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What can we learn from the
2017 KS2 SATs Reading test?

Shelley Welsh, June 2017
The 2017 English reading test was the second year of assessing pupils against the 2014 national curriculum.  Last year, the paper was very challenging which came as a surprise to teachers and children alike.  Sixty-six percent of pupils met the required standard in reading, whereas 74% met the standard in writing and 72% in SPaG.
The general verdict about this year’s test was that it was deemed less challenging than last year, though the old problem of children not finishing in the given time continues.
Despite the easier test this year, there may not necessarily be a significant increase in the percentage of pupils reaching the expected standard as the number of marks needed to reach the expected standard varies to reflect the difficulty of tests.

Shelley's top tips!

1. Understanding Words in Context

There is now much more emphasis on understanding the meaning of vocabulary in context.  (2a Give/explain the meaning of words in context.)  Discuss unfamiliar words in Guided Reading sessions and encourage pupils to see relationships between words to help them understand their meaning.  
For example, Q8 asks pupils what the word ‘universal’ tells you about the phrase universal rule.  Their knowledge of the word ‘universe’ should lead them to the correct answer that it is a rule known everywhere/around the world.

2. Question Wording

Some questions may at first ‘throw’ pupils as they appear more complex than they actually are, for example:
…like a toy sitting on a glass table. What does this description suggest about the boat?  
This is just another way of saying: What does this description tell you about the boat? (2g Identify /explain how meaning is enhanced.) There was only 1 mark awarded for this question so pupils only needed to comment on part of the simile, i.e. either the smallness of the boat or the stillness of the sea.
Other questions ask pupils to interpret what the text is saying, rather than giving their own thoughts on it. For example, in the paragraph beginning:  
Mind made up… Gaby says to the cat, ‘You’re out of luck…’
In what way does Gaby think the cat is out of luck?
Here, pupils are required to interpret that Gaby means the cat would have to make do with Gaby rescuing it as her mother isn’t there; she is not saying the cat is out of luck because it is stuck up the tree, even though many pupils would see that as the reason.

3. Those ‘3-markers’!

There were two 3 mark questions in this year’s paper (2d Make inferences from the text/explain and justify inferences with evidence from the text), but to miss them out meant the loss of a whopping 6 marks.  That’s 12% of the total marks. Pupils need to make two acceptable points with evidence to support at least one of these in order to be awarded 3 marks.  However, they should know that they can be awarded 2 marks for two acceptable points and no evidence, or one acceptable point with evidence, and one mark for one acceptable point.  So, always worth having a go!
4. Some prep and practise tips
  • In preparing pupils for the SATs, it is worth investing in new practice papers that are in line with the new style and format of the current SATs, rather than dusting off those old-style papers.
  • Pupils should be encouraged to be time-aware; remind them that they have one hour to complete the paper, and practise working in timed conditions.  If they are stuck, they should move on to the next question and return to any they have left out at the end.
  • For the straightforward retrieval questions, the ability to be able to scan and skim read quickly is vital.
  • Incorporate a range of question styles into Guided Reading sessions to familiarise pupils with the formats used in the new paper.
  • There are many ways to practise other than reading texts – listening to songs, film clips and news broadcasts can be more interesting and fun ways of testing comprehension skills.