Practical tips for preparing for SATs

SATs preparation: mother and daughter
Being well prepared for SATs will help your child feel more relaxed and confident, so how can you support them at home?

For Year 6 children, SATs preparation is the main focus of both their school time and homework in the run-up to exam week in May. While a lot of ground is covered in class, parents also play an important part in helping their children prepare for the tests. We asked Shelley Welsh, a Year 6 teacher and author of Letts revision guides and workbooks, for her advice on how you can support your child in their SATs prep.

Work out a timetable that suits your child

Your child's teacher should give you an indication of how much time you should be putting into preparing for SATs at home, but be guided by your child when you’re working out a revision timetable.

‘Some children prefer a little and often approach, doing 10 or 20 minutes’ work a day; others prefer to get stuck into a longer revision session on a Saturday morning,’ Shelley explains.

Mix it up

Working on sample papers is an important part of SATs revision, helping children get used to the format of the tests, but don’t make these the sole focus of your child’s preparation. ‘Instead, try to offer variety in the form of revision guides and practice worksheets, and include some more practical tasks like going shopping and estimating the cost of the items in your trolley, or going over times tables while you’re in the car,’ says Shelley.

Use revision guides

The format of SATs is changing in 2016, and the Department for Education has only released one set of sample papers. ‘Although working through past papers from previous years is good exam practice, it’s helpful to use revision guides and practice papers designed to reflect the new curriculum and style of testing to help your child prepare,’ Shelley advises. (TheSchoolRun has produced a complete set of KS2 maths and KS2 English practice papers in the new style, available to subscribers.)

Work on mental maths

Calculators aren’t allowed in maths SATs, so it’s vital to make sure your child’s mental maths skills are up to scratch. ‘One of the most important things you can do is help your child become really secure in their times tables, as this underpins so much of the knowledge that is needed for the maths papers,’ Shelley explains. As well as drilling your child in multiplication, try using visual aids like a colourful poster of times tables pinned to their bedroom wall. However, do remember that children also need to be fluent in written methods too.

Track their progress

All children like to see that they’re making progress, so involve them in marking their own practice papers, times tables and spelling tests and then recording the results. ‘You could do this in a really visual way, like using coloured pens and writing their scores on the family calendar so your child can see how they’re improving week by week,’ Shelley suggests.

Practise working under pressure

With strict time limits for SATs papers, it’s important that your child gets used to working at speed. ‘Even some very able children may find it difficult to pace themselves well, so get them used to working against the clock,’ says Shelley. ‘Encourage them to keep an eye on the clock and manage their time accordingly: rather than spending too long on a challenging question, move on and come back to it at the end. This will help them to use their time wisely so they get through all the questions.’

Combine independence and support

Your child needs to be able to work independently when they’re preparing for SATs – after all, they won’t have any help on test day – but they also need your support, so try to achieve a balance when you’re revising at home.

‘For example, if your child has completed their homework independently, ask them to note down any areas of confusion so they remember to ask their teacher for support,’ Shelley suggests. ‘You could also help them to work out the problem themselves, remembering to use your child’s home-school diary to communicate with the teacher if need be.’

Involve the teacher

It’s not always easy to work out which areas your child needs the most help with, so ask their teacher for guidance. ‘Sometimes, your child will have a very different idea from their teacher about where their strengths and weaknesses lie, so it’s a good idea to talk to the teacher about which areas need consolidation, then you can focus on those at home,’ Shelley explains.

Build in down time

SATs are important, but preparing for the tests shouldn’t take over your child’s life. ‘Encourage them to continue with clubs, sports and other hobbies that they enjoy, and have at least one day a week that’s completely free from school work,’ says Shelley. ‘Above all, help them to understand that SATs are a positive opportunity to show what they’ve learnt, and can even be fun. Try to keep everything in perspective, as a nervous child may not do their best.’

Matched to the requirements of the National Curriculum, Letts KS1 & KS2 Revision Success prepares children for tests with confidence, with a range of revision guides, practice workbooks, practice test papers and 10-minute tests. For more guidance and support, visit