A parents' guide to the Key Stage 2 SATs

A parents' guide to the Key Stage 2 SATs

In year 6, at the age of 10 or 11, all children in England sit the Key Stage 2 national curriculum assessments, better known as the SATs (Standard Assessment Tests).

If your child is in year 2 and doing the Key Stage 1 SATs, you can read more about that here

In this blog, we'll tell you a bit about the format of the KS2 SAT papers, how you as a parent can help your child and how to understand the results. 

The tests happen over the course of one week in mid May during school hours, and, depending on the school, parents may not even be informed that they are happening, although you will be told about your child's results as part of their annual report. 

Why does my child have do the KS2 SATs?

The tests are more about testing the school than your child. They check how children have progressed from their first weeks in reception (when they do a Reception Baseline Assessment) to the end of their time in primary education, and are primarily so that Ofsted can audit the school's performance.

Most secondary schools also use the SAT scores to find out your child's level and place them with children of similar abilities in English and maths classes. 

In any event, it's not possible for a child to 'pass' or 'fail' the SATs. The SATs are there to help the school and teachers to see where any issues are, and to challenge or help children in the best way for them. 

What format are the KS2 SATs?

Children sit tests in three areas: 

  • Reading - one comprehension style test
  • Maths - one arithmetic paper and two reasoning papers 
  • Grammar, punctuation and spelling (GPS) - one test paper and one aural spelling test

Here is a little bit more about each of the papers and what they entail. 

Key Stage 2 Reading paper

The KS2 reading test is a single paper which takes an hour to complete.  

The reading booklet consists of three different texts which are a mixture of fiction and non-fiction writing and tests children's ability to read and interpret the english language. Children write their answers in a separate booklet. The questions in a variety of different formats including multiple choice, ordering events and writing short answers.

Here's a peek inside two different pages of the reading booklet, and an example page from the answer booklet on the right. 

Key Stage 2 Maths paper 1 - arithmetic

Children are given 30 minutes to complete this paper, which is marked out of 40. Most questions are straightforward addition, subtraction, multiplication and division and are worth one mark for each correct answer. There are a small number of long division and long multiplication questions which are worth two marks for a correct answer, and for which one mark may be earned for showing the correct calculation method. 

There is plenty of space to do clear working out:


Key Stage 2 maths paper 2 - reasoning

This paper is 40 minutes long and is marked out of 35, with each question being worth one or two marks. The questions are a combination of written answers, multiple choice, and filling in blanks.

Key Stage 2 maths paper 3 - reasoning

Children have also got 40 minutes to complete this test. Again, some two point questions award a mark for showing the correct method. Generally, the questions get more challenging towards the end of the paper, but not always. 

There is usually a three point question somewhere in one of these two reasoning papers, and while it has more steps and needs to be done carefully, it is not generally more cognitively challenging.

Key Stage 2 grammar and punctuation test

For this paper, children are given 45 minutes to answer 50 questions. The questions are mostly in multiple choice format but a few will require a short written answer. 

Children are tested on their knowledge of punctuation, their ability to recognise and write in different tenses, and identifying parts of speech (eg adverbials and conjunctions etc). Even those with impeccable grammar could still struggle with this test if they are not strong on terminology as per the KS2 national curriculum syllabus. 

Key Stage 2 spelling test

In this test, the teacher calls out 20 words (in a sentence for context) for the children to spell on their answer papers. Here is a section from a sample answer paper that the children write their answers on:

How can I help my child prepare for the KS2 SATs?

When it comes to testing, our main job as parents is to reassure your child that the SATs are nothing to worry about. Not only are these tests more about testing the quality of teaching at your child's school rather than your child, but children also tend to perform better when they are not feeling anxious. Reframe the tests as a challenge, and an assessment to see what sort of teaching will suit them best as they move on to secondary level education. 

Everyone wants their child to perform to the best of their ability, but we also don't want to put kids under undue pressure - striking the right balance is a tricky thing for parents!

If your child wants to do their best in the SATs, here are some things that parents can do to help out in the months before:

  • Read - SATs aside, fostering a love of reading in your child is one of the single best things you can do to improve their literacy skills and widen their vocabulary. If they're not already avid readers, here are some ideas to nurture this important activity.    
  • Number Bonds and Tables - Having number bonds and times tables really well learned can make doing the test easier for kids. Komodo offers free times tables and number bond practice so you can focus on the sticky ones.

Closer to the SATs and during the testing week itself, make sure your child gets:

  • plenty of sleep the night before testing days
  • some fresh air during their downtime
  • a good breakfast to set them up for the day.

How to understand KS2 SAT results

KS2 SAT tests are sent off by your child's school to be externally marked. The results are made available for schools to view online via the Primary Assessment Gateway in the last weeks before the summer holidays in July. 

Schools get 

  • a raw score, which is the number of marks the child gets in the test
  • a scaled score, which ranges from 80 to 120. 

Scores are scaled, or standardised in this way because the difficulty of tests can change over the years, and the standardisation means that comparisons can be made over time. 

A score of 100 or more means that your child has met the required standard, and a score of 99 or less means that your child has not met the expected standard in the test. 

Parents may just be told if their child has achieved the expected standard (outcome code AS in the assessment portal) or has not achieved the expected standard (outcome code NS) but you can request the raw and scaled scores from your school if they aren't provided.

If your child hasn't met the expected standard, it's important to remember that this is only one part of the picture with regards to their attainment, and they may just need a bit of extra support. 

Komodo's personalised learning plan helps build the numeracy and literacy foundations required for children in the run up to the KS2 SATs. Find out more here

About Komodo - Komodo is a fun and effective way to boost primary maths and literacy skills. Designed for 5 to 11-year-olds to use at home, Komodo uses a 'little and often' approach to learning that fits into busy family life. Komodo helps users develop fluency and confidence in maths and English - without keeping them at the screen for long.

Find out more about Komodo and how it helps thousands of children each year do better at maths and literacy – you can even try Komodo for free. 

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