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Urgent Help - Westminster School(20 Posts)
I need some urgent help.
Our son had his heart set on Westminster Under School. He took the 11+ exam a few days ago but failed to get a place. He feels that the main problem was that the format of the exams - eg maths was more problem solving / textual than he was used to - was unfamiliar. He has done all the usual Bond books etc.
We have contacted the senior (ie the Great) School to try for the pretest for 13+.
The pretest exams are in March.
The help we urgently need is:
(1) Any recommendation of books / types of questions / structure of questions and exam
(2) Any suggestions re experienced tutors who can help
He is bright and has managed to succeed in other pretests but he really really has his heart set on Westminster.
Have you rung WUS & asked where he went wrong? I was at my DS' s very similar prep school earlier this week and the office team were telling parents how their children had done in the 8+. They were saying what percentage they had scored in each paper & how that related to the other candidates. They were also saying how far off they were from being interviewed (eg he was 20 places off an interview so did well). At my DS's school they tend to be at least two academic years ahead, so in year 6 he was doing work of a similar level to year 8 in a highly considered selective girls' school. Some of the work he was doing was harder. Was he scoring over 90% in the 11-12 Bond book? Can you ask the registrar at the Great School what they suggest?
We got told by the headmistress at WUS that they do not give feedback. Overall feel fairly disappointed re her attitude.
Re practice. He has been sailing through 13+ common entrance papers. In fact we stopped them, believing the rhetoric of the head that one should not tutor him.
He feels his main issue was unfamiliarity with the format and hence mistiming.
My brother went to Westminster... I telephoned him and asked his opinion. He suggested talking to the Hm (housemaster, not Head master). Tutoring is a winner. I went to CLC and the same is true... It sounds like he was nervous which is understandable. Have you thought about Harrow or Eton - excellent schools, though Westminster tends to produce more London/Belgravia children.
My DS took the 13+ pretest a year ago. FWIW we were told by his prep school that it was not a test that could really be prepared for. DS found the maths to be very reasoning based (so sounds a bit like what your DS had at the 11+). The English was more what you would expect - a bit of comprehension and a composition. There was definitely time pressure on all of the tests. They interview everyone and the interview is part English comprehension (they hand you a one-page text to read and discuss), part classic interview. I believe the prep school reference is also quite important in their admissions process.
Despite the official line that it is not a test that can be prepared for, I'm sure there are tutors out there who are familiar with the format and could help you. I'd contact the main agencies and see what they can come up with.
Good luck - I hope it works out for your DS.
Although your intentions are genuine, I feel its pointless suggesting Eton or Harrow when the lad really really has his heart set on Westminster. In any case, hes too late for Eton which require registration at the very latest, by the age of 10 years 6 mths. Unless if he tries for the Kings Scholarship just before 13.
maths was more problem solving / textual than he was used to - was unfamiliar."
This tells me he does not understand the principle(s) of the maths hes learnt so far. Therefore, all the Bond books and whatever books hes done are quite useless if the principles are not grasped. The question about tutors is quite tricky. Some are obviously very good seeing that the pupils they teach grasp the gist of the work they are asked to do while some obviously dont care much and fly through the program they have set themselves often due to time constraints.
I have therefore, always advocated starting tuition early as each pupil is different. Some learn and understand quicker than others depending on the topic. A tutor/teacher does not know which category a new pupil falls into i.e. a fast learner or a slow learner. And as far as maths is concerned, personally I wouldnt progress any further in teaching a pupil new things unless what that is being taught currently is grasped thoroughly and inside out. That way, however the question(s) is set, the pupil will be able to answer them.
No experience of Westminster, but DS did the Eton test a few years ago, and it was his maths that was his weakest area.
It sounds as if the questions are similar though, in as much as you are given problems to solve, but you are not told 'this is an algebra question' or 'this is a question about angles in a triangle'.
It might be worth looking at more puzzle type maths problems like the Murderous Maths website; it will give him some practice at identifying what area of maths he needs to solve the problems.
I think you have misunderstood what Westminster are looking for. It is not an 11 year-old boy able to do 13+ CE papers. It is a boy with a logical mind and creative approach to problem solving. In my experience, you can familiarise students with every type of problem solving question you can think of but it doesn't mean they will be able to solve a question type that they have never come across before. This is what separates the successful candidates from the unsuccessful candidates in my opinion.
Those children who have been tutored and get lucky, having seen the types of questions on the exam, may well end up struggling if they actually get into the school.
Can I suggest you try the Manchester Grammar School 11+ papers? We tried them just before indie school tests and found them to be much more problem solving/verbal reasoning based than any other work we'd done. (You are doing verbal reasoning practise?) DS found the first MGS paper really hard and scored badly. On the second one he got the hang of how to approach such questions and scored well. They seemed to really hone his mind for the maths exams, as one school gave feedback that he scored 100% in it.
I second the Manchester Grammar papers..... They are quite different to all the others and very challenging
Many thanks to you all.
(1) We will look at the Manchester Grammar papers and the Murderous Maths websites
(2) I think frankly it was simply that concept of learning to apply. He does understand and grasp maths concepts but the speed of implementation I do believe would benefit from practice.
I went to Westminster (as a sixth form girl) and it is very academic. If your son is not up to it I really wouldn't send him there, it would be a thoroughly miserable experience. There are plenty of other schools where he would be much happier. I found it an exceptionally tough school in every way and not much fun I have to say.
And another thing - both my brothers went to Westminster Under School and then on to the senior school (or Great school if you must!) and the headmaster at the time (this was in the 80s/90s) told my parents that some boys were incredibly heavily tutored and might do quite well in the entrance exams but that the tutoring would only take them so far and at interview they would spot the ones who did not have the natural ability to succeed at such a school.
Are Manchester grammar papers available for 8+ as well
Do bear in mind that the 11+ entry to WUS is quite different from the pre-test for Westminster as the 11+ is intended largely for (relatively) untutored but very bright boys and seeks out potential, whereas the pre-test is taken by many boys who are currently at preps and being prepared for Common Entrance or similar. Still seeking potential of course, but maybe at a slightly different point. Numbers taking the 11+ are also very high for not very many places. So I wouldn't be too discouraged by the fact that he didn't get in at that point. If you can manage to talk to somebody who knows about pre-test and 13+ at his current school and/or get some advice from Westminster itself, you'd find that helpful I think. Maths is certainly important for both.
My Son did the Pretest last year.
The Headmasters report from your prep / primary school and recommendation is crucial and particularly the year 5 or 6 CAT scores. The pretest appears to be the CEM / University of Durham tests on VR and numerical reasoning followed by word-based, logic-based maths (difficult to prepare for but some early algebra and applied logic is the key). Not a particularly tough exam but intentionally trying to identify intelligence / potential rather than rote learning/tutoring.
Hope that is of some help.
The school is very competitive and you are also up against certain London preps who send children to WUS year after year and know exactly what type of child the school are looking for.
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