Supporting Families
  • banner11
  • banner7
  • banner13
  • banner6
  • banner8
  • banner10
  • banner2
  • banner12
  • banner4
  • banner3
Sunday, 06 April 2014 00:00

The Effects of Coaching for the Kent Test

Children who take the Kent Test have their results standardised against a national sample of children who have not been coached or prepared in any way.  The pass mark for 2014 entry was a minimum of 118 for each of the three papers, verbal reasoning, non-verbal reasoning and mathematics, together with an aggregate score of 360. This mark is set to select the top 21% of children by performance in Kent. By contrast, for the national sample a score of 113 is sufficient to become part of the top 21%.

So the pass mark is much higher than should be expected and I have carried out an analysis of marks on the three individual papers taken last September, to try and understand this, and have come to the following conclusions. An explanation of my analysis follows:

Conclusion One: Mathematics is by far the likeliest determinant of whether a child passes or fails the Kent Test, as children in general perform far better on their two reasoning tests, especially verbal reasoning, than on mathematics.

Conclusion Two: The only explanation I have as to why the pass mark has risen by five marks in each subject, over that expected of a child who has carried out no preparation, is because of coaching which is most effective in the two reasoning tests.

Conclusion Three: The Judd School is absolutely right to shift away from reasoning tests and focus on curriculum achievement. 

Conclusion Four: The new Kent Test to be taken in September may well dilute the problem somewhat with the introduction of an element of multiple-choice English, but does not address the central issue

Conclusion Five: Medway’s system of “Local Standardisation” eliminates the problem of Conclusion One.

Conclusion Six: If you can afford it, get some good coaching or other preparation........

The following section repeats and expand the headline

The pass mark for 2014 entry was a minimum of 118 for each of the three papers, verbal reasoning (VR), non-verbal reasoning (NVR) and mathematics, together with an aggregate score of 360. This standard is determined to allow 21% of Kent children to pass (excluding a minority from what are called the outer areas). The other 4% of successful candidates taking it up to 25% comes from a separate process, called Headteacher Assessment (HTA).  This latter process is explained in my information pages. For the national sample, a score of 113 is sufficient to become part of the top 21% of children.

As part of the standardisation process, children are only compared with children from the national sample born in the same month, so that age is not a factor. Last year I carried out an analysis on age related results and confirmed this for the Kent Test, although in Medway younger children perform significantly worse. The following analysis does not apply to Medway which has “local” standardisation, a very different process from Kent, explained here.  

Nearly every child taking the Kent Test will have been prepared in some way, if only by being exposed to the practice papers that are part of the testing process or by their parents buying a few example papers and working through them for familiarisation. Others more fortunate will attend an after school booster club. In a state school, this will not explicitly be called an 11 plus preparation session, as 11+ coaching is banned from the curriculum. But, as a result of this preparation, the national standard for selecting 21% of children rises to some degree from the 113 of non-prepared children. You will find a good basic article on the process of standardisation of 11+ tests here.

However, I do not accept this explains the majority of the rise, with the coaching industry in full flow, not just individual tutors but increasingly commercial organisations chasing business opportunities. Many private schools owe their existence to a coaching culture for the 11 plus, including curriculum time.

The numerical result of my analysis for Kent candidates can be summarised as follows. 

Kent Test Scores September 2013

 
Verbal
Reasoning
Non-Verbal
Reasoning
Mathematics

Number of Candidates

Scoring 118 or above  5944  5209  3660
Scoring 138 or above  1995  1454  355
Scoring 141 by paper  1555  1120  225
Scores of
Highest scoring
3660 children by paper
 129  125  118

 Conclusion One: Mathematics is by far the likeliest determinant of whether a child passes or fails as children in general perform far better on their two reasoning tests, especially verbal reasoning, than on mathematics.

A total of 3167 Kent children passed the Kent Test before HTAs were taken into account, all of whom are amongst the 3660 maths passes above. Another 3941 Kent children, who were not given an automatic pass, failed on their mathematics (and possibly one or both of the other two tests). Just 493 passed the mathematics test and failed on one or both of the other two. 2003 children passed their verbal reasoning but failed on one or both of the others.

The child who just gains a pass in their mathematics at 118 will on average score 7 points more in NVR and an astonishing 11 points in VR. Independent Appeal Panels considering appeals for grammar school will be aware of this expected differential as it is reflected in most of the cases they see. Parents preparing appeals should be aware of Panel expectations. 

Conclusion Two: The only logical explanation of why the pass mark has risen by five marks over that expected of a child who has carried out no preparation, is because of coaching, for I cannot see that practice tests (set as part of the test process) will have made that much difference. What is more stark is the gap that opens between scores in maths and the two reasoning tests which comes into far sharper focus looking at the high scoring children. At the top of the range, just 161 Kent children scored the maximum aggregate score of 423. This excludes the 1394 children who gained the maximum 141 in verbal reasoning but not in one or both of the other two papers. BY contrast, just 64 children with 141 in maths did not gain maximum marks in all three papers.   

In total therefore, more than four times as many children scored 138 or more on their NVR than in their maths, and more than six times as many with 138 or more in their VR. The pattern at 141 is even more extreme.

So either it is much easier to increase marks by coaching verbal and non-verbal reasoning tests than maths, or else tutors are failing to give  a high enough priority to maths preparation.

Conclusion Three: The Judd School is absolutely right to shift away from reasoning tests and focus on curriculum achievement (not a conclusion I was expecting or have assumed in the past) where there is less evidence that coaching can make such large differences. Other grammar schools should take note although some remain in denial about the effects of coaching.

Conclusion Four: The new Kent Test to be taken in September may dilute the problem somewhat with the introduction of an element of multiple-choice English, but does not address the central issue identified here,  which is the limited value of VR and NVR Tests.  I can’t therefore see it lasting too long.

Conclusion Five: Medway’s system of “Local Standardisation” eliminates the problem of Conclusion One. I am highly critical of the Medway pattern of tests, which gives undue weight to a single piece of extended writing (40% of the total marks). However, by reducing the influence of the VR and NVR, Local Standardisation has much to commend it, even if it is not easy to understand (a KCC Report on possible changes to the Kent Test did not!).

Conclusion Six: If you can afford it, get some good coaching or other preparation. I hate this recommendation, but children who are not coached are at a considerable disadvantage. 

Note: I have heard it said that the maths test was harder than last year, because fewer children scored maximum marks. This conclusion is false. Standardisation is designed to remove any differing level of difficulty from the mark allocation. The pass mark of 118 is the same as last year, so there is no difference in the standardised marks. 

Last modified on Monday, 07 April 2014 11:08

2 comments

  • Comment Link Monday, 21 April 2014 01:46 posted by Ruben

    Thanks for all the insight, Peter

    I saw this in 2012. The curriculum was not synchronised to the test. My son was first taught (simple) geometry and algebra elements over four months after they appeared in the eleven plus exam.

    *All* his contemporaries who failed or were HTAd had poor maths scores.

    Ordinary students were nobbled by the terrible coordination and ineptitude of their own education department.

  • Comment Link Friday, 18 April 2014 23:02 posted by Mark

    This is a very interesting article that demonstrates coaching increases scores.
    May I link the article on 11plus.eu? The argument that coaching has no effect is nonsense as is a test of innate ability.

    I think all testing should be curriculum based as SATs, GCSEs and "A" levels.
    Surely 11+ tests should include Science! PETER: Of course you can, Browsers will find reference to your site on one of the pages here, as it provides useful information even though Kent is not using CEM. The other commercial 11 plus website censors any mention of me or of kentadvice.co.uk, and deprives its browsers of the vast amount of information available here. I disagree, however, with your view on science. The level of provision or expertise is too varied in state primary schools for this to be a fair assessment, whereas success in literacy and maths at SAT time is central to all schools.

Leave a comment

Make sure you enter the (*) required information where indicated.
Basic HTML code is allowed.