What are standardised scores?

A (not so) brief introduction to the 11+'s 'Standardised Score' system and what it all means.

June 19, 2021
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With the 11 plus results planned to hit several kitchen tables this month, many parents will remain mystified by what the one, and somewhat summarising, score represents and what raw marks their child actually got. Having looked at a variety of explanations regarding ‘standardised scores’, it seems a tricky task to pin down what they represent in the real sense.

The main factor is that schools need to collate all scores from each individual paper. These include numerical reasoning, non-verbal reasoning and verbal reasoning – all of which will have a score out of a varying number of questions. Similarly, the time available to sit each test will vary; for example 45 minutes for NVR and 55 minutes for VR. So the scores cannot be added up in the same way we would see on GCSEs; which give an overall result and percentage. In the eleven plus, the scores are standardised so that an average will emerge for success across all tests, which considers time and the number of maximum marks available in each paper.

Unlike GCSEs and A-Levels, the 11 plus is marked with the unique consideration of a child’s age at the time of the test. That’s right – the marks are benchmarked against a range of ages and takes into consideration every additional month a child is older / younger by. For example a child who is born at the end of August (end of the school year) is also taking the test at the same time as a child born at the beginning of September (start of the school year). A look-up table is created which compiles both raw scores and age ranges for the group. The reason for this is that there is an assumed advantage to a child who is older and therefore may have advanced skills in vocabulary. So to balance off all the possible advantages or disadvantages, the marks are adjusted to take this into account.

Therefore, how on earth does a raw score of 70/85 become 120 or 125 I hear you cry! Basically there is no definitive answer to this as the method varies. This includes the combination of sample stats from ‘equating tests’ and the factors of age we’ve already identified. To clarify, ‘equating tests’ are where a sample of children (who have taken the 11+ previously) are then asked to take another paper from the preceding year and the results are adjusted as to whether the children found the real test easier or more complex.

Through the statistical process, an average will appear and this is usually around 100, but this does vary for the specific region and school itself. There is a cut-off point for the highest score on the basis that it would become statistically unsound by this particular point. Another factor in higher scores is that they do in fact become irrelevant as there is no ‘grade’ assigned to distinguish the result and that several places will still be allocated to children achieving the standardised pass rate. Remember, the purpose of the exam is to identify a pass mark and not the specific grades we see in GCSEs and A-Levels.

So in a nutshell, even if a slightly stats-crammed one, standardisation aims to remove the variables of age and complexity of the paper itself (in that particular year) to make results more fair and representative. We will never know the difficulty of the paper, the abilities of the group or all other factors that are taken into account – all we can do is wait for the post; safe in the knowledge that as much as possible has been done to prepare your child for success.