The media take up the outcry against the claim of ‘fairness’ in the CEM 11+ Exam

In previous blog posts, I have spoken about how the Centre for Evaluation and Monitoring have indicated that their 11+ exam could be viewed as ‘tutor proof’ and very difficult to prepare for. In recent articles released by Bucks Free Press and The Guardian, it seems clear that most do not think that this exam is better than the GL Assessment exam that it has replaced. In fact it is purported that it is even more unfair and exclusive than before. There is a clarion call for the CEM exam to be withdrawn, until such a time that the controversies surrounding it can be resolved.

In this light, I will repeat what I’ve said in the past. I also believe that the CEM exam is unfair. This is because it relies heavily on assessing English skills, which is highly discriminatory. 50% of the weighting in the exam is given for verbal ability skills, non-verbal reasoning is only weighted at 20% and numerical reasoning (maths) is only worth 30% of the overall mark. This test discriminates against children who have excellent maths and spatial reasoning skills in favour of those who can express themselves well in the English language. This leaves those who do not have English as their first language at a huge disadvantage, despite any ‘natural academic ability’ (which is exactly what CEM are claiming to be testing with this exam) that they may have above their ‘naturally English speaking’ compatriots.

Should the CEM exam be scrapped and replaced by another fairer exam or should the GL Assessment exams be brought back? I believe the best alternative would be an GL Assessment style exam that tested all four traditional areas over two papers i.e. verbal reasoning and non-verbal reasoning (50 minutes) and maths and English (50 minutes), with equal weighting for each subject area. Whilst no testing system is entirely fair, this would give the children the opportunity to demonstrate ability across a range of skills.