How to use a SATs past paper: KS2 English

Child writing at home
Completing past papers is a great way to help your child prepare for their Year 6 SATs, but how should you use the tests at home? Read our guide, compiled by a primary-school teacher, to help your child get the most out of their reading, writing and spelling practice for the KS2 English SATs test.

Until May 2013, the English KS2 SATs test was divided into four sections: Reading, Writing (Longer Task and Shorter Task) and Spelling. Since then there have been some changes to the way that the KS2 English SATs are administrated. The Reading Test remains the same, but the Writing Test has been replaced by a teacher assessment of the child's writing throughout the whole of Year 6. There is also now also a Grammar, Punctuation and Spelling Test for children to complete. (This format is mirrored in the Level 6 KS2 English SATs papers.)

Free KS2 English SATs past papers from 2003 to last year are available to download from TheSchoolRun and use at home to help your child prepare for the Year 6 tests.

  • If you are using pre-2013 papers (which no longer mirror the actual SATs paper because of the changes outlined above) you will need to read the instructions below about the Reading and Writing papers.
  • If you are using 2013 papers (the current test format) you will need to read the instructions below about the Reading and Grammar, Punctuation and Spelling papers.

Before starting each test, make sure your child has a quiet, distraction-free room to sit in, with all the materials (pencils, sharpeners, etc.) they’ll need.

It may be a good idea to spread the tests out, so you do the Reading Test on one day and the Grammar, Punctuation and Spelling Test on another day. This way they will not feel overloaded.

Here’s how to administer each part of the KS2 English SATs.

Reading paper

Children will need:

  • Reading Booklet 
  • Reading Answer Booklet

Explain to them that they will have 15 minutes to read the Reading Booklet, and they must not look at the questions in the Reading Answer Booklet during this time.

Explain that they then have 45 minutes to answer the questions in the Reading Answer Booklet. During this time, they will need to refer back to the Reading Booklet to help them answer the questions.

Give your child 15 minutes to read the Reading Booklet.

When they have finished, open the Reading Answer Booklet and read out the page entitled ‘Instructions’. 

Tell your child when they answer these questions they will need to refer to the Reading Booklet.

Tell your child to leave out any questions they can’t do and move on to the next questions. It is not a good idea to spend ages on a question you can't do, when you could be picking up marks elsewhere!

Remember – children must do this test unaided. Apart from the ‘Instructions’ page, you must not read any questions or answers to the children.

Give children 45 minutes to answer questions in the Reading Answer Booklet.

Give them appropriate time reminders during the test.

Grammar, Punctuation and Spelling papers

Paper 1: Short Answers

Explain to your child that this paper contains multiple-choice answers and space for short answers. The marks under each line at the side of the page tell you the maximum number of marks for each question.

Explain to them that they will be given 45 minutes to answer the questions. There are 50 marks altogether.

Give them 45 minutes to do the test. It may be helpful to warn them when they are halfway through their time and when they have 5 minutes left.

Paper 2: Spelling Task

You will need to download the Answers and Marking Scheme to find the list of spellings to read aloud to your child.

For each sentence, read the word that needs to be entered first, then read the whole sentence including the word, then repeat the word a third time.

Explain to your child that they need to write the spelling in the space provided.

Once you have got through the 20 sentences, read the sentences out again.

The task should take 15 minutes to complete, although allow your child as much time as they need to complete the task.

Writing paper (pre-2013 SATs only)

Longer Task

Children will need:

  • Writing Test Longer Task: Instructions and Planning Booklet
  • Writing Longer Task: Answer Booklet

Explain to them that they will have 45 minutes to complete this task, including 10 minutes of planning time.

Read through the prompt on the planning sheet. Do not discuss the children’s ideas with them.

Ask your child to read through the prompt themselves.

Explain that they need to make brief notes (not full sentences!) on their planning sheet.

Remind them after 10 minutes that they can start writing.

Give them a time reminder about 5 minutes before the end.

Children can have additional paper on request.

They can ask for help, but you must not help them with their ideas.

Shorter Task

Administer the Shorter Task before the Spelling Test.

Children will need:

  • Shorter Task prompt
  • Writing sheet

Explain to them they will have 20 minutes to complete this task, including 5 minutes of thinking time.

Read the writing prompt to your child. Do not explore their ideas with them.

Ask your child to read this through again themselves. Explain that they will need to consider their audience and purpose when doing this.

Tell them that they do not need to write huge amounts – this is the Shorter Task where about two or three paragraphs will be enough.

Give them 5 minutes thinking time and then after this time, remind them to start their writing task.

Remember you are not allowed to discuss the prompt or their ideas with them.

Spelling paper (pre-2013 SATs only)

Children will need:

  • Spelling Test (a piece of text with various words missing)

The spelling test is not strictly timed. It is estimated that it should take around 10 minutes.

Read the Spelling Test Teacher’s Version through to the children, including all the words underlined. Your child needs to follow the words in their booklets while you are reading, but must not write anything at this point.

Read the Teacher’s Version again, pausing after each underlined word to give your child time to write the word in the gap on their booklet.

Remind them to make their writing clear. Remember – you must not help them with the spellings.

Marking SATs papers: tips for parents

To mark your child’s paper, you’ll need to download the Answers and Marking Scheme (loaded on the same page as each of the SATs papers). 

For the Reading Paper, it can be difficult to mark some answers, as they will vary so greatly from child to child, however the mark scheme will give various pointers as to what they want a child to include in an answer (and what is not acceptable).

The Grammar, Punctuation and Spelling Test will be more straightforward with regards to right and wrong answer.To mark your child’s paper, you’ll need the Teacher’s mark scheme which goes through every question and suggests the appropriate number of marks to give depending on how your child has answered.

The Writing Test is only included in pre-2013 SATs papers. For top marks, examiners are looking for:

  • Paragraphs which are arranged in a logical sequence
  • Writing which is structured correctly, including an introduction and a conclusion
  • The use of effective vocabulary
  • A range of accurate punctuation, and grammatically correct sentences
  • The use of simple and complex sentences of varied lengths
  • Accurate spelling
  • Regular, consistent handwriting with good flow and letters and words placed appropriately.

If you want to assign a national curriculum level to your child's work after you have marked it, these are the level thresholds used by examiners and teachers for the 2013 English and maths tests and available on the Department for Education website:

Please note: to be awarded an overall Level 6 a child must achieve both a Level 5 in the end of Key Stage 2 test and pass the Level 6 test for that subject.

How to use SATs practice papers for KS2 maths.