with STM, and a lot of his friends were also doing the test on the day (a couple to get into SHSB). The organisation at STM was excellent - very calm.


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