Low-stress preparation for SATs

Low-stress preparation for SATs


It's the time of year that many parents begin to wonder, are SATs important? What will they show? How can we prepare (and should we even prepare?) This helpful guide will give you a short, no-nonsense breakdown with your children at the very centre of it.

What are SATS and what do they tell us?

SATs are standardised tests that the government asks schools to undertake. They can check everyone is being taught the same things to the same level and provide various stakeholders with a way of comparing schools In short, it’s a quality test for schools (and not pupils!)

The process, testing and results, however, can be useful for teachers within each school to see which children have struggled with key areas of learning and which are absorbing everything very quickly (often called, ‘working at greater depth’) This can help teachers plan how they support children in their class to make progress in line with national expectations.

Every child who completes a SATs test will pass – it is not possible to ‘fail’. Scaled scores are from 80-120 and a score of 100 indicates ‘average’, but it’s important to remember everyone learns at different speeds at different times of their lives. Therefore, my top tip for parents is to celebrate completing SATs, not the grades/scores awarded. This will take the pressure off children worrying about their result and place emphasis on their commitment to complete them and simply do their best.

How can we prepare for the tests?

Schools will vary in their approach to SATs, and this can be impacted by how competitive schools are in your area or a school’s attitude to assessment, curriculum and wellbeing. Many schools will do practise tests and offer revision/preparation sessions. Some schools will even offer optional Easter holiday boosters!

There are some fabulous revision guides available for families who want to spend time preparing for these tests. Having a comfortable working knowledge of what is involved in these tests will help children to feel relaxed and prepared and able to do their best. However, it is important to remember that children are not expected to study for these tests in the same way they are for GCSEs and other similar exams.

Parents and carers will of course want to help their children do their best, and from my experience I have found this is most successful if children are given the agency and control to lead the preparations and be involved and responsible for their own success. Here are some great preparation tips for kids to help them do their best when the big day comes around:

  1. Revise if you want to

Revision might involve asking a friend to test each other on what you’ve learnt, creating a brainstorm/mind-map or making your own flashcards. Everyone learns in different ways, so you might find a revision workbook works well for you. Ask your adult or teachers what revision style they think will best suit you.

  1. Get a good night’s sleep

Being well rested will help you to focus and remain positive. Having a bath and early night before a test can help you to sleep well, too. Ask your adult to help by adjusting your bedtime routine if needed.

  1. Organise your uniform/belongings

Pack your bag and lay out your uniform the night before so you don’t need to rush in the morning. Check with your teacher if you need to bring any particular equipment such as a calculator or black pen.

  1. Have a healthy breakfast and stay hydrated!

Having a good breakfast with cereals, toast, yoghurt or fruit will help you to focus on tests. Keeping your water bottle full and nearby will ensure your mind and body are poised and ready for success.

What impact will my child’s results have on their education and future?

Besides how schools (particularly middle schools) use the results to group or ‘set’ children into ability-streamed classes, your child’s SATs results will have little or no effect on their education and future. Most commonly, children will move on to secondary school after completing their SATS and this data is used alongside a range of other baseline tests to ensure teachers have a good idea of a child’s starting point.

The most important thing to remember is that SATs are a measure of what schools have taught their students and do not indicate how wonderful, interesting, entertaining, and bright our 11-year-olds are. SATs produce interesting data, but the most important thing children can learn from the experience is that working hard, staying positive, setting goals and taking personal responsibility is more important than ‘grades’ – a very valuable learning outcome, indeed!


Holly King-Mand, widely known as the nation’s favourite English teacher, is a writer, presenter and literacy campaigner. Holly taught thousands of children online during the pandemic and has become an expert in vibrant online learning. You can find out more about Holly’s Classroom on Instagram, Facebook and at www.hollysclassroom.com.