Advice for Parents
By clicking on the links you will be able to read some of my opinions about the various examinations and preparation for them. These are my personal opinions generated over the years in which I have been teaching children for these exams. I hope that you might find them useful.
Some thoughts on the 2019/20 Examinations
7+ Numbers taking the 7+ continue to increase. The change in timetable for SPJS and King's means that the period over Autumn half term has become more crucial for final preparation than ever. We run a comprehensive package of mock exams, interview practice and revision- send enquiry form)
My overwhelming impression this year is simply that there are more candidates than ever applying to the popular schools. King’s seem to attract huge numbers of children and according to one parent at Westminster Under they were queueing around the block at 8am for a 9am start.
Do not fear that the examinations are more ‘difficult’ - the content remains relatively similar but I think the passmark may have crept up a little, especially in maths. My advice is the same as always - children need to be very good at maths and that means speed and accuracy, not advanced maths. They need to read really well and have legible handwriting and write quickly. Do not forget the bigger picture either - children who succeed have other interests which they can happily talk about. it is not all about academic performance. Schools talk about potential, do not think that means they will take poorly performing candidates - they don’t, but they are looking for children who genuinely like learning and demonstrate academic thought processes - ability to concentrate, work logically though things and think independently.
Conclusion - A very difficult exam indeed as the children are very young. Parental understanding of what is required is generally too low. The standard expected and produced by some candidates is incredible for their age. The main issue here is that children need to understand that they need a degree of stamina to keep going in the exams. A commonly mentioned problem seems to be 'not finishing.' SPJS seem to be moving towards placing more emphasis on their interview sessions which include an element of group activities and parental interview.
Successful candidates (of whom we had a very high percentage) were excellent at maths, good readers and imaginative writers. Quite simply they were all operating at a very advanced level for their age. SPJS seemed to place more emphasis on problem solving in the maths which does not suit everyone. This year I got the impression that the interview was more significant than it had been historically where the highest candidates in the exams simply got the places. There was some actual progression due to the interview and vice versa. The reasoning was generally considered to be quite difficult at both SPJS and Westminster. We did well with WU and the candidates who got in were intelligent all rounders who had been good at maths and english. Sussex House attracted a high number of excellent candidates and a large number of children who had attended our classes were offered places there.
This year we had the 'new' consortium exams. General feedback seems to be that it was a fairly standard CEM paper. The questions were considered to be relatively straightforward particularly the comprehension although some candidates mentioned time pressure for each section. The verbal reasoning requires good vocabulary skills which some candidates found more difficult. I would surmise that it is true that they will have to place more emphasis on the interviews. My feedback was that the interviews were not that different from before but sometimes included a more 'philosophical question.'
My conclusion is that candidates will be spared the endless study of the 'Consortium papers' that used to go on. However as many candidates also apply to other schools there is still a necessity for the basic skills of written maths, comprehension and writing. My advice would be that candidates should study for written exams as they would for SPJS, Latymer, City etc and that preparation will be appropriate for the Consortium papers too. Last year a number of people seemed to believe that the Consortium exams would be just 'reasoning' and there was no need to study formal english and maths. That is not the case.
As always parents find the whole thing more stressful than they could every have imagined, so try to prepare yourself. Please do not leave it all too late and then panic at the end. Steady preparation is the best thing to do. Please do remember to let us know how the children got on.