Page last updated at 11:57 GMT, Friday, 8 May 2009 12:57 UK

Questions answered on exam plan

Pencil and paper
Northern Ireland grammar schools are setting their own tests

BBC education correspondent Maggie Taggart answers some questions about how almost all Northern Ireland grammar schools are expected to use an academic test to select pupils - if they have more applications than places.

The old transfer test, the 11-plus, was taken by pupils applying for all types of grammar schools, but this year this year they have divided themselves into two groups.

Who are the groups?

A. The Association for Quality Education is one group and it has commissioned locally based academics to devise a set of tests in English and Maths.

They will be written tests, not multiple choice, and pupils will take them on two or three occasions.

The second group, the Post Primary Transfer Consortium, consists mostly of Catholic grammar schools.

Both sectors are co-operating on some issues

It has commissioned tests from a company linked to the National Foundation for Educational Research: GL Assessment.

They will be multiple choice in English and Maths and GL will also mark the tests. The consortium has asked for questions which align with the Northern Ireland primary school curriculum.

Along with the Catholic schools, two integrated colleges and four non denominational voluntary grammar schools have joined this group.

Will there be sample papers?

A. The AQE has placed a sample test on its website:

It said it will not be issuing more sets of sample papers because they do not want to be accused of encouraging coaching in primary schools.

The Catholic grouping will have sample papers when pupils are registered.

Where are the tests taking place?

A. The tests are taking place in the grammar schools, previously they would have been held in the primary school to which the pupil belonged.

The AQE schools will be encouraged to invite children to visit in advance of the test day, to become familiar with the surroundings.

These children are to arrive at school for a one hour exam beginning at 1000. The first will be on the 14 November, the second on the 28 November and the third, supplementary, test on 5 December 2009.

For the other group there will only be one main test day for this exam on 21 November. Children will be asked to turn up at the school at 0830.

There will be a 20 minute familiarisation when they will be shown a number of sample questions. The first test, for English, will be at 0915 and last 50 minutes.

Then pupils will take a break before doing a 45 minute maths exam.

Is there a charge?

A. The AQE will charge parents £35 for the test procedure, but children who get free school meals will not be charged.

There will be no charge for the tests in the mainly Catholic grouping.

Are the different groups co-operating on anything?

A. The two groups are coordinating on some issues, and on part of the timetable.

All schools will require a registration form and at least one photograph of the pupil.

Pupils will be asked to come in school uniform and the grammar school will attempt to seat children from the same school close together.

The dates for applying for the test will be the same for each organisation. Opening date: 18 May, closing on 18 September.

The exam results will all be posted out on Friday, 5 February for delivery on Saturday, 6 February.

There will be a facility for pleading special circumstances, if a pupil is ill or has a family trauma on the day of the test. However, unlike the old 11-plus, parents must apply for that by 18 December, 2009.

Both organisations will allow extra time during the exams for pupils with disabilities.

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