Murray Morrison is the creator of Tassomai, an online learning platform that embeds knowledge and helps children prepare for exams like the 11+ and 13+. Murray explains how regular retrieval practice through platforms like Tassomai builds solid foundations and ensures students go into their entrance exams confident and ready to get their best possible results.
The preparation for entrance exams is the first taste for most parents of serious education stress. The stakes are suddenly high with life-changing implications. However, the weight cannot be put on the shoulders of children so young. In the days of school closures and lockdown, the stress is greater than ever.
The vital importance of self-knowledge
Entrance exams come at such a crucial, formative age. I’ve worked with countless students over the years in preparation for 11+ and 13+ exams. My insight was that there was always an underlying problem that needed to be addressed and it was, almost without exception, the same thing each time: knowledge.
The problem isn’t subject knowledge, it’s self-knowledge: very few children this age know what they know and what they don’t. They might have a feel for what they’re good or bad at, but that’s not quite what’s needed. When it comes to acing exams, it’s that skill (to identify which areas of focus will make the biggest change to the end result) that will make all the difference.
The unique challenge of 11+ and 13+ exams
There’s another challenge unique to these entrance exams – another cornerstone of my approach in helping people prepare:
Typically, school entrance exams are marked at the intended school. Also, read by the candidate’s potential future teacher. Rather than exclusively test knowledge or ability, the exam also becomes a test of character, confidence, personality and presentation. I contend that an imperfect answer, beautifully argued or well presented, will carry more sway than a correct answer. Even if this is given artlessly, scruffily or with no logical working behind it.
Preparing for these exams, therefore, becomes a training towards the demonstration of knowledge and understanding. Plus the expression of one’s personality through one’s writing.
Smart practice makes permanent
And this is where smart practice comes into play. Retrieval practice may seem in the context of the above to seem like a retrograde step – rote learning cannot facilitate the development of style, surely?
I’d argue the opposite (though ‘rote learning’ is a poor way to go about it). So much so that the software that I developed, Tassomai, was built initially to get students prepared for the 13+ and for GCSEs beyond it.
Consider the cricketer in the nets or the pianist with their scales. Regular practice develops muscle memory. They build the skill into their unconscious brains. With such solid foundations, they’re ready to adapt to variations, improvise and to perform gracefully under pressure.
Routine is the foundation for good results
At such an uncertain time, the best thing students can do if they’re worrying about entrance exams is to build practice through EdTech into their daily routines. Using adaptive platforms like Tassomai will help students reinforce knowledge and develop metacognition – a deeper understanding of their own knowledge, and of the progress they are making through their work.
But beyond that, learning this way builds routine. The foundation that allows students to learn efficiently, quickly, with focus and purpose. This can form the backbone of a wider study programme. The end result will be a self-sufficient, confident student who knows themselves and is ready to show what they can do.
Tassomai is available to private subscribers, parents can sign up online and pay monthly. There’s also specific information about Tassomai’s 11 plus content here and information about content relevant for students taking 13 plus exams here.