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Friday, 31 May 2013 00:00

Kent Test for the Future: Another interesting website

Kent County Council is currently considering tenders for its 11 plus test to be taken from September 2015 to September 2017. There are just two realistic possibilities, NFER and CEM. You can find the main contract detail for the new contract here

The NFER has set Kent tests for many years, but there is a sense that this is time for a change, and the new specification gives a nudge towards CEM which I believe is the likely winner. I have recently come across a website that provides considerable detail about the 11 plus tests provided by CEM, the Centre for Evaluation and Monitoring at Durham University. Currently the Centre provides bespoke 11 plus tests for grammar schools in Bexley; Birmingham; Buckinghamshire; Shropshire; Walsall; Warwickshire, and Wolverhampton; together with Henrietta Barnet School in Hampstead and Chelmsford County High School (two super-selective schools). 

The website is which has no connection with the CEM Centre in Durham, although its name was surely chosen deliberately.....


 It does however, have one significant similarity with in that any mention of either is censored out of the popular forums of the highly commercial elevenplusexams website. Presumably this is because we are seen as potential rivals (I feel flattered) although we both offer considerable amounts of important information for those most interested in the subject, who thus appear to be deliberately deprived of the information by elevenplusexams. Very sad really, for the elevenplusexams website does provide a large amount of information and speculation on CEM exams, inlcuding plenty for the over anxious. 

Kent County Council is likely to back the CEM contract as it searches for exams that have less coachability than the current NFER offering. However, the website considers that: "There is a huge culture of preparation and tuition in Birmingham, Walsall and Warwickshire that have used tests for many years. Like most tests, those who prepare may significantly improve their chances of success". Being a commercial website it is geared  to promote practice and coaching materials for the tests.

More importantly, it provides a breakdown of the structure of the test for each of the above areas, which shows a range of formats although each is built around some or all of English (which at a minimum can be verbal reasoning), numerical reasoning and non-verbal reasoning.

 It states: “The CEM, Durham 11+ typically comprise of two 45-minute tests, which take around 60-minutes each to administer (the extra 15-minutes is due to instructions and examples). There is a break of up to 30 minutes between each paper, both of which are administered on the same day, usually, during September of Year 6, or July of Year 5 (effectively, a 10+ exam). Past 11-plus papers set by CEM in Durham are not released and cannot be purchased. Usually, two weeks before the test, applicants receive a sample sheet containing example questions. Buckinghamshire 11+ and Bexley 11+ tests are exclusively multiple-choice based, whilst in Birmingham; Walsall, and Warwickshire questions contain a mixture of formats. Buckinghamshire children sit two Durham 11 plus preparation papers each lasting about 25-30 minutes containing test items that mirror what they will find in the full tests. The purpose of this exercise is to give the pupils experience of test-taking conditions as well as giving them the opportunity to work through example test material. The preparation papers are not marked or taken away from the school. The two Bucks eleven plus tests are machine-marked. The practise tests are in a multiple-choice format and the pupils complete machine-readable answer sheets”.

 There is a link provided to a presentation for Buckinghamshire primary school headteachers whose children sit the CEM exams for the first time this September. Also in Buckinghamshire, the local Council is already reported as threatening private schools that coach for the eleven plus - so much for non-coachability!

Presumably, if KCC selects CEM, it will choose its own format to try and minimise coachability, one of its key stated aims. There is an assumption that Test papers will remain secret. This will not happen; for example past Kent test papers are also supposed to remain secret but regularly circulate to those in the know. I have my own collection (which I do not share!). As I have consistently argued, people may not know the precise format in Year 1, although typical questions are already about; by Year 2, past papers will once again be circulating.

 Interestingly the Judd School, see below, argues that it needs to move to a numerical and English based test. Is there a compromise between KCC and Judd possible with CEM papers?

One final observation. The website suggests that children may wish, by way of familiarisation, to sit CEM test papers in other authorities who test before their local tests (nothing to stop you registering for any admission authority). It sets out the full timetable for 2014 entry although, with Bexley occupying the last slot this may not be possible locally. What a nightmare, as children travel even further to take ‘mock’ tests in other authorities (this already happens, however).


Last modified on Friday, 05 December 2014 23:10

1 comment

  • Comment Link Sunday, 09 June 2013 18:33 posted by Sandra M

    What a great link to a remarkably informative website.

    Such a pity that browsers of the 11 plus exams website, probably those most interested in such matters, are denied any reference to either of these two great websites. This censorship in the world of education is deplorable, especially on a website apparently dedicated to openness about 11 plus issues. Why don't those browsers of 11 plus exams who have found this, protest on behalf of their fellow readers? PETER - actually no comment is needed

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