Understanding SATs results

Group of schoolgirls
How are SATs marked, when will you see your child’s results and what do the levels mean? Moira Holden explains everything you need to know about national curriculum levels and the Y2 and Y6 SATs.

Once the exams are over and your child has settled back into everyday school life, it can be easy to forget about SATs – until results day! We answer your questions about how the papers are marked and how secondary schools use the results. 

How are SATs marked?

English and maths papers completed by pupils at the age of seven (Key Stage 1, Year 2) are marked by the class teacher. Some papers may be sent to the local education authority (LEA) to be moderated to make sure marking is consistent. Science is teacher-assessed only.  
In contrast, all papers taken at Key Stage 2 by youngsters at the age of 11 in English (reading and punctuation, spelling and grammar) and maths are marked externally. A test in science is also carried out in 10,000 schools to assess national standards at Key Stage 2, but in the majority of schools science is teacher-assessed.

SATs are updated and revised regularly; find out about the format of this year's SATs in our parents' guide.

When and how will I get the results?

Schools receive their provisional overall results for the school and individual pupils by the end of July. It’s down to each school to decide how they give individual pupils' results to parents. Many schools send a sheet of results home with the child, if the marks come through before the end of term.

National, local authority and individual schools' results will be published in December.

Results are expressed as one of eight National Curriculum levels, used to measure individual children's progress compared to pupils the same age across the country. The lowest level (L1) is used to benchmark children at the age of 5; the highest (L8) is for exceptional achievements by pupils aged 14, at the end of Key Stage 3.

What do the KS1 SATs results mean?

Parents of seven year olds will receive levels and sub-levels from 1 to 4 in KS1.

The average result for a typical seven year old taking KS1 SATs is Level 2.

KS1 SATs levels explained
Level 1 or W (working towards level 1) The weakest results, but for some children with special needs or learning difficulties these results will be a great achievement personally.
Level 2 The expected level for children at the end of Y2. A sub-level will also be identified (2c, 2b and 2a):
  • 2a: The child is at the top of the level, working towards Level 3.
  • 2b: The child is working well within the level.
  • 2c: The child has started to work within the level.
Level 3 Achieving a Level 3 at the end of Y2 shows the child is working at a higher level than that expected. Level 3 is also sub-categorised into 3c (the lower end), 3b and 3a (the higher end).
Level 4 For a child taking KS1 SATs, Level 4 (average for an 11-year-old) is rare.

What do the KS2 SATs results mean?

For pupils at the age of 11, there will be two sets of results. One will be purely assessed by the child’s teacher looking at different aspects of each subject, alongside an overall level.  The other results are the marks from the SATs tests. It’s possible for children to reach different levels in the same subject for the exams and teacher-assessment.
  • At the end of KS2 SATs Level 4 is the expected level of attainment; 75% of children achieve a Level 4 or above.
  • Level 3 is below expectations at the end of Y6.
  • Level 5 is a great achievement at KS2 SATs and shows the child is working at a high level.
  • Level 6 is very rare at primary school; the top 1% of children in the country would be Level 6 at age 11. Since 2012 some children have taken Level 6 KS2 SATs in maths and English at the end of Year 6.
  • No sub levels are given.

A sheet of last year’s national levels will be provided to you with your child's results, so you can use them as a comparison. 

What are the targets for performance?

There are no national targets for Key Stage 1. The minimum expected levels for schools at Key Stage 2 is for 60% of pupils to get Level 4 in both maths and English.  

How are SATs results used by secondary schools?

SATs results are passed on to secondary schools. Some use these results to stream new starters in Year 7, so you need to find out if your child’s new school does this. Others may use a combination of SATs results and Year 7 CATs (Cognitive Ability Tests) or their own internal tests at the beginning of the new term.  

What National Curriculum results are expected in Y1, Y3, Y4 and Y5?

In the no-SATs years levels are still assigned to each child, sometimes through optional SATs testing; for more information about National Curriculum levels read our parents' guide.