The London 11+ Consortium- Test Information and Details
This is the new name for the North London Girls’ School Consortium.
The London 11+ Consortium- Creation
Really the only differences between the London 11+ consortium and the old north London girls’ school consortium are as follows:
1/ New test which claims to be an un-coachable cognitive ability test- see below for our view on this.
2/ All schools now in the same group- previously they were in two groups with different exams meaning children had to sometimes sit both tests.
3/ Change of name
The letter announcing the change can be viewed here.
The London 11+ Consortium- Cognitive Ability Test- Content
For definitive information, we need to go to the familiarisation booklet issued by the London 11+ Consortium. In it you can see the test will include some verbal reasoning questions (including comprehension), some numerical reasoning, and some non-verbal reasoning questions. You can view the booklet here.
The London 11+ Consortium- Cognitive Ability Test- Who writes it?
The consortium have refused to reveal who is writing the test however there are very few possible authors. Having looked at the new familiarisation booklet for the Henrietta Barnett test (part one) one can see that the author is CEM. The two booklets are identical save for the CEM logo being switched out for the new London 11+ Consortium logo (See London 11+ Constorium Booklet here and Henrietta Barnett Booklet here).
Reading between the lines perhaps this has not been branded as CEM because the new consortium test may be a joint venture with the girls’ schools, perhaps hoping to commercialise it by bringing other schools into the same test regime. This is certainly an ambition the London 11+ Consortium has expressed.
Who writes it is very important as it helps tutors and schools and indeed parents help their children prepare for the test by using the right materials.
The London 11+ Consortium- Cognitive Ability Test- Preparation
It’s not correct to say that the test cannot be prepared for- it can be. Thousands of people up and down the country prepare for CEM exams day in day out with great success. This will be no different.
What CEM tests have achieved is that they have delivered a better more broadly skills based preparation regime. Pupils can’t prepare by rote for specific question types and there are no question types where exam technique will give you a huge advantage.
If one looks at the three test baskets – Verbal reasoning and Comprehension- Numerical reasoning and Non-Verbal/Spatial reasoning the following preparation will give pupils a very great advantage vs pupils who have not prepared.
But beware- preparation suits the long and slow approach for the most part and with topics such as broadening vocabulary this can’t be done in the classroom, it can’t be taught in a lesson- the right habits at home, however, yield tremendous results.
The London 11+ Consortium Test- Verbal Reasoning Preparation
CEM tests tend to be particularly vocabulary heavy. They stretch children both with the complexity of the words used and with the sheer volume of questions children need to tackle.
Of course, it goes without saying that children with a wider vocabulary will perform better in these tests. Granted vocabulary development ideally should be done over a long period involving lots of reading, drawing out and learning new words, regular exposure to newly learnt words etc. However, quite a good effect can be delivered over a short period of time involving exercises which help children bring their known vocabulary to the forefront of their minds and exercises to help them to think actively (which is useful with CEM tests).
CEM Verbal Reasoning tests also include comprehension tests in various forms. Again children who read and have read a lot will be better off. Equally, however, there are simple steps which can be taken to improve comprehension ability and performance. It clearly isn’t correct to say one can’t coach to improve comprehension performance (after all most schools teach comprehension in classes)
NB: All children will find their performance is limited by their breadth of vocabulary and ability to recall it, doing test questions after test questions won’t help. For real improvement to happen real work to improve vocabulary breadth must be at the core of what children do.
The London 11+ Consortium Test- Numerical Reasoning Preparation
CEM tend to use the phrase numerical reasoning but in many of their papers most adults would simply recognise the questions as Maths. In some cases questions are calculations (there may be lots of this and they may be difficult but it’s still just calculations), in others they require a child to open their maths toolkit and use some logic and in others there are multi-part questions. None of this, however, is rocket science and for the most part, a child who is bright and good at Maths will do well.
There are some things a good preparation process can do to help. Firstly, most children doing any 11 Plus test- whatever it is called- will let themselves down by not working accurately. Often the cause of this is basic core skills (like times tables) falling over under pressure. The best preparation plans always involve exercises which aim to improve the accuracy of a child’s work. Secondly, there is nothing wrong with focussing on the KS2 Syllabus, as an example, reading tables and graphs is a feature of the syllabus, a table of results is exactly the basis of the example question given in the London 11+ Consortium Familiarisation Booklet. CEM could equally deliver questions on shapes or area as examples which are all covered by the syllabus.
The London 11+ Consortium Test- Non-Verbal Reasoning Preparation
This is a more interesting area and the only genuinely ‘cognitive’ part of the test. As this is not a school subject and involves no core skill which is relevant to school work one might assume it can’t be coached, however, some coaching can have a huge impact. Non- Verbal reasoning isn’t new to 11 Plus, it’s long been a feature of tests up and down the country.
All the educational research available shows that familiarisation with the core non-verbal concepts E.G. rotation of shapes, or odd one out, or similarities etc will improve a child’s ability to do the test. Equally familiarity with the speed a child will need to work at will also improve their results.
It is the case that some children will be naturally better at doing this form of test than others so to that extent one can’t turn lead into gold however improvement is certainly possible.
N.B. slogging away at test after test won’t help. The best way to prepare is to take your time over test familiarisation and then apply that to tests. After about six tests you’ll find there’s little further improvement. Some additional gains can be had by helping children with exam technique (E.G. keeping to pace, leaving questions they find difficult to the end, ensuring in multiple-choice they have answered every question etc). The biggest mistake with Non-Verbal is to start preparation too early- a good job can be done in three months or less.
Stamina- A critical issue
What most parents don’t realise is that stamina has a huge part to play in success. Children often simply run out of steam. Many 11 Plus tests simply become a test of stamina not intelligence or indeed ability.
We understand the London 11+ Consortium Test is going to be two papers of 35 minutes with a half hour break in the middle. That is very much at the outside edge of average concentration abilities for children of this age. Make no mistake that the best schools and tutors will help their children to develop their exam stamina and that will really help them to perform well on the day. It’s another area where preparation can have a huge impact.
Parents without tutors or without a school providing tailored preparation can help their children just as well by giving them some tests at home which demand they in two concentrated 35 minute slugs. After doing a few they will start to improve their stamina to the required level.
Don’t forget that good eating/sleeping/drinking and rest habits also will really help in the last couple of weeks in the run into the exam- The better schools will be giving clear advice to parents on this topic.
One thing we would say in CEM’s favour here is that traditionally they have helped level the playing field by dividing their papers into different slugs of time E.G. ten minutes of Verbal Reasoning followed by a 6 minute comprehension, followed by 12 minutes of Maths etc. and if The London 11+ Consortium do the same then they will be helping to level the playing field when it comes to keeping to pace during the test.
How to prepare for The London 11+ Consortium Test- What to use
For parents looking at long range preparation then our advice on how to prepare for CEM exams is valid. Please see our sections on CEM exam preparation for year 5 Verbal Reasoning, Numerical Reasoning and Non- Verbal Reasoning. You can also use the Free CEM Style 11+ Plus Papers we have listed.
Preparation in the crucial September to January Test date period
If parents are thinking about what to do in the period September to the exam in January then much will depend on what other exams they are sitting. If they are only going to do The London 11+ Consortium Exam then we would suggest the following:
Crucial Revision Work
1/ Do this CEM based home study revision course first. It will require concentrated work but can be delivered in around four weeks, it’s no real issue if it takes six weeks. This is the best summary revision course available in our view. Cost is £15. If you only have time to do one thing then do this.
Exam Technique Boost
The two items below could be done in 4 weeks or spread out to cover eight weeks to suit, but only do them after you have done the revision course above.
2/ Once you have done that, and only once it is finished, then do two tests from these three books (six tests per week). CGP ten minute VR tests, CGP ten minute numerical reasoning tests, CGP Non-Verbal ten minute tests.
3/ Once per week or every other week do two papers from this series CGP CEM tests pack one, when you have finished these then do the same with CGP CEM tests pack two. These packs have two 45 minute tests in so do them one after the other with a half hour break in the middle to mimic the exam and help build stamina at the same time.
4/ The CEM Maths (numerical reasoning) test can be stretched to include some real reasoning questions. At this stage it is not clear how far the 11+ London Consortium will choose to stretch things. If you would like to give your child some ‘stretch’ on reasoning questions (children who are good at Maths will often these are more like fun than work) then have a go at these numerical reasoning stretch questions. These come from the UK Education Department and are specified as being ideal ‘stretch’ work for very able primary school children in year 6. In our experience the reasoning questions CEM deliver don’t normally stray into this level but have a go if you’d like to.
Core Skills Continuing Development
The items below will be skipped at your peril….. they are much, much more important than doing timed tests. Children with a wider vocabulary will do much better in the London 11+ Consortium exam.
5/ During the process make sure you read every day for at least twenty minutes and try to find 20 new words you didn’t know either from reading or everyday interactions. Make a note of these words and revise them regularly. This process will boost your vocabulary by around 200+ words which could make all the difference.
6/ You need to do a regular activity to draw your child’s current vocabulary to the front of their mind. Playing boggle or scrabble is a great way to do this. Try to have a couple of games of boggle every week (they can be short) at the least.
7/ CRUCIALLY – remember that a child who is stressed or worried going into the exam will lose perhaps 30% of their ability to recall vocabulary and perhaps 15% of their ability to work through mental maths calculations rapidly. This can make all the difference. The right eating, drinking, sleeping habits are essential, but so is downtime. It’s a good idea to make sure your child realises that the world won’t stop turning if they don’t get in and it’s also important to remember that, even if they aren’t showing it, they feel your expectation and they feel your stress levels- Happy encouragement is great, earnest expectation not. Keep everything as light as possible.
The London 11+ Consortium Test- Will it achieve its core objectives?
Some of the objectives of the consortium are expressed below:
Reduce stress and improve mental health by producing an un-coachable test
It’s a laudable aim however in no way has the consortium managed to produce an un-coachable test.
However what they have successfully done for many children is to move from having to do two sessions (one for schools in group one and one for schools in group two). This can only help.
We recognise that not producing past papers and only issuing limited familiarisation materials is also designed to hamper the preparation process, which it does. However, for some children, it leads to a difficult road as desperate parents use any and all books in an attempt to give their children an edge. Some no doubt will use GL materials as well as CEM ones to ensure they covered everything. This is an unintended consequence of test secrecy and not helpful.
Move from a syllabus based test to a cognitive test
While the CEM test has cognitive elements within it, it isn’t divorced entirely from the syllabus and indeed a child who has developed great core skills through primary school is likely to do very much better than a child who hasn’t focussed on core skills- regardless of their ‘potential’.
Enable schools to move from teaching for the test to teaching a wider syllabus to produce more rounded children
This was an interesting aim expressed and obviously was motivated by the feeder schools who felt they were coming under pressure from parents who couldn’t perhaps afford a London prep and were using tutors instead. The consortium is hopeful that the change will leave schools more able to teach a wide syllabus and parents to spend more time on activities etc rather than ferrying children to tutors and slogging away at test papers at home.
However laudable the aim we do have our doubts about how effective this will be simply because of the experience we have of how preparation for CEM tests works around the country.
Avoid the need for tutoring- or eradicate tutoring
Again a laudable objective and a worthy one, but as preparation will improve performance (as long as it’s the right kind of preparation) we doubt that parents will stop tutoring. Tutors will simply adapt their techniques as they have done in other CEM areas and the sessions will continue.
Unintended consequences also come into play here because there are suggestions that the harder a school makes it to grasp what the test will entail the hungrier parents become to find out. This leads many into the arms of tutors.
Other Schools included within The London 11+ Consortium
Children will now only sit one London 11+ Consortium Test and it will apply for use with entry into all the schools in the consortium (see list below). As we understand it though each school will still have its own entry criteria which will need to be fulfilled eg Interview.