I am delighted to be back writing my weekly column after taking some time off since the birth of my first child.
Since my last article, there has been a lot of educational activity, particularly with the Transfer Test. If you haven't heard, this year's test will be the last separate AQE and GL (PPTC) tests that have been in place since the old 11+ test that ceased in 2008.
A new consortium called the Schools' Entrance Assessment Group (SEAG) has been created to replace the two separate organisations and will see all children across Northern Ireland sit the same tests.
The SEAG has released some basic information on the format and content of the new tests. Two tests will be held in November 2023, two weeks apart, and both examinations will contribute to the overall score.
The company GL Assessment, which provides the current GL (PPTC) tests, will supply the new test. However, the format will contain a mix of the current AQE and GL tests, which will see multiple-choice and free-response (written answers).
Registration Open for the 2022 Transfer Test
Registration for both AQE and GL tests is now open. You can find the GL registration form by visiting pptcni.com. Alternatively, visit aqe.org.uk to complete AQE registration. Registration is open until Friday 23rd September, but please do not leave it to the last day as hard copies of documents (birth certificates etc.) must have been received by then.
Transfer Test Preparation is Gaining Momentum
Traditionally, the pace of Transfer Test preparation tends to increase after Easter. It is essential to keep a relaxed and calm approach throughout the children's journey.
At this stage, the primary focus should not be on test scores but on understanding topics. I regularly tell my pupils that although scores are not important at this stage, their effort is. It is also vital to limit testing children on topics they haven't previously learnt; this will help improve confidence in the tests.
Practice tests are a great tool when used correctly. The tests help highlight areas to focus on and allow children to become familiar with the layout and develop test techniques. Test techniques range from avoiding silly mistakes by highlighting important information in questions to skim reading for information. I teach various other test techniques, such as the 'process of elimination', which rejects each multiple-choice option until one possible answer remains.
How to Motivate Children
Parents sometimes tell me that they find it challenging to get their child to do their work. Problems with motivation aren't limited to the Transfer Test but throughout all school years. Thankfully, there are some strategies that you can do to help limit this.
Create a Timetable
Sit down together and create a revision/homework timetable. With an abundance of children's afterschool activities and hobbies, scheduling revision time is critical. My suggestion for the Transfer Test preparation is to sit both papers on Saturday mornings. Scheduling this time ensures that children are not overloaded with work during the school week and also mimics the actual test, which will is on a Saturday morning. Although the practice tests will have time constraints on the front, it is important to let your child work through them at their own pace at this stage.
As previously mentioned, it is important to celebrate learning instead of test results. If a child finally cracks a previously misunderstood topic, such as fractions, this should cause a celebration point. Celebrating learning will help improve their confidence and increase motivation.
Reward systems work well within the workplace; the same applies to motivating children. Saturday mornings are an ideal time for practice tests as an incentive could be to go and get ice cream after completion. More significant, long-term rewards could also be agreed upon to help keep focus.
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