FAQs

What are the key dates for 2022 entry? 

4 May 2021, 3pm - registration opens for parents of children who do not attend a Buckinghamshire LA primary school

24 June 2021, 3pm - registration closes

7 September 2021- practice test*

9 September 2021- Secondary Transfer Test*

15 October 2021 - Secondary Transfer Test results

31 October 2021, midnight - deadline for secondary school applications

1 March 2022 - National Offer Day

*Please see News page for important information about changes to these dates for out of county children taking the test.

**********************************************************************************************************************************************************************************

When do parents need to register their children to take the test?

Children attending Buckinghamshire primary schools do not need to be registered. Children attending other schools do need to be registered for testing.. Details of how and when to register are available on the Buckinghamshire Council website along with other useful information for parents about moving up to secondary school in Buckinghamshire and the secondary transfer testing process.

Will my child get a grammar school place if I don’t live in Buckinghamshire?

Buckinghamshire grammar schools are very popular and, as such, are usually significantly oversubscribed.  Once children have qualified for a grammar school place, the admission arrangements for each grammar school for which a preference is expressed will be applied to the child's application, and it is the oversubscription criteria in these which determine which children are offered a place.  You can find the admission arrangements for each school (including an Admission Policy) on their individual websites.

Not all admission criteria are the same, however places are usually offered to siblings of current pupils first, then to children living in catchment, and then other children, in order of the distance between the child's home address and that of the school, with those living closer having higher priority. This therefore means that children who qualify for Buckinghamshire grammar schools, but live outside their chosen school’s catchment area, have a lower chance of achieving a place at that school than those living in catchment.  You can see how many children obtained places in your area by looking at the ‘grammar school allocations by location’ files on our test data page.

 

Are children in Buckinghamshire primary schools automatically entered for the test no matter where they live?

Yes, unless parents notify their child’s head teacher that they do not wish their child to take the test.

How many test papers are there?
The Secondary Transfer Test comprises two test papers. One paper includes comprehension, technical English and verbal reasoning questions. The other paper includes non-verbal reasoning, spatial reasoning and maths questions. This will be the same each year, although the questions will be different. Children answer questions on separate answer sheets.

​How long does each test paper take?
Each Secondary Transfer Test paper takes about 45 minutes. This means that it can be administered in approximately an hour including the introduction and practice examples.

When is the Secondary Transfer Test taken?
The Secondary Transfer Test is taken in early Autumn Year 6 and all children normally sit the test on the same day no matter where they live or go to school.

Are the test papers taken on the same day?

Yes. Both Secondary Transfer Test papers are taken on the same day with a short gap in between.

When do children not attending Buckinghamshire primary schools take the test?

Children not attending Buckinghamshire primary or partner schools normally take the practice and Secondary Transfer Tests on the same days as children at Buckinghamshire schools.

Where do children attending out-of-county schools take the test?

Children attending out-of-county primary schools take the test at one of the Buckinghamshire grammar schools or at another central location.

How are the tests administered?

Pupils are supervised by a teacher or invigilator. Each child has a question booklet and a separate answer sheet for each test paper. The question booklet contains all the necessary instructions about taking the test and all the test questions. The teacher or invigilator uses a supplied audio file to take the children through the initial example questions and to play the instructions about starting and finishing the test and to time all the sub-sections of the test.

How does TBGS make sure that all schools administer the test in the same way?

In collaboration with Buckinghamshire primary school headteachers, a protocol has been prepared so that all headteachers (Buckinghamshire primary and partner schools) have an agreed standard set of procedures for administering the tests. The use of audio files to administer the test is another way of standardising practice.

What happens if a child is ill on the day of the test or during a test?

Schools have clear instructions about how to deal with such circumstances. If children are unable to take the test, they will be able to do so on a later occasion.

What does the test assess?

Children are tested on verbal, mathematical and non-verbal skills. Verbal skills are tested in the first test paper and include English comprehension, technical English and verbal reasoning questions. In the second paper children answer non-verbal, spatial reasoning and maths skills questions. All the questions are multiple-choice.

What is meant by technical English?

Technical English covers English grammar, punctuation and spelling and in the STT children are assessed on the sorts of things they are familiar with from national curriculum work and testing.

Are all test questions equally rated and are all the sections equally weighted?

All the test questions are equally rated (i.e. every correct answer will gain one raw mark). The sections are not equally weighted. The verbal skills section has a weighting of 50%. The mathematical and non-verbal sections each have a weighting of 25%.

What is the rationale behind the weightings in the test?

The Secondary Transfer Test assesses a range of verbal, mathematical and non-verbal skills. The verbal skills areas tested are English comprehension, technical English and verbal reasoning. Non-verbal, spatial reasoning and maths skills are assessed as well. The weightings of the three sections that  make up the Secondary Transfer Test Score (STTS) are as follows: verbal – 50%; mathematical – 25%; non-verbal – 25%. The weightings indicate the proportion of the test devoted to that skill, and also provide a balanced view of a child’s developed ability.

What allowances are made for children with special educational needs?
Headteachers are able to apply to a Special Access Panel for special arrangements for specific children with special educational needs. For example, there is the opportunity for certain children to be given up to 25% extra time and large print question booklets and answer sheets are available for children with visual impairments.

How can you tell that the test selects the right pupils for grammar school entry?

Tests such as the ones being used for selecting students for entry into Buckinghamshire grammar schools are in common usage across England. As per the Schools Admissions Code, grammar schools select their pupils on the basis of high academic ability, and the tests are designed to achieve this purpose.

Can a child’s performance in other tests such as CATs be compared with the outcomes of the STT?

No. Tests are designed for different purposes and therefore how a child performs in one test does not necessarily correlate or predict similar performance in another different test.

Is the test age appropriate?

The Buckinghamshire STT is designed to be taken at the beginning of the Autumn term when children move in to Year 6.  Literacy levels in the test are kept as low as possible to ensure that the test assesses reasoning ability rather than levels of literacy. Additionally maths or English content in the test does not go beyond what the national curriculum expects children to know and be able to do by the end of Year 5.

Are children able to practise for the test?
Yes. Before taking the Secondary Transfer Test pupils take two practice test papers each lasting about 25-30 minutes containing questions that are similar to those they will encounter in the Secondary Transfer Test. The practice test gives children experience of test-taking conditions as well as giving them the opportunity to work through example test material. The practice test papers are not be marked or taken home from the school. The Secondary Transfer Test includes instructions given aurally and the practice test also familiarises children with listening to instructions from an audio file.

How can parents best help their children to prepare for the test?
There are a number of things that parents can do to help their children. They can:

  • ensure that they have experience of working quietly on their own, uninterrupted by noise or distractions;

  • ensure that they do any homework that is set;

  • help their children to read with understanding, for example by asking them what certain words mean and what is happening in the passage or book that they are reading;

  • encourage them to solve problems by themselves or to look up things for themselves;

  • work through the familiarisation materials that will be available in the summer term of Year 5 with their children as these will show what the test papers and answer sheets look like;

  • use the free familiarisation materials available on the GL Assessment website.

Are tutoring and coaching required?

The Secondary Transfer Test is designed to enable all children to demonstrate their academic potential without the need for coaching or excessive preparation. Primary and partner schools that undertake testing on behalf of the grammar schools are asked not to tutor or coach children in their school prior to the test over and above enabling the children to follow the national curriculum relevant for their age.

In order to be able to prepare children appropriately for the STT, parents of children in Year 5 are provided with a familiarisation booklet in the summer term so that they can familiarise children with how the test papers will look. All children are also encouraged to prepare by taking the practice test so that they have the experience of taking a test under similar conditions to the STT. Additional free familiarisation materials are also available on GL Assessment’s website should parents wish to use them.

How much preparation do children need to do?

TBGS supports the view of GL Assessment that all children should have the opportunity to experience sample questions as part of the familiarisation process and that this is an essential element of a fair testing process. This is why we provide familiarisation materials for parents and children ahead of the STT and also have a practice test.

To support this process, GL Assessment has also published a series of free 11+ familiarisation materials, which parents are welcome to download from the GL Assessment website. The familiarisation papers cover verbal reasoning, non-verbal reasoning, English and maths. GL Assessment has also published free parents’ guides for both VR and NVR, which you can also download from their website.

Views about the amount of preparation needed vary considerably, however we believe that the materials highlighted above will provide a useful degree of familiarisation for all children.

How representative of the Bucks test are the free materials available on GL Assessment's website?

The types of question used in the Bucks STT will vary each year and will include a range of question types including some that may be included in the free materials.  Parents of Year 5 children are provided with familiarisation materials specific to the Buckinghamshire test in the summer term and should use those with their children. There is no requirement to use the free materials provided by GL Assessment which comprise a selection of question types that appear in tests that they provide for various grammar schools and local authorities around the country not all of which may be included in the Buckinghamshire test.

Why does GL Assessment sell practice tests if they are not a necessary part of test preparation?

In addition to the free familiarisation materials mentioned above, GL Assessment has developed a comprehensive range of further practice papers, in case parents/children would like to do more.

 

How are the tests marked?
Children answer questions on separate answer sheets which are then machine-marked (scanned).

Do children have marks deducted for incorrect answers?

No. Children are awarded marks for correct answers. Marks are not deducted for incorrect answers.

What is the pass mark?
The test does not have a pass mark. Instead there is a qualifying score for admission to grammar school. The qualifying score for Buckinghamshire grammar schools is a Secondary Transfer Test Score (STTS) of 121 or above. The STTS is calculated by age-standardising the three section scores and then adding them using the following weightings:  verbal – 50%; mathematical – 25%; non-verbal – 25%.  The total is the STTS.

Why is age standardisation needed?

The purpose of the age standardisation process is to eradicate age differences among the children to ensure younger children are not disadvantaged.

Does it matter what score a child gets?

To qualify in the Buckinghamshire Secondary Transfer Test a child needs to achieve a Secondary Transfer Test Score (STTS) of 121 or above. When applying their admission rules grammar schools do not use STTS scores to rank order children so children with higher scores are not at an advantage for entry to grammar school. Grammar school entry is entirely dependent on whether or not a score of 121 has been achieved. Beyond requiring a qualification score of 121 or above each grammar school sets its own criteria for admissions (please refer to each individual grammar school’s admission policy for details).

Must a child achieve the qualifying score of 121 in both test papers or just one?

A child’s final Secondary Transfer Test score (STTS) takes account of the marks from both test papers.

Is a child’s score from the Buckinghamshire Secondary Transfer Test transferable to another authority?

No.

When are results available?

Results are communicated to parents before they have to submit their child’s secondary school application, i.e. before 31 October. The exact date will be published in advance each year.

Where do parents go for further information?

 

Further information about the testing arrangements is available on the Buckinghamshire Council website.