Am I too late? Getting metacognitively ready for the ISEB pre-test

Summer is on its way! I am not just talking about the speculative weather, but also the end of the academic year and holidays approach. Strange to think that this is the first full uninterrupted academic year for over two years. Many children have spent a lot of their school days catching up on gaps in knowledge and skills. Therefore, there is greater pressure getting your child ready for the upcoming 11+ assessments next term. Speaking to many Meta Prep parents recently, the big question is ‘Am I too late?’ No! Fear not, there is still plenty of time to set your child up for success whether they are sitting the grammar school, ISEB pre-test or traditional 11+ exams.

So how do you get started? By employing the power of motivation, metacognition and deliberate practice. Putting a load of different practice papers in front of your child will not be met with enthusiasm! There comes a point when formal preparations must begin and it can feel challenging to know where to begin. Preparations could begin upwards of 18 months or with only a couple of months to go. For parents of children in Year 5, at this point it is about short term preparation. 

Expert learner alert

Where it all comes together is the concept of becoming an expert learner: a child who is committed to lifelong learning and takes ownership and responsibility. They understand their abilities and motivations; have the ability to analyse and evaluate information; and create new ideas and solutions. To sum it up, an expert learner is self-reflective and self-evaluative. 

This doesn’t happen overnight and sometimes requires rewiring of previous behaviours. A child needs to have an excellent understanding of metacognition, the workings of their brain and how to use deliberate practice. Marrying this with the foundation stones of Maths, English and reasoning, particularly when preparing for the 11+ exams, will develop their inner confidence and passion for learning. 

Being an expert learner is about harnessing the neuroplasticity of the brain. Your brain changes regularly as new knowledge is accumulated. Get a child to list their super strengths and then remind them that together you will help them overcome their weaknesses. It is very empowering. 

Making mistakes without worry and stress is the only way to learn. As an expert learner, you are able to use those mistakes to learn and develop new ideas. Mistakes are not terrifying pointers to failures or knowledge gaps, but to things you don’t know, YET. This is Growth Mindset in action. 

Knowledge base 

At the bottom of Anderson’s Taxonomy is remembering (Knowledge in Bloom’s original taxonomy). Remembering is the simple act of recalling facts. This seems like a simple step but without this foundation step, there is nothing on which your child can build or develop their knowledge. For the 11+ exams, those remembering skills include quick addition, number bonds, multiplication, a broad vocabulary and recalling the order of the alphabet quickly and accurately. An expert learner is fully confident in these areas. 

This makes those pesky, complicated problems that much easier because you are not struggling with the basic information. Your brain has more room to manoeuvre the information around when those facts are quickly recalled. That knowledge base, especially when it comes to exams, is also about technique. Being able to manage your time and completing the easy parts first and quickly, so you have plenty of time to spend exploring solutions to harder problems, will relieve some of the stress of exams. 

Deliberate practice 

Targets are important for all of us and help us see purpose and visualise the route ahead. Deliberate practice, as in a previous blog, requires certain steps to be involved for it to be effective:

  1. Setting a big goal. 
  2. Breaking it down into smaller, more achievable goals.
  3. Practising in small chunks with gaps in between.
  4. Getting expert feedback from your cognitive coach.
  5. Visualising yourself achieving your goal. 
  6. Setting challenges so that your practice is not mindless and boring.

How we help at Meta Prep:

  1. Setting a child a diagnostic assessment to identify gaps so we can target those specifically.
  2. Equipping them with knowledge about their brain structure and neuroplasticity.
  3. Introducing them to thinking frames so they can begin to see patterns in their learning and deploy ‘the correct tools for the job.’
  4. Use the steps of Deliberate Practice to break down the big goal and then plan the steps to success.