The Key Stage 2 National Tests from 2016

The frameworks are written primarily for test writers. They set out what will and will not be assessed by the statutory national tests, how each element will be assessed, the proposed structure of each test and what standard pupils will be expected to achieve. They are not designed to be used to guide teaching and learning or to inform statutory teacher assessment.

Draft frameworks for the new national assessments that will be introduced in summer 2016 are now available and can be downloaded from the website .

The key sections of the framework documents are:

  • the nature of the test (particularly the test format)
  • the content assessed
  • the ‘cognitive domain’ in other words the thinking skills and intellectual processes assessed (e.g. problem solving, reasoning)
  • the test specification, including the performance descriptor.

It is very important to note that the tests do not cover all the content or skills of the national curriculum for the core subjects. The tests focus on what can be assessed in a paper-based, written, externally-marked test. The document states the areas of the curriculum that are outside the scope of the national tests and that need to be assessed by teacher assessment.

Each of the framework documents includes a performance descriptor that describes the ‘typical characteristics of children whose performance in the Key Stage 2 tests is at the threshold of the expected standard.’ These characteristics are intended as a general guide rather than a prescriptive list. In order to achieve the expected standard, children will have been able to engage with all questions within the test, even if they have not answered them all correctly.

Below is a summary of the four frameworks for Key Stage 2: reading; grammar, punctuation and spelling; mathematics and the sampling tests for science.  A separate summary of the frameworks for Key Stage 1 will be published soon.


The changes already made for the 2014 tests will be maintained, i.e. the test will last for one hour, to include reading time, and will consist of a selection of fiction, non-fiction and poetry texts, with an accompanying answer booklet. Questions will be roughly in order of difficulty. The paper will be scored out of 50, as currently, with final raw scores being converted into a scaled score, with 100 representing the expected standard. There will be no extension (i.e. Level 6 equivalent) paper.

Just over half the marks (25-35 marks) will be awarded for one-mark answers. There will be 5-8 two-mark questions and 1-4 three-mark questions. The breakdown of content covered is shown in this table from the framework document:

The reading test booklet is to be 1,800-2,300 words in total across a selection of texts.

The framework document describes a number of ‘assessable elements’ for each of the content domains in the table above, which will replace assessment focuses (AFs). There are 17 assessable elements compared with six AFs, although some of the assessable elements are closely related. In broad terms, the current AFs (non-statutory) map to the assessable elements, though there are some differences in emphasis and detail. This will need closer scrutiny.

Grammar, Punctuation and Spelling

The structure of the papers will be broadly similar to those currently used: One paper of 45-minute duration will assess punctuation and grammar (50 marks) through short answer questions, while a second test will assess spelling (20 marks). The spelling test will be read to pupils, with each spelling contained in a contextualised sentence as has been the case since 2013. As with reading, overall marks out of 70 will be converted to a scaled score, with 100 representing the expected standard.

Most questions on the punctuation and grammar paper will be short answers, with some sentence answers towards the end of the paper. There will be no extension paper. The breakdown of content over the two papers is shown in the table below from the framework. Note that ‘language strategies’ refers to words and words-building (so will include some element of vocabulary).



The most notable change to the tests is in the mathematics papers. The former mental mathematics paper is to be replaced by a 30-minute arithmetic paper, which assesses content from the number domain only. (The framework document (p28) states that mental maths skills cannot be directly assessed in a paper-based test because the pupil’s responses only can be marked and do not show the method used, or how quickly they answered the question.) This new paper will consist largely of one-mark questions using context-free calculations. There will be some 2-mark questions for long multiplication and long division calculations. In two-mark questions, it will only be possible to obtain a single mark for a wrong answer derived from a correct method when using the intended standard method. There are 30 marks for this paper, representing 27% of the total test score.

There will be a further two test papers, each lasting 40 minutes and containing 40 marks. These will assess fluency, reasoning and problem solving, in a manner similar to the current tests. Up to half of the questions will be provided within a context. There will be no calculator paper (and calculators cannot be used in the tests), and no extension paper. Formulae will be provided where required (apart from the area and volume of a shape). As with other tests, raw scores will be converted to a scaled score, with 100 representing the expected standard.

The profile of marks by paper and National Curriculum element is as follows:

The table below shows the distribution of marks across the content domain in the framework document:


Science testing will continue for a sample of schools and pupils. These will consist of three 25-minute papers (or ‘components’), with one each for biology, chemistry and physics. For each component, there are five different versions and each child will be assigned one version of it. In addition, the order of the components will vary for each child.

The table below is a summary of the format of the new science test:


assessment frameworks, english, key stage 2, maths, reading, science, statutory tests

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