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Ready, Steady, Practice! Improving Speed & Accuracy for Exams

Ready, Steady, Practice!

Improving speed and accuracy is key to success in the 11+ exams and pre-tests, especially with the increasingly common on-screen tests. Here we explain how the Hodder Education (formerly Galore Park) Practice Books can help your child to sit these tests with confidence and avoid some nasty surprises.

Preparing your child for the 11+ tests can be an anxious time for everybody. You want to give them the best possible chance to succeed and also avoid putting too much pressure on them as they work towards these unfamiliar tests.
Parents often ask us when is the best time to begin using Practice Papers because of two common concerns:

  1. Beginning the process with these papers can risk anxiety and stress when your child is unfamiliar with the type of questions and subjects.
  2. Ending the process with these papers, after working through revision and workbook materials, can be equally stressful because of the variety of question types and the speed necessary to score well.

In this blog we explain how working with Practice Papers throughout your child’s revision programme can build their skills, confidence and knowledge to face whatever challenges are put in front of them.

When to begin?

We believe that the sooner you child has an idea of what to expect in their 11+ and pre-tests the better. ‘Familiarisation’ is a word you will often hear in relation to 11+ preparation and that is exactly what this process is about.
Unlike rival Practice Papers, Hodder Education (formerly Galore Park) increases the difficulty level of the tests from the simplest at the beginning of Practice Papers 1 to the most challenging questions and styles at the end of Practice Papers 2.
This structure means that you can set the first tests in Book 1…

  • early on in the revision process without intimidating your child
  • in a test environment though without a timer to build confidence
  • as a way to familiarise yourself and your child with the kind of questions they will face.

Always follow up each test by reviewing the detailed answers, together if possible, to help plan revision work.

The 11+ tests are designed to test your child’s ability to think imaginatively and independently. Understanding this approach and becoming familiar with how these skills are tested will help you to work with your child to create a complete revision programme.

Why are there two sets of papers?

  • The two books are designed to help your child experience all the different kinds of papers and questions they may encounter in the 11+ tests:
  • The first tests are slower with the least challenging for initial preparation
  • Longer and more challenging paper styles are slowly introduced
  • The tests in the second books further increase in difficulty
  • The most challenging formats and questions conclude Book 2 and are suitable for children taking the most challenging independent schools tests.

By the time they sit the third test you should always be asking your child to use a timer and sit quietly in exam conditions to familiarise themselves with taking timed tests, even though it is a good idea for them to complete all of the questions even if they overrun.
Working through the whole suite of tests during their revision process builds confidence in taking timed tests and enables your child to face the variations typical of the current 11+.

Understanding the content

All Hodder Education (formerly Galore Park) Practice Papers are developed using the Hodder Education 11+ curriculum. This has been created exclusively for this series to cover the detailed make up of 11+ tests including:

  • subject content
  • difficulty
  • frequency of question occurrence
  • format (including standard, multiple choice and paper style).

This curriculum encompasses content for 11+ papers from Independent schools bespoke tests, Consortium, ISEB, GL and CEM, all of which have their own variations. 
The papers are grouped by subject into English, Maths, Non-Verbal Reasoning, Verbal Reasoning and Science. Although you may find that the tests your child is taking are grouped in different ways (such as Verbal Reasoning and Cloze procedure), the skills tested are the same each year and so you can be confident that the Galore Park series will be suitable for these tests as well.

Unfamiliar paper formats

The schools your child is applying for will have given you an indication of the sort of format their entrance test is likely to take.
Experience from the past few years tells us that boards and schools who produce these papers no longer create the same format year on year. With new competitors on the market, the test providers are now constantly varying their papers to make them more difficult to prepare for.
Whereas in the past, choosing revision resources was simply a matter of knowing the company or school who produced the tests and selecting resources to match, this approach could now leave you child ill-prepared for the changing formats introduced each year. Online tests only add to this dilemma.
The Hodder Education (formerly Galore Park) approach is to provide tests from the range of styles available to give your child the widest possible experience.

  • Some papers deliver short simple questions in large quantities, often multiple-choice, to test the ability to think and calculate quickly
  • Others introduce complex questions in standard format to test creative and problem-solving skills. The timing of questions in these tests can also provide an added challenge.
  • English papers, for example, use a variety of ways to test punctuation and grammar – this can take the form of:
  • a passage for correction, including online tests
  • specific questions
  • writing tasks based on an existing text which the child is asked to mimic.

Learning to recognise the question being asked

As the 11+ aims to test your child’s ability to think problems through, test setters are always looking for new ways to ask questions and provide fresh challenges.
For this reason, Hodder Education (formerly Galore Park) has researched a wide variety of question styles from various past papers and sources. Many children faced with a question asked in a slightly different way can lose confidence and drop marks, even though the question is something they are usually confident in answering.
Working out what a test setter is asking, even if the question is put in a slightly different way is extremely important in these new-style 11+ tests.
For example, Verbal Reasoning tests usually contain questions that involve synonyms (words with similar meanings) and antonyms (words with opposite meanings). The following two questions show two typical ways of answering these questions. There are actually five common formats for these questions.
Complete the word on the right so it is an antonym or nearly an antonym of the word on the left. Circle the letter beneath the correct answer.
available      t  a  ___   ____  n
              ke      ak      ik       ki       ko
              a        b        c        d        e
Find two words, one from each set, that are opposite in meaning. Write the two words on the line provided.
(strong, force, afraid)       (fear, weak, test)    __________________________________
You will see that both questions are asking the children to spot a word that is opposite or nearly opposite to another. The first is simpler since they only have to find a word by filling in two missing letters and only one of the options (a) makes a real word. The second is slightly more difficult since the first word is not given and it also involve writing the whole answer out.

Improving creative and thinking skills

The Hodder Education (formerly Galore Park) tests enable your child to develop their thinking skills as they work through the papers.
Typically the most demanding Independent schools’ papers involve challenging questions based on:

  • multi-step Non-Verbal Reasoning questions requiring memory, logic and spatial skills
  • demanding writing tasks including writing flashbacks or imagining a scene from a different point of view (often more than one and with no choice of task)
  • multi-step mathematical problem-solving questions, occasionally with more than one related question

The final test in Practice Papers 2 is designed to mimic the style and difficulty of the most demanding Independent schools’ tests so if your child is applying to one of these schools this is an essential tool in their revision planning.

Improving speed and accuracy

The last few tests should be completed in the weeks leading up to the tests to improve your child’s response rate and accuracy.
Both of these exam skills are extremely important, especially in online adaptive tests where difficulty, and hence score, increases with each correctly answered question.
In order to tackle the later maths tests, your child will need to have rapid recall of tables and other basic number facts since the questions increase in difficulty as the time allocated to each question decreases. Consequently, children who do not have a firm grasp of basic maths commonly make mistakes under time pressures and do not achieve the score they are capable of.
Here is an example of a maths question in a test where the response rate is 56 seconds per question:
At a crossroads controlled by traffic lights, each road gets a green light in turn. When one road has a green light, the other three roads have a red light. The lights are green for 40 seconds at a time.
Anna arrives in a queue at the third road in the sequence just as the lights turn red. Each time the traffic lights turn green 3 cars get through the lights. Anna’s car is 7th in the queue. How long does she have to wait to get through the lights?  2 marks
Answer: 7 minutes, 20 seconds  Anna will get through on the third set of lights (1) 2 minutes 40 second elapse for all 4 roads to have a green light, 2 m 40s x 2 = 160s x 2 = 320s. Then 2 minutes for the next green light. So, 320s + 120s = 440s = 7 minutes 20 seconds (1)
As well as problem-solving skills and confidence in selecting important information, this question requires rapid recall of multiplication tables as well as conversion of minutes to seconds.

Revision and repetition

You will see in the example above that the answer is fully explained. This is the case in all Hodder Education (formerly Galore Park) Practice Papers as we understand that it is only by working out why a question has been answered incorrectly that your child can find out how to solve it the next time.
The Verbal and Non-Verbal Reasoning answer explanations can be particularly helpful to parents if they are unfamiliar with how the subjects work since the explanations all link to familiar concepts in Maths and English.
You will also find that Hodder Education (formerly Galore Park) Revision Guides all link into the teaching given in these answers and are an excellent resource for last-minute revision.

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