Optional_Tests_SATs_StyleAs the Summer term nears its end, our Assessment Publisher, Cerys Hadwin-Owen, takes the time to reflect on how using our Optional Tests this term has helped Primary children and teachers.

Our Optional Tests are written and edited by primary subject experts, many of whom have experience of working directly with the Department for Education on the current National Test papers. They have all been primary classroom teachers themselves, with many still holding teaching and leadership positions in schools across the country.

They combine a deep knowledge of how the National Tests are written and constructed with practical experience of how children react to test papers, and how content needs to be presented to engage them.

Because our authors have spent so much time creating and marking National Test papers, they are perfectly placed to ensure that the Optional Tests are in line with these. As they write questions and assemble Optional Test papers, they are always ensuring that the content they produce is in line with SATs. Our Optional Tests not only assess the curriculum content for each year, but they expose children to the style and format of the SATs gradually from year to year. We hope that this will give teachers the confidence that their children will be adequately prepared when each year group reaches their SATs.

We know that this means our tests may appear a little trickier than some others that you may have come across – but we’re confident that they’re in line with the National Tests, and we’re happy that teachers won’t gain false confidence from tests that are not demanding enough. We spoke to a Deputy Headteacher who agreed with this:

We used the Optional Tests to help Year 6 prepare specifically for the SATs. By the day of the reading test the children were so used to tackling the challenging texts that they were unfazed by the papers. The children were more confident and relaxed during and after the SATs which was in stark contrast to the shell-shocked faces we saw when confronted with the previous year’s tests. We felt so relieved that we had prepared our children well for the new demanding tests and an important part of this was certainly the use of the Optional Tests.
Andrew Percival, Stanley Road Primary School, Oldham

Some schools have told us that their children find the tests particularly challenging in Years 1, 3, 4 and 5. This may be because these year groups are less familiar with the format and layout of National Test papers – even if their curriculum knowledge is excellent. Remember the trickily-worded Maths reasoning questions that caught children out last year?

Using Optional Test papers in all year groups is great practice for all ages, and when appropriately introduced they give all children a chance to familiarise themselves with layout, format, question type, and timings. This practice ensures that when SATs do come around, children’s true knowledge can shine through, and they won’t lose marks due to lack of test technique.

Starting early with SATs-style questions and papers removes some of the stress and pressure from Years 2 and 6. When children have already been sitting Optional Tests once or twice a year throughout primary school, teachers in these two year groups can spend much more time on teaching and revising curriculum content, as lots of the test technique will come naturally by this stage. We know that every teacher wants to focus on teaching Maths and English over spending time explaining how to answer questions and watch the clock.

So, if you’ve recently used our Optional Tests and found them challenging, please don’t worry! By using the tests in every year group, you’re thoroughly preparing your children for National Tests. They’ll be comfortable and confident when the time comes, and in the meantime you can really benefit from knowing how every child is performing in comparison to the expected standard. You also have access to gap analysis and reporting for every child, so you can see which areas of learning need extra focus as you plan ahead, and close those gaps effectively in plenty of time before the National Tests come around again. In short, you’re a step ahead!

We’d love to hear from you if you have feedback on our Optional Tests. Get in touch via Twitter, @RSAssessment.