The Education Blog

News Press 1st July, 2016

A Testing Time: Ten top tips when preparing for SATs

Why are SATs getting so much negative publicity? Ten Top Tips when Preparing for Exams.

by Sophie Stead, The Resident

Is it right to test young children? And, if it is, how do you reduce the pressure on children so they continue to enjoy going to school? We have all seen the headlines over the past few months and worried about the impact of testing on young children. SATS papers have been leaked, parents have protested and teachers have been calling on the government to change the way we assess children in primary school.

Whether your child is at a local primary school or you are thinking of putting them into an independent prep school, then Year 2 can be a particularly busy time. In state schools, all children will be expected to take Standard Assessment Tests (SATS), at the end of Year 2 and then again in Year 6 and Year 9. Those looking to enter a top prep school (predominantly boys’ schools) may have to sit the 7+ assessment in Year 2 to gain entry into their new school in Year 3 (aged 7-8).  

What are SATS? 

The Year 2 Standardised Assessment Tests – the so-called SATs – are based on the Key Stage 1 national curriculum and are taken in May, covering maths, reading and writing. This was the first year of the new rigorous tests and many parents and schools have already protested that they have been too hard, putting unnecessary pressure on children.  

What is the 7+? 

The 7+ is an admissions process used by a number of top prep schools to assess students in Year 2 ahead of entry into a selective preparatory school in Year 3. The admissions process will vary from school to school, but you can expect your child to be tested in Maths and English and sometimes, Verbal and Non-verbal Reasoning. Your child will also have a short interview, possibly with the Head.   

Preparing for Exams 

Planning ahead and mixing up revision techniques can help to embed learning and ensure school and even tests remain an enjoyable experience. Here are our top 10 tips for supporting young children through their exams:

  1. Mark out a study space for your child, free from distraction
  2. Create a timetable to allow for short revision periods with regular breaks
  3. Keep to a routine – it will help when they are back at school
  4. The 4 Ps: Practice of Past Papers = Perfect Exam Technique!
  5. Help them plan their time: this allows students to build in time in the exam to plan and check through answers
  6. Mix it up – flashcards and mind maps are engaging ways to go over materials
  7. Try short quizzes to check key facts, perfect for long car journeys
  8. Debate it out! Talking through key points helps with memory and interview technique
  9. Read with your child: regular reading builds great habits and ensures your child’s vocabulary and confidence will continue to grow
  10. Make sure your child always eats a good breakfast before an exam.

We often get asked whether children are too young for tutoring for exams in primary school and our answer is always the same: it depends on your child. The 7+ is a highly competitive exam and so it’s important that your child feels ready and confident to take on the challenge both academically and also in terms of their maturity. Exam technique, including timing and understanding questions, is vital for your child to perform well so experience of sitting practice exam papers will be useful.   

The structure of both state and independent school exams are likely to change over the next few years but by embedding a love of learning from a young age, you are providing your children with the tools to tackle any academic challenge with confidence.

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