Are the skills tested at 13+ useful in life after school?
By David Hanson
19 Sep
"What’s the point in learning this?" is the inevitable question posed by almost every child at some point during the revision process. In a world where children have the entirety of the internet in their pocket, revision might seem increasingly irrelevant, and most adults – unless you happen to work in a relevant field – will have almost entirely forgotten the vocabulary and formulae which once seemed so important to embed in our brains.
But as with all education, what’s gained from 13 plus revision far exceeds the knowledge itself. We asked David Hanson, who has been a member of both 11 plus and 13 plus ISEB maths setting teams and who has over 40 years' experience of teaching, to consider the relevance of Common Entrance; are the skills learned at 13 plus useful in life after school?

This article was inspired by Gail, a parent who wondered how Common Entrance could test skills relevant in day to day life.

Are the skills tested at 13 plus useful in life after school? The short answer to this question must, of course, be 'yes' otherwise there would be little point in developing and testing these skills.
Looking for a moment at just one mathematical skill, it has been, and probably always will be, argued that 'the ability to perform complex calculations with fractions' is a skill unlikely, for most people at least, to be transferred to situations in life outside the classroom. This may be the case, but I consider this to be more or less in the same league as manipulating Rubik's Cube or solving Sudoku puzzles. Most of us thrive on challenges for the brain, and challenging the brain in a variety of ways must be a good thing.
Talents, abilities and skills are often confused, but they are not the same. The general opinion seems to be that talents are usually inherited, and abilities are to some extent inherited, although they can be nurtured and developed, whereas skills are developed through experience.
For an individual, a talent, ability or skill in one area may not readily be transferred, even to a closely related area. I can remember one student who had an enviable ability for extremely fast and accurate computation but, sadly, he remained a very poor mathematician.

Generally however, a few of the large pool of developed skills, will be transferable to a new situation, and the larger the pool of skills, the better equipped an individual will be to rise to a new challenge. A Google search will produce an endless list of transferable skills (and you won't be surprised to hear that 'complex calculations with fractions' doesn't feature in the list!). Rather than attempt to justify individual skills tested at 13 plus, it seems sensible to take a broad look at the skills developed during the time at school. I believe that, in all subjects, an essential common ingredient is the development of study skills.
Study skills are rather like a set of keys that can unlock many doors. Study skills will help to ensure that young learners will not stumble along an unsuitable path or, worse still, set off along no path at all, in the quest for enlightenment. Well-developed study skills will inevitably play a major part in the successful development of other skills.

Bloom's pyramid of learningIt might be helpful to remind ourselves of Bloom's pyramid of learning, which I mentioned in my earlier article.

Some six decades ago, education was perhaps more knowledge based than skills based but, particularly with the increasingly easy access to up-to-date knowledge, the emphasis seems, quite rightly, to have been changing. Art and music, of course, rely heavily upon talents, abilities and skills rather than knowledge, but the academic subjects tested at 13+ have a balance between knowledge and skills. There are countless skills that are relevant to, and transferable to, many areas of life - social, professional and educational.
My 'six of the best' transferable skills developed during school studies are:
  • researching and investigating effectively
  • working efficiently with technology
  • analysing data
  • applying knowledge and understanding to new situations
  • solving problems and 'thinking laterally'
  • creating new ideas
I like to think of the development of the individual as being something like a tree. 

tree with roots showingThe root system represents our inherited talents and abilities and the early years of education, both before and during the years at school, up to about the age of 13.
The trunk represents 'who we are' - our developed (and still developing) talents, abilities and skills, and our personalities.
The branches and upper structure of the tree represent our further education and what we can become.

In addition to the many skills developed in the classroom (only a few of them tested in the 13 plus exams), there are equally, and perhaps more, important skills, developed in the time at school, in the home and in the wider community, that make us who we are.
Here, I'm thinking of:
  • being able to appreciate and consider the wider picture
  • being open minded
  • being self-motivated
  • working and co-operating with others
  • managing time efficiently
  • following instructions
  • communicating effectively in a variety of ways
  • forming opinions
  • making considered decisions
  • gaining confidence
  • being able to prioritise
  • managing money.
There are, of course, many more essential transferable skills than the traditional 3 Rs (reading writing and arithmetic). The other 7 Rs, developed alongside the skills tested in the 13 plus examinations, are equally important in making us who we are.
Here is a reminder of these 7 Rs:
  • respect (for self, others and the environment)
  • responsibility
  • reliability
  • resourcefulness
  • resolve
  • restraint
  • remorse.

So, are the skills tested at 13 plus useful in life after school?

Although we may at first struggle to see how a particular skill may be of use, all the skills we acquire during 13 plus revision and during our education contribute to who we are and what we may be able to achieve in life.

David Hanson is the author of our 11 plus maths workbooks and many books in our 13 plus mathematics revision range.

Galore Park also have guides designed to build study skills at Key Stage 2 and 3, giving children the essential skills and tools they need to revise effectively, minimise stress and do their very best in exams. 

Study Skills: Building the study skills needed for 11+
Study Skills: Building the study skills needed for 13+ and beyond




Tags: 13plus, common entrance, David, future, Hanson, skills

Share this post: