Year 6 / KS2 SATs Tests and Levels – And How Parents can Help their Kids

SATs papersAt the end of primary school or Key Stage 2 (Year 6) kids are expected to take formal tests in Maths and English, sometimes also Science, to assess their levels in a standard way across the whole of England. Usually pupils take two Maths SATs and two English SATs, plus a Science SAT in most schools.

What are SATs?

SATs stands for “Standard Assessment Tests”, and they are compulsory at the end of Year 2 and Year 6. In the inbetween years, and in Year 6 before the SATs, teachers assess pupils’ levels from their classwork, short class tests and/or practice SATs papers.

National Curriculum Levels 2-5At the end of Year 6 (KS2) most pupils should have attained National Curriculum Level 4 in these main subjects. The majority of SATs papers are designed to test kids for Levels 3-5. It can happen, for example, that a pupil gets a fairly low total mark in the test, which translates into a lower than average level (eg. resulting in Level 3 at end of Year 6, which indicates your child is working at a lower than average level).

These levels are used in a number of ways: to indicate to teachers and parents a child’s current ability level, to separate children into various ability groups for classwork, to indicate a school’s performance against other schools (“league tables”), and to help group children into ability streams when they enter Secondary School (Key Stage 3).

In addition children may also be assessed at where they are within a Level. The top of the Level is a, for example Level 4a; the middle is b, for example Level 4b (where most 10-11 year olds should be at the end of Year 6); and the bottom of the level is c, for example 4c. These sub-levels help teachers and parents know how close a child is to moving up to the next level. For example, a child currently in Year 6 at Level 3a is much closer to attaining Level 4 by the end of the year, than a child currently at Level 3c.

How can parents help their kids prepare for SATs?

SATs Maths sample question

Sample of SATs KS2 Maths question requiring children to show their workings out – click for bigger image

There are a number of things parents can do with their children to help them revise and prepare for their SATs. The idea is not so much to “get a better level” (because the level is an indicator of ability) but simply to give your child confidence so that they do the best they can, without nervousness, on the day of the test.

  1. There are a wealth of free (and subscription-based) SATs practice materials on the Internet. Download some of these and go through a few questions every few days with your child. Try to make this activity light and fun, and not like a chore, so that your child will enjoy this “quality time” with you rather than want to avoid it.
  2. Talk to your child often, and discuss Maths, Science or English questions while you’re driving, cooking, shopping or out walking, related to where you are or what you’re doing at the time. For example, ask them to add up the shopping totals, or ask them how much 15 of an item would cost. Or ask them to estimate the size of a field by running around it (length and width), then work out the perimeter and area.
  3. The important thing too is to check how they worked it out – ask them to talk their strategy through with you, or write it down in steps – and discuss whether they could have got to the same answer another way. This is because with SATs Maths questions, often children are expected to be able to show their workings out – which not only helps them find the answer in a progressive way, but will earn them an extra mark or two. See sample question in the picture alongside. Kids are also expected to explain their answers in English reading SATs in a similar way, so being able to communicate why and how they think the answer is x, will definitely help them.
  4. Make sure your child does most Maths calculations WITHOUT a calculator (on paper is fine), then checks his/her answer with a calculator. Not only is one of the SATs KS2 Maths papers is a non-calculator paper, but kids are more likely to develop and retain important Maths skills if they know how to work things out mentally/manually, without being dependent on calculators.

Finally, don’t worry about your child’s current level too much. After all if they’re above average, on average, or below average, that’s simply where they are now. Good if they’re above or on average, but if they’re below average, remember that not everyone is academically inclined. Don’t let this become a ‘label’ that negatively affects your child’s confidence. Simply keep helping them to learn and master all the basic things in English and Maths – the things that will impact on their ability to do higher level Maths or English. These are things like: times tables, number bonds (adding and subtracting), number patterns (multiplying and dividing by 10 or 100, including decimals), spelling rules, punctuation, writing structure, etc. Keep checking back to our Learning Blog for articles on various ways to help your children, and to enable them to progress.

If you think your child would benefit from English or Maths tutoring or both, why not check out our School English and Maths private tuition services? We specialise in teaching children as well as adults! Maybe even consider some sessions for both mum and child, which could help you both with increased confidence and thus to help each other with homework and SATs revision in future. Contact us now to find out more!

Find out more about National Curriculum and Key Stage Tests here.

SATs papers picture courtesy of

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