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‘Unanswerable’ Buckinghamshire 11-plus test questions discounted



Grammar schools in Buckinghamshire have been forced to discount two questions from their 11-plus entry test after it emerged that they could not be answered by pupils.

An email sent to parents by the Buckinghamshire Grammar Schools group, which represents the 13 grammar schools in the selective county, said two questions on the verbal skills paper “could not be answered correctly as the options on the answer sheet did not reflect those in the question paper”.

It also admitted to another “inconsistency” in one of the practice questions in the English section of the same paper.

The group said test centres were instructed to tell all pupils not to attempt to answer the questions.

An investigation into the error on the test is ongoing, and the two questions will not count towards pupils’ marks. The group said it hoped the problem would be addressed “as swiftly as possible”.

The tests have been set by GL Assessment since September last year, with Buckinghamshire County Council providing test administration services.

Every child in Buckinghamshire is automatically entered into the 11 plus test, used to assess which pupils have high enough attainment to attend grammar school, unless they specifically opt out. The tests assess verbal, non-verbal and mathematical skills.

Alexa Collins, a Labour campaigner and member of anti-selective education group Comprehensive Future, broke the news of the error on Twitter.

She told Schools Week: “They said they aren’t going to count those questions but it doesn’t matter. How do you assess the amount of time that has been wasted on them, or the stress it caused?

“The next seven years get decided today for so many. This test has screwed them up.”

Others have also used social media to voice concerns about the test.


A spokesperson for Buckinghamshire County Council said it is seeking an “urgent meeting” with GL Assessment and The Buckinghamshire Grammar Schools Group “to establish a resolution to this issue”.

“We recognise that this will cause anxiety for parents and we hope that this matter can be addressed as swiftly as possible.

“The County Council will be working closely with The Buckinghamshire Grammar Schools and GL Assessment and, as soon as we have a resolution for this issue, it will be communicated directly to parents.”

In a joint statement, the Buckinghamshire Grammar Schools group and GL Assessment said “every effort was made to give instructions to all test centres” to warn pupils not to try and answer the questions.

“An urgent investigation is already under way. However, we would like to assure all parents and candidates that there will be a fair resolution within a very short period of time.

“We sincerely apologise for any anxiety this may have caused the candidates and their parents.”



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8 Comments

  1. Neville Morton

    You can’t get the children to re-take the exam. When I took it 65 years ago I got keyed up but passed. Had this happened to me I hope I would have done what my grandson did today; stumbled over the dud questions and soldiered on despite being shaken by it. However, if, later on, I was told that I have to re-take it, I am sure that after the tears had subsided I would not have done as well on the second attempt. You can’t do that to a 10-year old. Bucks CC made the mess, they can’t get the kids to bale them out by a second go. Mark the papers, teachers at the school should be able to assess how each child coped, or was affected, then be flexible. Then do better next year.

    • Janinne Taylor

      I completely agree! My son sat the test and there was so much anxiety & stress leading up to the test day! Although it is ridiculous a test paper could be issued to children without the correct answers as an option, the papers need to be marked & any children not getting what was expected should have a fair appeal. There is no way children should be made to retake, the stress this would cause will make the results even more unreliable!

  2. This is so unacceptable. My daughter sat exam and she raised her hand to query the question but no one came to her in time. She must have wasted so much time on this. Her school wasn’t even aware of the mistakes to inform the students in time. How is this fair on children, confusing them more and affecting their confidence and concentration levels.

  3. James Seymour

    just a note that the photo above is not representative of most of the tests in Bucks – for most Y6 students they are taken in their classroom and not a large hall, and there is a practice day two days before. Notwithstanding the issues and unfairness of this mistake I would not want to give the impression that the test was taken in a place that looked like an exam hall. I have had two children go through it in last 3 years.

  4. micellaneous

    My daughter also raised her hand to both questions, so how much of her time was wasted, the children also took this test in their classroom as apparently 11+ exam conditions have changed?? Sure there would have been some copying going on!!

  5. Bucks should have awarded the best score of including or excluding the 6 questions at the end of the verbal test. I have been through this twice now and to me, this GL error and Bucks response is the last straw in a system that is inherently abusive. Today all the children at school went to find out who is “in” and who is “out”. This is like a Hunger Games society where we sacrifice our children at age 10. Why is it so impossible to stream children effectively within comprehensives? My school sent leavers to Oxford/Harvard and sent others to various mid-level unis, and sent others to do amazing non-academic things: make movies and build houses and work at the cinema, and some to fail out. And we all ate lunch together, the brilliant academic and the brilliant comedian. We learned to appreciate what the others offered. When we separate them out at age 10, nobody wins.