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How can I help my DC improve their verbal reasoning scores?

(19 Posts)
BanyanTree Wed 07-Mar-18 09:20:53

My DC has to take CATS tests every year. They have 3 very good scores. The VR score is average and it is bringing my DC's overall score down by 10 points.

DC is not a great reader, but seems to be very good at English. Aside from doing the VR workbooks are there any other ways I can get them to improve this score?

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SandLand Wed 07-Mar-18 09:26:19

It's like a workbook, but have you used www.readtheory.org ?

BanyanTree Thu 08-Mar-18 11:12:26

Thanks, I will check it out.

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woodlanddreamer Thu 08-Mar-18 11:17:13

I thought the whole point of CATs was to not practice them?

BanyanTree Thu 08-Mar-18 12:24:25

Schools say that but then make the DC do loads of VR and NVR workbooks.

An average VR score shows that my DC needs to read more and improve the breadth of their Vocab. Yes, I am talking about the score above but TBH if I have been given the feedback that he needs to expand his vocab (which I have) I'd be a pretty poor parent if I didn't follow that up.

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Michaelahpurple Thu 08-Mar-18 16:42:17

I am afraid that the best way to improve VR is to read more. Has the advantage of having inherent value too!

FairyPenguin Thu 08-Mar-18 16:45:57

Read more but also make sure you use a dictionary to look up any words you don’t understand.

FairyPenguin Thu 08-Mar-18 16:46:54

I would recommend The Week Junior too. Very well-written articles and has definitely expanded my DC’s vocabulary as often triggers discussions.

LadyPeterWimsey Thu 08-Mar-18 17:19:42

Choose a book with more challenging vocabulary (children's classics are usually good for this) and read it aloud to them. Don't overdo it, but when you reach a tricky word, check briefly that they know it, and periodically check comprehension too.

That way they are hearing the word in context which aids comprehension, and you are also widening the sort of books they read, as well as spending time with them too.

My children have enjoyed The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, My Family and Other Animals, The Eagle of the Ninth, Mrs Frisby and the Rats of Nimh, and The Railway Children, all in upper primary.

BanyanTree Thu 08-Mar-18 18:54:19

I have had this problem with both my DC. Up until a couple of years ago they both attended an overseas school which was not a British school. Most of their peers were not native English speakers. Although English is our first language I have had feedback in the past that my DC's vocab is not on the same level as their English peers. I think this is reflected in their VR scores. Even though my eldest is a fantastic reader, his VR was still his lowest score.

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BanyanTree Thu 08-Mar-18 18:54:38

Thanks for the recommendations above.

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BanyanTree Thu 08-Mar-18 18:57:24

Is The Week Junior only available online or can you buy it in a shop?

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FairyPenguin Fri 09-Mar-18 05:45:38

You can buy in shops. I’ve seen it in Sainsbury’s and Waitrose. We subscribe to it now so comes every Friday.

BertrandRussell Fri 09-Mar-18 05:49:57

What practical impact do the yearly CATS scores have on them?

shouldwestayorshouldwego Fri 09-Mar-18 06:44:20

You can also expand vocabulary orally too. I don't think it is as effective as reading aloud - based on my sample of three but it certainly helps. At primary level I had/have one fantastic reader, one good reader (eventually) and one who struggled. Even the one who struggled is praised for their wide vocabulary and often knows words more advanced readers in the class haven't known.

From a fairly young age we have included them in adult conversation and I deliberately use a rich vocabulary myself with them. So when walking past an empty, boarded-up shop. They asked 'why is that shop like that?' I would tell them that it was derelict rather than just saying it was empty, abandoned etc. That sounds like performance parenting but it would just be done in a normal conversational manner. I would explain a meaning if asked or leave them to infer if they seemed happy. It was quite deliberate and conscious, particularly at first.

It isn't quite as effective because they don't see the word and so spelling is more tricky. It is also partly down to the individual child. The one who excels in reading even before reading fluently was collecting adult idioms and phrases. He talked late just before two but read early. Around the age of three he would say phrases such as 'phew, we got there in the nick of time'. He delights in acquiring new words and will always seek to adopt a more complex phrase when a simple one would do. When out for a meal he would say 'I am toying between having x or y' rather than 'I'm not sure whether to have x or y.' He would always ask if he was reading or listening and didn't know what a word meant, whereas the others might be more inclined to let it pass but if questioned wouldn't be able to define it. I think some of those behaviours are just his natural disposition not his upbringing.

Other strategies you might adopt include flash cards, using a thesaurus, having a word of the day. I am not sure that these are as effective as reading and hearing complex words in everyday speech but you could certainly adopt a different word to discuss over breakfast each day wouldn't work in our house as you couldn't hear it above the chivvying, but your house may be more organised .

I agree too with all the advice about reading classics, you don't need to go too far back to get to a different cohort of language. I would say maybe thirty to forty years. You do need to read aloud together though to pick up on the language which some fluent readers find frustrating. With one of ours we used sticky notes which she would put in her book when she didn't understand a word. Not quite as effective but she wasn't as keen to read aloud when she was older.

BertrandRussell Fri 09-Mar-18 08:15:33

Mumsnet heresy number 1 here. I think there is nothing more off putting to most children than suggesting they read the classics! And mumsnet heresy number 2- well chosen TV and film is easily as effective at widening language as reading. And Mumsnet heresy number 3-unless there is a very good reason for it, pay no attention at all to CATs scores. Some people are good at tests like this. Some people aren't. It usually means nothing.

BanyanTree Fri 09-Mar-18 12:12:50

Bertrand, I sound a bit obsessed and am probably coming across as some crazed mum tearing her hair out over my DC's stats.

The thing is though, my independent school does make a big deal of them. They use them as an indictor as to where you should go next. We have a number of independent senior schools near us of different academic and pressure levels. These CATs scores are used to guide you as to where you should sit the exams.

I thoroughly detest CATs. My eldest's scores were not that great and I do not believe they are a reflection of their ability. In fact I know their CATs are lower than some of their peers, but then I have been told DC1 is at the very top end of their year because of a great attitude and hard work. You can't see those attributes on a CATs score but they are very important.

DC2's scores are actually quite good, but I don't need the grief of iffy CATs scores and so I will be trying to improve the VR one, but not just for this reason.

Thanks for taking the time to type out the great advice and tips above. I really appreciate it.

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BubblesBuddy Fri 09-Mar-18 13:09:32

As a parent, it’s up to you what schools you apply for!!! The private school doesn’t dictate to you. Some schools won’t be that bothered about the prep school cat result and will set their own tests.

Also a lower cat result can give the secondary schools more to work on regarding value added. I don’t think your DC can improve much very quickly but if you are realistic about secondary choices, then you should be ok.

It must be pretty horrible to be a child who cannot be recommended for certain schools if, in all other respects, the school would be a good fit. Stand your ground and apply to where is suitable and back off the VR. It’s not all about reading either. General knowledge and use of words in conversation is equally useful. If your DC have other attributes, such as sport and music interests, and do well in school, they will be ok. The cats tests appear internal and should be ignored.

BanyanTree Sat 10-Mar-18 08:21:51

Yes I know. However it is up to my Principal whether or not my DC feed through to our Senior School. It is quite academic. The school says the CATS are not the be all and end all but they sure to bang on about them a lot!

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