Using VR 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 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 verbal reasoning than their curriculum attainment is particularly effective in its teaching. The same 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.

The main uses of VR 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 VR score than previous years’. This would lead to higher expectations of the group’s GCSE performances.

The progress of groups of pupils – teaching groups, ethnic groups, boys and girls – can similarly be monitored against the stable baseline of their reasoning ability, as shown by their VR scores.

The combined use of the Verbal and Non-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 Familiarisation Test 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 in different subjects. A pupil who does much better on a non-verbal test than on this verbal test may simply have a strong bias to non-verbal thinking and be therefore more likely to succeed in the less language-based subjects(e.g. science and technology). 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.