8 common questions about SATs answered

Children putting their hands up in class
Get ready for SATs with our guide to everything you need to know about the Year 2 and Year 6 assessments.

Despite all the information you’ll receive from your child's teacher, SATs can still seem baffling. Here are the answers to your key questions.

1. What are SATs for?

SATs help teachers – and you – learn more about your child's strengths and weaknesses. Teachers can compare how well each child is doing with their peers, both in their school and across the country. They can also measure how much each child improves from one Key Stage to another and are used to predict the likelihood of children achieving specific results in their GCSEs. 
 
In addition, headteachers, local authorities and the Department for Education use the results to help identify schools that are struggling and, if a school is doing really well, it can share what it's doing right with other schools.

2. Does my child have to take SATs?

In England, the tests are compulsory for all seven and 11 year olds. SATs in Key Stage 3 have been scrapped.

On 14 September 2017 the Department for Education announced that the Y2 SATs will be made non-statutory (so schools will be able to choose whether to adminster them or not) from 2023.

A new baseline assessment for Reception pupils will be introduced and KS2 SATs (in Year 6) will not be affected.

This announcement does not affect children due to sit KS1 SATs before 2023, so if your child was born before 31 August 2015 they will still be tested at the end of Year 2.

3. What do the tests involve?

Children are tested on what they have been learning at school.

At Key Stage 1 (Year 2), your child will take official SATs in readingand maths. They will also be assessed by their teacher (known as the teacher assessment) on speaking and listening, writing and science.

A separate grammar, punctuation and spelling test for KS1 was introduced in 2016, but after the paper was accidentally published in advance on the government's website, the Department for Education said that schools did not have to administer the test. It remained optional in 2017, and is likely to be optional in 2018, although this is yet to be confirmed.

At Key Stage 2 (Year 6), SATs are compulsory and cover English reading, English grammar, punctuation and spelling, and maths. Other subjects, including writing, speaking and listening and science, are teacher assessed.

Teacher assessment can help to judge children's performance in a subject over a longer period of time. The results of teacher assessment are equally important, as a teacher may feel your child is doing better in a subject as a whole than in the parts of it covered by a test.

4. How will my child be helped to prepare?

Teachers use past papers as practice papers so children can practise the kind of questions they may need to answer in a test environment. This will help your child feel more comfortable with exams. They will also do lots of practice of the skills they need to do well in the test, such as spelling and times tables.

5. So why do SATs seem so stressful?

Some children do become stressed over the tests but they don’t involve a pass or fail, they just reflect how well the child has understood what they're learning at school. The more relaxed you are, the better your child will be able to tackle the test. So don’t make a big thing of it at home. 

6. What level should my child achieve in their SATs?

Children are expected to reach the national standard in both Year 2 and Year 6. This is a particular score that reflects where the Department for Education thinks children should be by that stage of their education.

The national standard score for KS1 SATs and KS2 SATs is 100. In 2017, 61 per cent of children reached it in all subjects.

For more details of SATs results in KS1 and KS2 read our parents' guide.

7. When will I know the results?

Towards the end of the summer term you will be given a report telling you your child's raw score (the actual number of marks they got in their SATs), their scaled score (a conversion score that allows results to be compared year on year) and whether or not they have achieved the national standard. Teacher assessments will also be used to build up a picture of your child’s learning and achievements.

Individual schools communicate SATs results to parents in different ways, so it is possible that (particularly at KS1) you won't your child's actual SATs scores unless you ask for them.

8. What does all the SATs jargon mean?

Here are some common phrases your child’s teacher might use decoded:
  • SATs: Short for Standard Assessment Tests
  • National curriculum tests: The real name for SATs, but many people still refer to them as SATs
  • Raw score: the number of marks your child gets on the tests
  • Scaled score: a converted score that allows overall SATs results to be compared from one year to the next
  • National standard: the level that children are expected to reach (set at 100 for both KS1 and KS2 SATs)
  • Age-standardised test scores: refers to the system used to inform parents how their child did compared with other children born in the same month