Using NVR scores in schools

You can use the test results to enhance your knowledge of the pupils in your class and to inform your teaching strategies. For example, although pupils are unlikely to score exactly the same mark in a reasoning test as in a curriculum test, it may be that pupils with non-verbal reasoning scores that are much higher than scores in a subject-based test would be able to raise their curriculum performance after targeted teaching. Conversely, it may be that a school whose pupils score lower on non-verbal reasoning than their curriculum attainment is particularly effective in its teaching. The same Non-Verbal Reasoning tests could also be used to monitor successive year groups of pupils to determine differences in ability that are largely unaffected by teaching.

Non-verbal reasoning tests are significant in assessing the overall reasoning ability of all pupils. It is well known that some people find reasoning with shapes and designs much easier than with words and sentences, whereas the converse is true for others. Using a non-verbal test helps to identify those who reason best with spatial concepts and who may eventually prove to have relative strengths in subjects like mathematics, science, design and technology. Another advantage of non-verbal tests is that, since they involve no reading, they are a valuable means of assessing pupils who speak English as an additional language, and pupils who are thought to have specific difficulties with language-based work.

The main uses of NVR scores are:

•to identify an individual pupil’s cognitive strengths and weaknesses in order to inform teaching and learning

•to compare the performance of groups of pupils, in order to identify needs and to target resources better

•to identify pupils, or groups of pupils, who may be underachieving.

Schools may also find the scores useful in describing the overall calibre of groups of pupils: whole intakes to a school; classes within a school; ethnic groups of pupils; girls and boys. It may happen, for instance, that one year’s intake has a much higher average NVR score than previous years’. This would lead to higher expectations of the group’s GCSE performances.

The combined use of the Non-Verbal and Verbal Reasoning tests is recommended as a means of identifying pupils whose abilities using the medium of language differ substantially from their abilities using visual media. In this way, their potential is more likely to be recognised and can be exploited in personalising their learning experiences to ‘play to their strengths’.

Interpreting unexpectedly low scores

Caution needs to be exercised when interpreting unexpectedly low scores. High scores present few interpretative problems and provide unequivocal evidence – unless the pupils have copied from a neighbour, or guessed with unusual luck. Interpreting unexpectedly low scores is far more complex.

Work systematically through possible explanations for the poor performance:

1. Review the test session. Did pupils fully understand what had to be done? Did they complete the practice questions correctly? Are there any reasons why they might have been distracted, worried or insufficiently motivated?

2.Consider pupils’ overall experience of timed, formal testing. Was this a new and stressful experience for them? Did they understand the need to work quickly? The pattern of answer choices may yield some clues about how a pupil worked. For example, of two pupils scoring 10, one may have randomly guessed every question and scored 10 by chance, whereas the other could have gained full marks on the only ten questions attempted.

3.Look at pupils’ scores in relation to other test scores and attainment indifferent subjects. A pupil who does much better on a verbal test than on this non-verbal one may simply have a strong bias to verbal thinking and will therefore be more likely to succeed in linguistic subjects. In contrast, if a pupil has uniformly low scores, it may be advisable to consider the pupil’s home environment, or whether his or her schooling has been seriously interrupted. It may be possible to improve test scores and other measures of intellectual development with appropriate intervention. Controversy surrounds the question of how far reasoning ability can be improved by specific training, but the educationally more optimistic view is that people from deprived backgrounds, especially the young, can substantially increase their reasoning ability if given appropriate help.