Everything You Need to Know about Key Stage 1 and Key Stage 2 SATs tests

Everything you need to know about the SATs tests in the UK

*2023/2024 Edited!

If your child is in Year 2 or Year 6 and attends a government-funded school, then I’m sure you have already heard about SATs tests. But what exactly are these national curriculum exams? Do they and should they even matter? Why are they referred to as Key stage 1 SATs and Key stage 2 SATs?

As May barrels towards us, students, parents and teachers across the country are buzzing with SATs bug. 

Canceled in 2020 and 2021, not all students will be familiar with these exams.

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SATs tests all you need to know

I know you have SATs questions, so let’s dive in. 

Key Stage 1 and Key Stage 2 SATs tests: what are they?

In 1988 the Education Reform introduced the National Curriculum. In 1989 they rolled out standardized tests. This was to ensure that all schools were teaching the curriculum effectively. Therefore, the rest of the tests followed as the cohort moved through the Year groups. 

The idea behind these standardised assessment tests is to provide the Department of Education with a way to hold schools accountable for teaching in line with the National Curriculum. 

what are sats tests

Table of Contents:

  • What are SATs?
  • What Year groups write SATs?
  • When are SATs
  • What is assessed during SATS?
  • What is the SATs paper format?
  • How are SATs scored?
  • Can a child fail SATs?
  • What do schools use SATs for?
  • How is OFSTED using SATs test results?
  • Do Secondary Schools use SATs results?
  • Do I get a SATs tutor?
  • Can I download past papers?

What are SATs tests?

SATs is the acronym for Standardised Assessment Tests. 

As such, they function as the government’s method to observe the standard of teaching at each school. 

What Year groups write SATs exams?

Students in Year 2 and in Year 6 sit the SATs tests. As such, they are written by children who are usually 7 years old and usually eleven years old. 

In Key Stage 3, There used to be SATs tests. In 2008, they were abolished.

When are SATs?

Key Stage 1 SATs tests take place in May. Teachers have the choice of when to schedule them

Key Stage 2 SATs tests take place over 4 days, referred to as SATs week. In 2024, SATs week begins on May 13th.

Monday 13 May 2024English grammar, punctuation and spelling papers 1 and 2
Tuesday 14 May 2024English reading
Wednesday 15 May 2024Mathematics papers 1 (Arithmetic) and 2 (Reasoning)
Thursday 16 May 2024Mathematics paper 3 (Reasoning)
Visit the Government website for more.
Sats schedule
Help your child prepare for SATs week

What is assessed during these standardised assessment tests?

For children in Year 2, the SATs exams assess Maths and English.

The KS1 Maths SATs paper:

  • 2 papers
  • Paper 1: arithmetic questions for 25 marks. Around 15 minutes
  • Paper 2: Mathematical reasoning and problem-solving questions for 35 marks. Around 35 minutes.

The KS1 SPAG SATs paper:

  • 3 papers
  • Paper 1: 20-word spelling paper for 20 marks. Around 15 minutes.
  • Paper 2: A writing prompt for a short piece of writing with focus on spelling and grammar. 15 marks, about 20 minutes
  • Paper 3: Grammar, Punctuation and Vocabulary test split into two sections totaling 20 marks.

The KS1 Reading SATs paper:

The Key Stage 1 reading test comprises two papers that cover fiction, non-fiction, and poetry texts:

  • Paper 1 – A selection of texts totalling between 400 – 700 words, with questions throughout
  • Paper 2 – A reading booklet of a selection of passages totaling 800 – 1100 words.

For children in Year 6, the SATs exams assess:

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The KS2 Maths SATs paper:

  • Paper 1 – Arithmetic test for 40 questions. Around 30 minutes.
  • Paper 2 + Paper 3 – Mathematical fluency for problem-solving and mathematical reasoning. 35 minutes around 40 minutes each.

The KS2 SPAG SATs paper:

  • Paper 1 – Spelling, Punctuation, and Grammar questions worth 50 marks around 45 minutes.
  • Paper 2 – Spelling paper with 20 missing words. 20 marks around 15 minutes.

The KS2 Science SATs paper:

For many years, there was a random selection of primary schools to submit a Science SATs paper. In July 2022 the decision was made that this is no longer required. Teacher assessment data would be used.

Therefore around the same time of year, teachers will conduct Science and Writing assessments for students and submit it to the NCA tools website (National Curriculum Assessments)

What is the SATs test paper format?

All SATs papers will take place on A4 paper and require students to answer both on the questions sheet and on a separate paper.

There is a range of questions: from multiple-choice, to fill-in-the-blank, short questions, and longer writing tasks.

How are SATs tests scored?

The National Curriculum levels were abolished in 2016. Now, children receive a scaled score. Because the questions need to be different each year, the difficulty of the tests can vary. To ensure accurate comparisons of student performance, all of the raw scores (actual number marks they achieve) are translated into a scaled score.

The range for scaled score is 85-115 with 100 being the ‘expected standard’.

For KS1 marks, the teacher assesses the SATs test and can include teacher assessment and classwork marks.

For KS2 marks, the assessment is externally marked.

Each school’s results is available to the head teacher in July; Parents will receive a scaled score and whether their child has achieved the expected standard, exceeded it, or fell below it.

This information will then be public available in December 2024 to make the primary school leagues table. You can see how your child’s school has historically done on the Department of Education (DfE) website school leagues.

Can a child fail the SATs tests?

No, there is no way for a child to fail a SATs test. These are not ‘pass or fail’ exams. Rather, they are meant to provide feedback to the government about the standards of teaching across the National Curriculum. 

noone fails Sats tests

What’s a good KS2 SATs Score?

A “Good SATs Score” is something most parents are interested in. So what is it? A grade of 100 means the expected level, so a grade higher than 100 is considered a good SATs mark. The lowest scaled score that can be awarded on a key stage 2 test is 80. The highest score is 120.

Let’s look at last years scores to compare:

SATs Results for 2023

The DfE has stated that this year’s SATs scores are higher than 2022. This shows students are continuing to catch up post pandemic.

  • 59% of students met the standard in reading, writing and maths
  • 73% of students met the standard in Maths
  • 73% of students met the standard in Reading

The pass mark needed for 2023:

56 out of 110 for Maths

24 out of 50 for Reading

36 out of 70 for Grammar, Punctuation and Spelling

What do Schools use SATs for?

SATs tests are used for a variety of reasons within the school.

Key stage 1 SATs tests can be used to help support a decision to place a child in an intervention. If a teacher notices that a child is performing lower than the expected standard, and they score lower than 100 on the SATs test, they can be assigned an intervention.

Schools also use SATs as a means to attract more students to enroll.

This is because each year the exam outcomes from each school are collated and published for public viewing. 

This means that schools with high SATs exam marks are viewed as providing high-quality instruction that is in line with the National Curriculum. Thus, parents who are looking to send their child to a school will be motivated to send their child there. 

How is OFSTED using SATs tests?

OFSTED is the Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills. It uses SATs to gain insight into the quality and effectiveness of teaching. If a school is consistently performing poorly, they may consider investigating with an OFSTED inspection. 

Do Secondary Schools use SATs results?

Some Secondary schools will use SATs marks as a baseline to determine which level the students arriving in Year 7 will be at. So a high maths SATs score could have your child placed in a higher maths set.

However, the tests only assess a specific set of skills and don’t provide a full picture. 

For this reason, many secondary schools choose to reassess in September, before streaming students into sets. 

Do I get a SATs tutor?

Parents are assured that students will be prepared for the exams because the curriculum has been taught. 

Therefore, many will encourage families to simply stay on top of homework and stay active in the learning process.

So there is no official guidance on whether or not you should get a tutor for SATs tests preparation. 

In Bettering Youth’s view, SATs are meant to reflect the school’s effectiveness in teaching the National Curriculum. Therefore, by hiring a tutor to ensure your child gets a better mark may skew the data. 

Bettering Youth tutors do not encourage parents to hire a tutor solely for SATs prep. If the school is teaching effectively, then this shouldn’t be necessary.

But don’t underestimate the power of a successful exam week and developing strong revision skills.

That’s why our 10 -week SATs course will blend together a focus of Maths, Exam coaching and Wellbeing (stress management).

🚀 Transform Exam Prep into an Exciting Adventure

We understand the struggles students face in the realm of mathematics, especially with word problems. Our course is designed to dissolve the fear of numbers and turn SATs prep into an exciting adventure, helping your child become a resilient and well-prepared student.

📆 Key Details:

  • Official Lesson Start Date: Monday February 19th at 6pm + Thursday February 22nd at 6pm
  • Maths Focus Areas: Mental Maths, FDP, Geometry, Word Problems, Data + Statistics
  • English Focus Areas: understanding word problems. Spellings, Comprehension Tactics, Grammar and SATs style questions.
  • Group Size: 4 to 12 students
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Year 6 SATs Success: Maths + English Course

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Should you wish to get a tutor specific to Year 6 exams or in preparation for Year 7 transition exams, we encourage you to consider our team of online tutors because they blend emotional well-being coaching with academic tutoring; the perfect balance:

👮‍♂️ DBS checked

🥰 Passionate about instilling lifelong learning skills

🧐 Knowledgeable of the curriculum 

🤩 Able to adapt teaching methods to engage students

💙 Use the Bettering Youth method of blending wellbeing with academics

💎 Quality instructors who are genuinely keen to teach and mentor

🙌 Support and feedback 

🤓 A reflective approach to learning

Can I download past papers?

Absolutely! And we recommend it!

While we don’t encourage our parents to add crazy hours of revision time to their child’s schedule, seeing exam papers prior to writing the exam is really valuable. 

Additionally, this is an opportunity to discuss effective studying strategies, debunk methods that don’t work, and practise keeping performance anxiety under control. 

Final Comments on SATs tests for KS1 and KS2:

SATs can be an intimidating time for students, but there are ways to help ease the stress.

Top tips for parents to support their child in preparing for SATs exams:

  • Practice mental arithmetic… times tables should come naturally
  • Read, read, read!
  • Encourage creative writing
  • Develop strong comprehension skills
Kelly Tutor

Meet Kelly, English Tutor

Kelly is an experienced educator who is passionate about inspiring a love of learning and exploration. Find out more about Kelly’s English tuition lessons

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