Key Stage 2 SATs Tests and Assessments (Year 6) – A Guide for Secondary Schools

SATs Tests are taken to provide the measure of attainment of a school’s pupils at the end of Key Stage 2 primary education, together with an assessment of the progress made from the end of Key Stage 1. Ofsted uses this information when inspecting schools.

The results are available to secondary schools for their incoming Year 7 in July/August through the ASP service, and can be an aid for transition.

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You can download this guide as an easy to read pdf booklet by clicking HERE

Why are there tests taken near the end of Year 6?

SATs Tests are taken to provide the measure of attainment of a school’s pupils at the end of Key Stage 2 primary education, together with an assessment of the progress made from the end of Key Stage 1. Ofsted uses this information when inspecting schools.

The results are available to secondary schools for their incoming Year 7 in July/August through the ASP service, and can be an aid for transition.

The data that is available for secondary schools goes down to the number of marks each pupil obtained per question. This can aid schools in planning for their incoming Year 7 before the autumn term starts.

The Key Stage 2 level is also needed at GCSE to calculate the pupil’s progress 8 score and also the school’s score. This is now used to show how much progress a pupil has made through their secondary education.

For more information – please see our guide to GCSE Assessment.

Does everyone have to take the SATs?

Around 97.5% of pupils in England take the test. All maintained schools, academies and free schools must take part. Independent schools may choose to take part.

Headteachers make the final decision by mid-March as to whether a pupil takes part in the tests; they can discuss this decision with parents and teachers, SENCO, medical offers, educational psychologists etc. if they wish to do so. These pupils typically:

  • Have not completed the relevant Key Stage 2 study programme,
  • Are working below the overall standard of the tests, unable to answer the easiest questions,
  • Are unable to participate, even with access arrangements,
  • Are nearly arrived at school and whose performance cannot be established.

What tests are there?

There are 6 tests in total:

One test in Reading

    • worth a total of 50 marks
    • and involving three reading texts of increasing difficulty, lasting one hour.
    • Questions towards the end of the reading texts, especially the third text, can be worth multiple marks.

One test in Grammar and Punctuation

    • worth a total of 50 marks and lasting 45 minutes.

One test in Spelling

    • worth a total of 20 marks, one mark per word.
    • The Spelling test is not strictly timed, but lasts approximately 15 minutes.

Three tests in Mathematics

    • Paper 1 involves mathematical calculations (arithmetic), covering operations including fractions, decimals and percentages, and long division and multiplication. It is worth 40 marks and lasts 30 minutes.
    • Papers 2 and 3 assesses mathematical fluency, with problems and reasoning. Each paper is worth 35 marks and lasts 40 minutes each.
    • Overall, 83-93 out of the 110 marks are designed to test number, calculations and fractions, and 17-27 marks are designed to test measurement, geometry and statistics.

Each test will take place on a day decided by the DfE, but may take place at a time of that day chosen by the school. It is not necessary that all pupils take the test at the same time, but pupils that haven’t yet taken the test but will do so (including those that arrived late) must be separated from those that have.

In 2019, the timetable is as follows:

  • Monday 13 May – the 2 grammar, punctuation and spelling papers.
  • Tuesday 14 May – the English reading paper.
  • Wednesday 15 May – Maths papers 1 and 2.
  • Thursday 16 May – Maths paper 3.

This is a change to previous years, when the English reading paper was the first test to be administered.

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What is the Pass Mark?

The pass mark changes each year, depending on the complexity of the paper.

Typically, the pass mark for:

  • Reading is between 21 and 28 marks out of 50.
  • Maths is between 56 and 60 marks out of 110 in total over all 3 papers.
  • Grammar, Punctuation and Spelling (GPS or SPaG) is 35 to 40 marks out of 70 over both papers.

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What is a Scaled Score?

To enable comparisons to be made between years, the DfE converts..

The number of marks a pupil has made (called the “raw score”)


a score than can be compared between years (known as the “Scaled Score”).

  • The Scaled Score varies between 80 (for a “raw score” of 3 marks) to 120 (for nearly all questions answered correctly).
  • The pass mark is a scaled score of 100.
  • Reaching this is called “Expected Standard achieved” (“AS”), as opposed to “Expected Standard Not Achieved” (“NS”).
  • The high score threshold is not pre-announced, but since 2016 has been 110.
  • Any pupils who do not get a raw score of 3 marks will have a Scaled Score lower than 80.
  • The exact figure(s) and methodology changes each year.

The DfE publishes the conversion between raw score and Scaled Score in early July, at the same time as results are given to the school.

Do teachers have to make any assessments at Key Stage 2?

Teachers have to make Teacher Assessments for:


  • Expected Standard (EXS)
  • Greater Depth within the Expected Standard (GDS)
  • Working Towards the Standard (WTS)
  • or a pre-key stage standard (see below).


  • Working at the Expected Standard (EXS)
  • Has Not Met The Expected Standard (HNM).

Where a pupil is working below the standard of the Key Stage 2 tests (below WTS), then one of the following will be used:

  • Pre-key standards 1 to 6. Standards 5 and 6 are Working Towards and Working At the Key Stage 1 Expected Standard.
  • If a pupil has not reached Pre-key standard 1, then in 2018/19 P scales 1 to 4 should be used instead.

All assessments are made on the basis of “can do” statements. If a pupil moves, then it is the school where the pupil was registered at the beginning of the test week that should submit the Assessments.

Teacher Assessments need to be submitted to their Local Authority near the end of June, although individual LAs may have their own, earlier, deadlines.


What about pupils who don’t get entered into the test?

Additionally, teachers have to make Teacher Assessments in subjects (Reading or Maths) for pupils who were not entered into that exam.

By definition, these assessments will be based on the pre-key stage standards. In previous years, Teacher Assessments in Reading and Maths were needed for all pupils – this is no longer the case.

Additionally, the headteacher must explain to parents, before the tests begin, why they are not being entered.

A report must also be written to the parents and the chair of the governing body which contains:

  • An explanation as to why,
  • What action the school has taken, or special support the pupil has been offered,
  • How the school analyses and monitors the pupils’ needs, and where it is recorded, and
  • Whether these circumstances are likely to be short-term or long-term.

This report will also be placed on the pupil’s education record. The parents have a right to appeal this decision.

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How is Progress calculated?

Progress is calculated in Reading, Writing and Maths only by comparing the pupil’s performance against the National Average of all pupils who had a similar Key Stage 1 prior attainment.

For example, if a pupil had a Key Stage 1 Average Point Score of 17.0, then their performance would be compared against all pupils nationally who had a Key Stage 1 Average Point Score of between 17.00 and 17.49.

  • For Reading and Maths tests, a pupil’s performance is measured by their Scaled Score (between 80 and 120).
  • For Reading and Maths teacher assessments (where a pupil has not been entered into the test), the teacher assessment is converted into a Scaled Score. This methodology changes each year, but is typically between 59 and 79.
  • For Writing only, the pupil’s Teacher Assessment is converted into a Scaled Score, either between 59 and 79 (if a pre-key stage Assessment has been made), or 91 (WTS), 103 (EXS) or 113 (GDS).

Any pupils who do not have a Key Stage 1 Average Point Score do not have a progress score.

It is not possible to accurately calculate pupils’ potential progress scores prior to the tests, and Ofsted recommends that schools do not do so.

What does the progress score indicate?

  • A positive progress score indicates the number of Scaled Scores above their National figure that the pupil has achieved.
  • A negative progress score does not indicate that no progress has been made between Key Stage 1 and Key Stage 2. Instead, it indicates the number of Scaled Scores below their National figure that the pupil has achieved.

The fine-tuning of the Progress Scores is complex.

For more information, including how the DfE fine-tunes progress for pupils with extremely negative progress scores..

Please note that this methodology for calculating progress will change in 2019/20, as pupils taking the SATs tests in 2020 will no longer have Key Stage 1 Average Point Scores. The 2019/20 methodology for calculating progress has not been announced.

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Can the school see what questions were answered correctly per pupil?

In late July/early August, after a campaign headed by DAISI, the DfE’s Question Level Analysis (QLA) is released on the ASP service (accessible only by schools and LAs).

This contains a summary analysis per pupil per topic/strand, or per question. The detailed data is also downloadable in spreadsheet form.

To access this data, secondary schools need to enter their new Year 7’s UPNs in the ASP service.

Our Transition Pack aims to help teachers know the individual strengths and weaknesses of their new class before the start of the Autumn Term.

Topic-based Targeted Invention to help focus teaching at the start of Year 7 and close learning gaps quickly

Click here for more information

Where can I get more information about the SATs?

Official literature (a leaflet and video) aimed at parents are available on the website. However, it largely deals with the administration of the tests, and does not address other issues mentioned in this article.

Official literature aimed at schools and teachers relating to administration are available on the KS2 part of the website.

Past papers are available on the Practice Materials of the KS2 website. This also includes the mark schemes, which indicate how marks are awarded, including in multi-point questions.

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Thank you for reading this “Understanding Your School’s Data” Guide.

Click HERE to download it as a free pdf booklet.