Thoughts on the 2019 SATs - Grammar, Punctuation & Spelling

The KS2 2019 grammar, punctuation and spelling test was once again viewed positively by teachers and pupils. When I asked a group of year 6 pupils what they thought of the test immediately afterwards, they said, ‘…it was easy Ms Mayers.’ Of course, we do not know how they performed but at least they felt it was accessible. Many teachers felt the test was fair but with fewer multiple-choice questions this year and a few explanation questions to challenge pupils.

Look out for my detailed analysis of the 2019 grammar test when the 2019 implications for teaching documents are published later this year. For now, here  are some of my observations so far.

1)    KS1 and KS2 grammar, punctuation and spelling areas are tested at the end of KS2. 

Once again, the KS2 grammar, punctuation and spelling test continues to be a test of KS1 and KS2. I have put the year groups according to when an area was first introduced, e.g. expanded noun phrases are in year 2 and 4 so I have put this as year 2. Notably, there was an increase in questions this year from year 6 with areas such as: subject or object; the active and passive; formal language; hyphens and antonyms being tested. 

2)    Year 3 and 4 are important year groups for teaching and learning spellings. 

Interestingly, 75% of the spelling test explored areas first introduced in years 3 and 4 , and 25% focussed on areas from years 5 and 6. Unlike previous years, there were quite a few words that covered both the years 3-6 spelling rules and the statutory word lists. 

Words that also appeared on the statutory word list for: 

•    Years 3 and 4: thought(ful), accidentally 
•    Years 5 and 6: muscle, excellent. 

Please see the  resources below where I have grouped the statutory word list by area to make it easier to teach and more relevant to pupils. Please note that in some cases, I have put words in more than one area so that pupils can view the word more than once and to embed learning. 

3)    Pupils need to learn and understand the agentless passive. 

One of the key features within the national KS2 writing moderator training this year, was the use of the agentless passive to indicate more formal writing. In Question 42 (see below), the second choice was correct but what did pupils need to know? 


Shareen ate the biscuits.

The biscuits were eaten by Shareen. 

The subject (the biscuits) moves to the end of the clause and is no longer the subject but is the agent/object. It starts with the preposition ‘by.’ 

Agentless passive 

The biscuits were eaten by Shareen (object/agent). 

The biscuits were eaten. 

The agent (or object) is omitted from the sentence. 

The agentless passive is seen in more formal writing and can be used to build suspense or to give pupils’ writing a more authoritative style. 

4)    Teach irregular contractions, especially for more formal language.
Significantly, teaching about formal and informal language is important not just for writing but for wider understanding on the grammar test. This year, pupils had to write the contracted form for the words ‘shall not,’ and it had to be spelt correctly. 

shan’t = shall not

won’t = will not

5)    Pupils need to know the full range of determiners. 

In the year 4 national curriculum (NC) English grammar appendix, it just mentions that pupils need to know the term ‘determiners’ but does not expand on the pitch of teaching. However, there is some further guidance within the English glossary. 

Here is a list of the determiners I think that pupils need to know. Determiners specify a noun and they go before any adjectives or other nouns. Remember that possessive pronouns (e.g. yours/mine/theirs etc) replaces a noun, whereas a determiner comes before a noun. There is no requirement for them to know all the sub-terms, but determiner is the umbrella term. 

The answers above were ‘any’, ‘the’ and ‘some’. As you can see, determiner is the umbrella term. 

6)    Review expanded noun phrases at KS2 and teach it in depth at KS1. 

From completing training and talking to lots of pupils, there appears to be some misconceptions about expanded noun phrases. Firstly, looking at the questions below, pupils do need to be familiar with the language ‘grammatical term.’ However, it seems that expanded noun phrases are primarily taught as two adjectives and a noun, especially at KS1. A noun can be modified by adding words such as adjectives, adverbs or determiners before them and prepositions and relative clauses after them. 

‘It is possible to expand a noun phrase by adding words appropriately before and/or after the noun. There is no requirement for an expanded noun phrase to include a specific number of adjectives.’ 

•    one cold night 
•    yellowish fur with black spots 
•    the grasslands of the burning Africa 
•    the biggest midnight feast in their life 
•    eyes like fire
•    a fluffy green pencil case with a gold zip
•    The new paintbrushes are in the box. 

Taken from the 2017 KS1 Standards and Testing Agency national moderator training. 
(The words highlighted are nouns.) 

2018 KS2 grammar, punctuation and spelling test paper. 53% of pupils answered this correctly. 

2019 KS2 grammar, punctuation and spelling test paper

Pupils did not lose marks if they just wrote ‘noun phrase’ and there were no spelling or grammar expectations for this question. 

View the 2019 KS2 Grammar, Punctuation and Spelling Test here.  

My 2018 blog with key tips relevant to the 2019 grammar, punctuation and spelling paper can be found here.  

Shareen Mayers (@ShareenMayers)

Independent English adviser and KS1 and KS2 moderation manager for a London LA.
Shareen is the author of the Rising Stars KS2 Spelling Test books as well as many other educational books for teachers and pupils. Additionally, Shareen is the author of the Rising Stars Achieve Reading Revision and Practice books

Once results are in we will take a closer look and complete our full 2019 Implications for teaching report, due to be released in the Autumn Term. Sign up if you wish to receive this. 

Find out more about the Achieve Revision Series


6, Grammar, Punctuation, SATs, Spelling, Year

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