What does ‘without excessive preparation’ really mean?

In previous blog posts I have spoken about the CEM claim that their exams are difficult to prepare for and ‘tutor proof’. I have written a lot about this claim – disputing it as ‘false’. It seems now, however, that with the amount of backlash that CEM seems to have received about this apparent claim, they are now talking about the exam ‘enabling children to demonstrate their academic potential without excessive preparation’. This statement, in and of itself, seems a contradiction in terms, as much of the purpose of any form of testing in education is to assess not only the innate ability of children but also the knowledge they have acquired through study.

An exam tests, or ascertains, how much knowledge or skill children have acquired by reading, or applying themselves to study. The skills they have developed serve either to boost or supplement their ‘natural ability’. Gary Player (the renowned South African golfer) once said that people always call him ‘lucky’ and, in response, commented that the more he practises, the luckier he seems to get. There is also a general saying that success is made up of 10% natural ability and 90% hard work. Is not the very nature of school to teach, inspire and encourage children to work hard; ‘excessively prepare’ for tests and exams; and to do the best that they are able to academically? In one sense, there is no fair form of testing, as we cannot fully distinguish between what we have acquired through study and what we possess innately in the form of intelligence. However, if we follow through the logic of this objection to testing, we would not set GCSE, ‘A’ Level or degree exams as we could deem them all as unfair. No one would ever suggest you should not prepare for these exams, so why are some claiming one should not prepare for the 11+?

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