CEM Durham Tests

cem-question-markAn increasing number of schools and LEAs are opting to use CEM Durham entrance tests instead of GL Assessment (formerly nfer) tests. To react to this change,  11 plus websites and publishers are jumping to market special ‘CEM’ products. CEM (Centre for Evaluation and Monitoring) tests are designed to be ‘resistant to prepping’. This means, in theory, there are no preparation materials available that can help a child improve their exam score.

How are publishers creating products specifically designed for CEM tests?

The only reason students have been coached on specific question types for exams set by GL Assessment is because, for many years, the tests have included the exact same question types and in many areas, only a few subjects were tested which kept the scope of the tests to a minimum. The tests set by CEM Durham are supposedly ‘resistant to prepping’. The only way this can be maintained is if the tests are updated each year to contain new question types.

Because CEM tests have not been widely used for that long, it remains unclear how much effort will be put into ensuring that the tests will include new question types each year. Creating and testing new exam papers is an expensive and time-consuming process so it may be difficult for CEM to keep the papers fresh year after year. There is only so much that an 11-year-old can be tested on. There is the chance that after a few more years, we’ll have a much better understanding of what to expect in the CEM tests and then they will be only slightly more ‘resistant to prepping’ than GL Assessment tests. However, seeing that the scope of what might be included in a test has increased in many 11+ regions, CEM selective tests are likely to improve the eleven plus selection process overall.

If a student has put in the time and prepared enough so as to be strong in all the possible topics that might be tested and has developed strong core vocab, arithmetic and reasoning skills at school and through their 11+ preparation, then they are effectively a hard working student who has developed their core skills and should go on to be successful in a Grammar School environment.

11+ Publishers are deciding what question types to include in their CEM products based on previous familiarisation tests (sent out to parents prior to the exam) and feedback from students who have taken CEM exams. They are just hoping that the next CEM test will have the same question types. There is nothing wrong with this approach (it’s better than doing nothing!) but just remember that if CEM stick to their word and create tests that are truly resistant to prepping, it would be a big gamble to rely solely on these new CEM products.

The familiarisation sheets sent out prior to the exam do not reveal the scope of questions that will be asked. Look at this, taken from a recent CEM familiarisation sheet…

This sample sheet is NOT definitive and the inclusion of any question types does not imply that they will be found in the actual test.

As one mother put it, ‘We are all shooting in the dark’. Don’t give up though. It is more difficult to prepare for CEM tests due to the wider scope, but not impossible.

So what now?

Students now have to be be more flexible and learn not to be panicked by unfamiliar question types. It’s important to practise questions from a wide variety of sources so the Student encounters as many question types and variations of those types as possible.

To be prepared for CEM tests it comes down to improving core skills in… 

– English & Verbal Reasoning (VR) 

– Maths & Numerical Reasoning

– Non-verbal Reasoning (NVR)

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Are tests on 11plus.co.uk suitable for CEM preparation?

Yes. Even though some question formats might not be exactly the same, there is a large area of overlap and often the same core skills are being tested – just in a different style of questioning. For example both CEM and GL Assessment tests are likely to include questions involving antonyms, synonyms, word analogies, similar maths problems etc. The core skills being tested are still those of a 10 year old for which in theory there need not be any additional preparation done outside of school.

For CEM preparation you should include GL Assessment style tests as well as materials from other sources.

Suggestions suitable for both CEM and GL Assessment preparation:

  • 11+ tests and quizzes available as Online Practice
  • Video tutorials in the Knowledgebase
  • Educational Games – great for vocab building, maths, memory and processing speed.
  • Chuckra Mock Exam Days – an opportunity for your child to overcome exam day nerves. Come the big day, a student who has been on a Chuckra Mock test day will have already had the experience of walking into a hall full of unknown students therefore they will be more relaxed and able to focus on their exam paper.

Are Chuckra Mock tests suitable preparation for CEM exams?

Yes, Chuckra has carefully analysed the types of questions and core skills being assessed by the major exam publishers when producing our challenging, high quality papers to provide the perfect opportunity for students, preparing for any 11 plus exam (CEM, GL Assessment, Moray House, CSSE and more), to overcome exam nerves whilst being assessed in a good cross-section of skills. Just remember, as explained above, nobody can guarantee that the same question types will appear in the real 11 plus exam this year.

A child preparing for success in any 11 plus exam (selective test) should:

  • Have strong core skills in English (incl. a large vocabulary), maths (incl. speedy arithmetic) and reasoning (verbal, non-verbal & numerical).
  • Be comfortable to read instructions carefully and answer question types which they have or have not seen before.
  • Manage their time effectively in an exam of any length.
  • Stay calm and focussed under exam conditions while working speedily and accurately.

Chuckra Mock Exam Days are highly recommended by parents & tutors in all regions as an invaluable experience for all concerned – student, tutor and parent.

Your comments are welcomed below.

What do you think about the new CEM tests?

Do they make things more fair?

Vocab seems to be a big part – how do you feel about that? Is it unfair on children with foreign parents?


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