Key stage 3

14th April 2000 at 01:00
OXFORD UNIVERSITY PRESS. Practice Tests for Key Stage 3:English, science, maths. pound;4.99 each. Science to 14 pound;7.50Foundation Science to 14 pound;8. By Stephen Pople. Oxford's Practice Tests approach the task of preparing for the KS3 tests in a straightforward if rather uninspiring way.

In the maths and science books, the tests are set at levels within a narrower range than the actual test papers, which is helpful. There is useful advice in the introductions about what it means if the student scores within certain mark ranges and how hard he or she needs to work to improve.

The science and English books are attractively presented, but the maths one is fairly dull. The help given with the answers to the tests varies. In science and English there is a reasonable amount of advice, but teacher input will still be needed. In the maths book, no help at all is given with the answers.

The English book uses a good range of texts for the tests on Paper 1, but the questions in its Shakespeare section seems to bear little resemblance to questions actually set on Paper 2.

Stephen Pople's books are summaries of the science course up to Year 9, and are good reference books. The foundation book is more student-friendly, but both are very colourful and well presented.

COLLINS. Test Booster English, science, maths. pound;4.9 each

Study and Revision Guide English, science, maths. pound;9.99 each

The Booster books and Revision Guides for each of the core subjects are closely linked. The Booster books contain test papers and, in the maths book, mental arithmetic tests.

The mock papers are set out exactly like the real tests and can therefore help students to familiarise themselves with the language and format of the papers. Each mock paper is followed by answers and tutorial sections. The tutorials in the maths and science books contain clear explanations for how to arrive at the answers. They also have boxes on "what's this question looking for?", which gives the national curriculum reference of the topic and points out where it is covered in the Study and Revision Guide.

The English answers and tutorial section takes a different approach. Each level has notes on what answers might include, with the addition of "ideal" answers and advice on how to achieve a higher level.

If only it were that easy. In all three subjects, students are likely to need help from a teacher to interpret the explanations in the books.

The Revision Guides are attractive and thorough, with good answer and tutorial sections in the science and maths texts.

Ian Wilson is headteacher of Rydens School, Walton-on-Thames, Surrey .

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