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Advice re CEM exam for grammar school

(114 Posts)
sleepwouldbenice Fri 08-Jan-16 00:58:20


the grammar schools in our area have announced they are changing to the above exams from next year - the reason given is that too many pupils were being tutored to pass and these exams do not require tutoring. Overall I feel this is a great idea

My DD is in year 4 and fairly bright in most subjects so I was considering putting her in for the exams

I really don't believe in tutoring and tutoring or "training" to pass the exams as I do think they will struggle with the expectations later on. On the other hand I don't want her chances scuppered just because she is not familiar with "exam technique" (eg staying calm, coming back to harder questions etc) and think she ought to have some practice just to have an idea of what to expect. I think I would also like an independent view on her chances of passing as the primary school stays quite neutral on this

Does anyone have any experience with this exam, if tutoring (either from parents or a paid tutor) would be any good if so for how long, are there past papers, any other hints and tips?

Just want to get the balance right to be honest - happy to do something for a few weeks or a year!

Thanks in advance

SelfRaisingFlour Fri 08-Jan-16 13:42:45

She should definitely do practice papers. Would you go into an exam without practising or studying? I certainly wouldn't.

They need to know how to read the questions properly, not miss half the question, keep within the time, skip questions if necessary and come back if there is time, show their working. They're not going to learn this on their own during an important exam.

Also if she is at a state school the maths topics in the test may not have been covered by the beginning of year 6. You'll need to make sure all the necessary ground is covered.

I know quite a few parents, who were half hearted and not pushy about getting their children to do any work and they regretted it when their children were only a few marks from passing.

Luxyelectro Fri 08-Jan-16 13:45:30

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Luxyelectro Fri 08-Jan-16 13:56:37

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portico Fri 08-Jan-16 19:51:58

The CEM tests are very hard, but do-able. Both my sons scored highly in these tests to get into their super selective grammar school.

They will be difficult for those cosseted on a diet of the straightforward GL and Moray tests.

Practise vocab, and use the elevenplus website for the Vocab words that come up in CEM exams. Forget about reading copiously. Just do lots of comprehensions and Cloze exercises. For Maths use the SS Mental Arithmetic Books up to and including Book 5. For NVR use the Bond Tests Packs 1 and 2. also, use the GL Test Packs 1 and 2.

sleepwouldbenice Fri 08-Jan-16 21:29:24

Thanks for the advice and agree that we need to do something, just thinking of the balance. For those suggesting tutoring, how long for?

Thanks again, all views very welcome

Luxyelectro Fri 08-Jan-16 21:33:22

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Washediris Fri 08-Jan-16 21:37:28

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Washediris Fri 08-Jan-16 21:39:44

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PettsWoodParadise Fri 08-Jan-16 21:49:31

DD sat a superselective, a GL and a CEM a few months ago. All tests were very different. CEM seemed to play to DD's vocab strengths and she did exceptionally well despite time pressure. GL was ridiculously tight on time. We didn't formally tutor but did prepare with familiarisation and mock tests.

Pop over to the Elevenplusexams forum which has a huge amount of advice.

Luxyelectro Fri 08-Jan-16 22:01:24

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

GladToBeDone Sat 09-Jan-16 00:03:50

Like all exams, it is essential to be familiar with the structure and approach of the CEM, particularly dealing with the time pressure and to not get worked up not being able to answer all of the questions.

In terms of prep materials, I'd recommend S&S mental maths and CGP and Bond CEM practice exercises and tests. In particular, help your DD strengthen her grasp of maths fundamentals so that recall comes quickly and build a reasonably broad vocabulary.

Preparation need not be intense (steady progress is best anyway, imo) and an external tutor is not needed. However, active parental involvement is essential - for example, while it is not necessary to bombard a child with endless practice exams it is critical that a parent takes the time to review and discuss each test. Good luck.

portico Sat 09-Jan-16 11:27:51

I agree with the last poster. Use First Past the Post books for Cloze and Numerical reasoning. The Comprehension books are not challenging enough.

Use the Cgp cem books for Eng, Maths and Nvr, especially the 10 min test books

sydenhamhiller Sat 09-Jan-16 11:56:28

This has been an interesting thread. We're in SE London (locals will know where from name). DC1 (DS) is in y7 at SS grammar. GS is a great fit for him: he's quiet, a book worm, very self-contained. He is - for good and bad - impervious to his peers.

DD1 is Y5. Like brother, top table, but not top kid. (HT at the GS said to be realistic, it's not enough for your child to be on the top table, but should also be top of that table.)

However, DD is far more successful socially, loves art, drama, dance, having friends over - in short, probably much more well-rounded!

So - we looked at the SS girls grammar. For reasons of commuting, only considering this one. And, to our disappointment, we didn't love it. Lovely girls, know people with girls there who are very happy. But... We just knew with DS, it was like looking at houses and thinking 'this is the one'.

So, as people have said above, we're going to let her try - but don't think she'll get in, and even if she did, not sure it is the right school for her. I wouldn't want her to struggle at the 'bottom': she might be better at a different school, in a top set, and in a little less pressurised academic environment.

But she wants to try, and talks about catching the train with her brother <sob>, so we feel we need to prep her like we prepped him. So far, she flies with NVR but as she rarely picks up a book, her vobabulary is a weak point, and so VR can be tricky.

I would be so grateful for any tips on how I could work on this with her. (I know the best thing she could do would read...). <sorry to hi jack OP>

portico Sat 09-Jan-16 12:06:01

Use the AE Vocab books 1 to 12, and in the last two months use their Antonyms and Synonyms. Use the books I mentioned in my last post for Cloze

sleepwouldbenice Sat 09-Jan-16 12:55:26

Hi all
Just to say thanks for all the advice, didn't expect such a response!!!
Will need time to digest and look at all the places for suggestions for help and information, may well be back with more questions!

Thanks again!

portico Sat 09-Jan-16 13:07:40

Just be resolute and determined. A gs place is a gilt-edged education. For Mr 2 Ds, it will save me ca £40k a year in fees and associated other school costs.

Washediris Sat 09-Jan-16 14:53:18

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

sunnydayinmay Sat 09-Jan-16 15:12:33

I think I get the top of top table thing. Part selective schools here. DS was in an exceptionally very bright primary school class, and the 11 plus results were pretty much in order of their setting at primary. Even in secondary, after CATS tests, the setting is as expected (top of top table in top sets, rest of top table in 3rd set).

The elevenplus forum is very good for materials. I would start there. I wasn't keen on the idea of spending hours going through test papers, but it was a good experience to show DS exam technique generally.

Molio Sat 09-Jan-16 21:43:47

Gilt edged? There's far too much variation in grammars to say that about a good number of them. Also top of top table? What a lot of rubbish. HTs just don't want to get it in the neck if a particular child doesn't get in, so they come over all mystical.

The CEM tests are designed to be far less susceptible to tutoring but of course the huge tutoring industry that has grown up around grammars means that tutors will insist that tutoring is still essential, or at least very highly desirable. I've seen the real thing, and the CEM tests are very smart, also very different from the old tests. There are practice tests out there which actually don't replicate the CEM tests at all, interestingly.

recyclingbag Sun 17-Jan-16 22:41:00

DS is in year 5 and having a weekly tutor for the CEM test.

We're trying to be quite relaxed about it. It's really just to get him used to sitting down and concentrating!

From what I can gather - which may or may not be true, the CEM test is less teachable in terms content because there are no past papers to buy, the content changes and also the maths is not stuff year 5 children won't have covered.

However it seems that time is an issue. They have to answer questions quickly and can't waste time getting stuck on some.

This seems to have created even more of a market for tutors teaching exam techniques and time saving tricks.

Please feel free to come along and tell me that's rot.

namechangedtoday15 Tue 19-Jan-16 13:34:04

I would just check your particular area's system - as far as I know, there are different versions of CEM. I know my particular area uses Durham (might be different to you). We had some schools using CEM and some schools using GL so we had to do both.

I disagree with previous posters that say you don't need to read. It's all about vocab. There a re cloze exercises, comprehensions (which often ask the meaning of a particular word in the test) then picking similar words / opposite words out of lists. I think the lists on the eleven plus website are helpful, but it really is about reading and talking about new words.

The major difference between GL and CEM is the timing - and this threw quite alot of children. For GL, there is (for example) a 50 minute maths paper. You can answer the questions in any way you like, miss out ones you find tricky and go back to them.

In CEM there is (for example) a 50 minute paper that is a mixture of questions - NVR, maths, literacy - in a number of sections. So this year, the first section was 32 NVR questions and they had 4 minutes. At the end of that 4 minutes (all the instructions are given by a recorded message / tape) you are told to turn over to the next section (and you're not allowed to go back to that section). The next section was a 16 question comprehension in 8 minutes. Even if you finish that section in 6 minutes you can't turn back. Thats really tricky.

Our area is also opt-in. Everyone tutored (and don't believe the ones that say they didn't smile) from about October of Year 5 - exams done early Sept here. My only advice would be to consider whether you can commit to uninterrupted sessions (other children), whether you're patient and dedicated enough to do it.

My other tip would be to sign your child up for a couple of "mock" exams - usually offered by external companies over the summer holidays. They provide some useful feedback about questions your DC found tricky, but most importantly, its done in the same exam conditions / layout / format etc as the "real" exams so when your DC comes to sit the exam, they can concentrate on the test and not be thrown by the process.

Molio Wed 20-Jan-16 08:02:49

recycling it's rot.

recyclingbag Wed 20-Jan-16 14:37:03

Which bit Molio? All of it?

It's so hard. Because the only other options around here are private or secondary modern, it's like an arms race.

I never thought I would tutor but when everybody is it's hard to make a stand.

You get lots of people on threads saying they didn't tutor and children passed anyway

Very few saying they didn't tutor, and their child didn't pass.

I think this has been my most difficult parenting decision so far.

Molio Wed 20-Jan-16 16:36:44

recycling it is difficult, I know. But the tutors have been largely disenfranchised by the CEM tests and are desperate, for obvious reasons, to insist that tutoring is still vital for a DC to stand a decent chance.

I haven't heard of any issues with timing whatsoever.

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