Teaching: Improving test scores

testMany parents ask how they can help to improve their child's test scores. The obvious answer is to practise. It is more difficult when it comes to tests such as Non Verbal Reasoning, Verbal Reasoning and Quantitative Reasoning and other such papers. These tests are used to test the intelligence and basic reasoning powers of a child. Your child might sit tests such as these for an 11+ examination, on trying for entry to a Secondary school or during their first few weeks at Senior school in tests called CATS (Cognitive Ability Tests).
CATS help the teachers assess the best way that a child can be streamed, maybe which subjects to take or which groups of children to allocate to which class.
In such tests your child will be assessed in their ability in the three areas:
  • Verbal Reasoning – is all about thinking with words
  • Quantitative Reasoning – deals with thinking with numbers
  • Non-verbal Reasoning – tests ability to recognise relationships with shape and space.                   

Verbal Reasoning

The best way to improve Verbal Reasoning is to ensure that your child has a comprehensive reading programme. Encourage him or her to read books, comics, magazines, the papers and discuss these afterwards. This will:
  • Improve both written and spoken vocabulary
  • Ensure a better connection with words
  • Help with interpretation of ideas
  • Help with communication 
  • Assist in understanding facts
  • Develop understanding of consequences.
All children should be encouraged to read a cross-section of books from encyclopaedias to classic books such as Jane Eyre or Tom Sawyer, as well as newspapers and listening to TV news.
By doing this many children will be able to associate:
  1. Word connections such as arable farming and growing crops; space and astrology.
  2. Recognise patterns in words such as rectangle containing tan, create and angle.
  3. Solve word codes FINE is to HLRJ so what is the code for SWAY?
  4. Find words opposite in meaning such as fast:slow, positive:negative
  5. Combine words to create compound words (out, by, suit) ( way, case, side) (outside, byway, suitcase).
There are many Verbal Reasoning questions which need alphabetical knowledge. Some need an understanding of letter strings, others need a knowledge of spelling. This is where reading and using words is extremely helpful. It is also useful to practise individual questions of each type. You will find help with reading here: Encouraging-your-child-to-read.
Each month we offer a range of books as giveaways featured in each month's Parents in Touch Newsletter.

Quantitative Reasoning

Quantitative Reasoning can be improved by working methodically with numbers and it involves:
  1. Creating models, such as constructing a cube.
  2. Comparing sizes and shapes (both 2 and 3 dimensional).
  3. Drawing inferences.
  4. Supporting conclusions based on sound mathematical reasoning.
These can be covered by working at mathematical problems with numbers, knowing the relationship of one number to another e.g. 5,10,15,20....., understanding the effects that one number will have on another and generally practising maths of all sorts.

You might like to try some of the puzzles on this page: Maths-fun-maths
It is beneficial to all children to practise these types of tests. For the 11+ Verbal and Non Verbal reasoning there are some 11+ maths papers here: 11+ papers and 11+ Bond Papers

Non Verbal Reasoning

Non verbal reasoning is being able to relate one shape to another. There are many fun and interesting ways that this can be done including:jigsaw
1.       The use of jigsaws
2.       Working out sequences
3.       Logical thinking puzzles
4.       Enjoying quizzes.
It is also useful to remember that children have to concentrate on the problem, reading the question carefully before giving the answer. Having done this, they can use the answer to check it fits the question. Click on this link for our worksheets on Thinking Skills, which will certainly help.

Other Resources

CATSMany Independent schools have their own test papers and sometimes examples of these are on the school websites or are available from the school. It is always worth asking schools.
There are no actual CATS (Cognitive Ability Tests) published for the public but there is some information at this link: Information-on-CATS-tests.
Other useful resources:                                                              
Bond 11+ non VR paper
Bond 11+ VR paper
General ability test at 11
11+ VR paper a
Can you work these out?
Logic puzzles 4
There are many books published which are worth looking at if your child has a specific problem or just to familiarise them with the type of question, the times allowed and how to present their work. Some of the papers may be multi- choice or others the traditional format of an exam paper. It is well worth while asking which format your child may be using. See here for selected 11+ books.
The main publishers of papers for 11+ are Bond, Letts, Lucky Gecko and GL Assessment. GL Assessment also publish books called 11+ Explained which are useful to understand the strategies included in the testing. See our 11+ page for books.

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