Comprehension is a key component of the Eleven Plus in Gloucestershire. Those who do best, will be those that can use logical deduction skills to find inferred meanings for answers, rather than just relying upon finding information that is given explicitly. By this we mean, they look at all the evidence that a text provides, and reach reasonable answers based upon the 'clues'. This is often described as reading between the lines rather than looking for what is 'on the line'.
It takes quite a degree of maturity as a reader to do this, as many younger readers enjoy the comfort of finding answer that easily fits.
Here's an example:
The Travelers and the Bear (From Aesop)
One day, two friends who were travelling along the same road together met a bear. One of them was seized by fright and without a thought for his companion climbed up into a tree and hid himself in the branches.
The other one saw at once that he would not be able to get the better of the bear by himself, and as he had no time to escape, he threw himself on the ground and pretended to be dead. He did this as he had been told that a bear would never touch a dead body.
As he lay there, he heard the bear approach him. In a few moments the bear began to snuff about his nose and ears and heart. The man held himself quite still without breathing, and at last the bear, to his great relief, took him to be dead, and walked away.
As soon as the bear was out of sight the man who had hidden himself in the tree came down. He ran up to his friend in high spirits. He began to make jokes about their escape. ‘What did the bear whisper to you?’ he asked, ‘for I noticed that the beast put his mouth very close to your ear.’
‘Why’, replied his friend, ‘it is no great secret. He advised me to be careful about the sort of company I kept, and in particular, to avoid those who leave their friends in the lurch when they find themselves in difficulty.’
Inference Type Questions:
1. What did the man on the ground pretend?
2. Why did the man in the tree make jokes about their experiences?
3. Why did the man on the ground say what he did at the end of the story?
A few ways that you may help your child improve in their inference ability, is to always ask them what the main idea of their reading is, and to think of inference questions that might be asked about a text. If your child likes to draw, they may like to draw the scene – and discover what they have inferred in their picture; things that may not have been actually said in the text.
Improving this ability takes a lot of practice. Grammar schools themselves suggest that the very best way to prepare for the eleven plus is through increased reading. We would go a step further and suggest that the quality and variety of what is read, is equally as important.
In the Eleven Plus Exam, comprehension texts can range from classical literature to a page from an instruction manual, with many other types writing in between: recipes, newspaper articles, science fiction, myths and legends, an autobiography, and more.
Most children at this age are enjoying series books such as the Percy Jackson Series or Harry Potter, and it is great that they are hopefully enjoying reading this way. However, in order to increase their chances of Eleven Plus success, broadening the range of reading is very important. Not only that, for good reason, series books tend to keep to specific levels of reading, and therefore often avoid challenging new vocabulary and new uses of syntax. We suggest that your child, amongst other reading, attempts to read at least one from the list below each month.
If your child chooses a book from our recommended reading list, we would love it if they would write a review of the book and send it to us!