Thoughts on the 2019 SATS - Reading

This time last year, we ‘celebrated’ the return of poetry in the 2018 KS2 Reading Test. So, what are the headlines of the 2019 KS2 Reading Test? Were there any surprises? After 4 years of this suite of tests are we still surprised by the ingredients or have we identified enough patterns and trends? Do we get excited by expecting the unexpected? Here is a breakdown of how the content domains for reading were tested this year:


Some of the main highlights from the test are as followed:


1. 2/5 of the paper tested content domain 2b (retrieve and record information)

2. 1/3 of the paper tested content domain 2d (make inferences from the text)

3. When added together, content domains 2b and 2d made up ¾ of the test (39/50 marks, 78%)

4. Content domain 2g (identify/explain how meaning is enhanced through choice of words and phrases) was tested in the second and third extracts in three different ways. As this is one of the less common tested content domains, we will look at some of these three items closely in the Implications for Teaching Report later.

5. The first extract was fiction – ‘The Park’ yet 7/14 marks were retrieval based (this will be discussed more later).

6. The second extract was non-fiction – ‘About Bumblebees’ where 19 of the available 50 marks were tested. This was the only extract where content domain 2c (summarise main ideas from more than one paragraph) was tested.

7. The third extract was fiction – ‘Music Box’ which included both 3-mark questions and where 9 of the available 17 marks were inference based.

8. Extract 1, ‘The Park’ is taken from Tom McLaughlin’s ‘The Accidental Prime Minister’, a very popular book read by many year 4 pupils. The book in itself is hilarious, yet the extract chosen did not illustrate that side of the book! However, my reason for including this in the highlights is that this book is read by year 4 children. Again, we would like to stress the importance of the title of the test ‘KS2 Reading Test’ and not Year 6. In a relay race, all 4 runners need to be well-trained and ready to race. Yet for so many schools, the last runner of the relay race seems to have a tough time completing the race in 2 terms. All year groups are responsible for children reaching ARE at the end of KS2 – choosing a text that is pitched at year 4, who are ½ way through their KS2 journey and indeed half way through the relay race raises those implications for teachers in LKS2. 

9. Extract 3, ‘Music Box’ is taken from ‘The Mark of the Dragonfly’ by Jaleigh Johnson. This was a challenging text and rightly so as its position in the text means it is to cater for the needs of our most able readers. However, we will take a closer look at the variety of questions in this tier of the test including the two 3-mark questions. 

10. Since the new style of test was introduced, each year we have seen a variety of new question styles. Teachers have become familiar with some and children have been well-prepared with the variety of question types and styles (Rising Stars Optional Tests and Progress Tests are great resources that familiarise children with this). Let’s take a closer look at the variety of questions that were included in the 2019 test and any that were presented in an unfamiliar way.

The Park

As previously mentioned, there were 7/14 marks available in this text that tested content domain 2b (retrieval).
Question 5: Although this is a retrieval question, some children may be tempted to ‘infer’ rather than use the actual text to find the response.

Question 6: This question was an inference one but was set out in a slightly unfamiliar way. Although children are very familiar with multiple choice questions now, they had to have a very clear understanding of what had just happened in the story before they could access this question.


Question 7: This question was again another inference question. It was written in a new way which was accessible to many children. Children may have found this inference question easier to access as it is multiple choice.


Question 10: This was the only question that tested content domain 2h in this test. This was an interesting way to assess this content domain as children were given part of the text and the information that Joe and Ajay reacted differently. However, the question then demands an understanding of comparing reactions.


About Bumblebees

Question 14: Although this question is a simple retrieval one, the mark scheme is a different story. Children need to be accurate in their written responses and this may mean that many lose the mark.


Question 15: This inference question is similar in format to the 3-mark questions that we have seen. However, children are given the Point(s) and are required to find the corresponding Evidence. This may be a teaching tool that teachers choose to use to scaffold children’s understanding when moving towards coping with the 3-mark question like 32 where there is less scaffolding.

Question 26: This question tested content domain 2g. Provided children understand what ‘humour’ is, there were many examples for children to choose from to answer this.



The Music Box

Question 29: This question also tested content domain 2g. This is not a 2a question as children need to understand how the word ‘slung’ describes how she put on her coat. Some children may misunderstand what this question is actually asking them to do.

Question 30: This question tested inference and is a classic example of children bringing in their own experiences to answer the question. If we look at the ‘do not accept’ in the mark scheme – we will see a response that many of our children will write (unfortunately). 

Question 37: This multiple-choice question has generated rich discussion about language and what words mean for different generations. Many children use ‘decent’ as a synonym for ‘excellent’ rather than ‘reasonable’. If that is the case, they will get this question wrong.

Question 39: Although similar in format to the 3-mark question in the 2018 reading test, this item will have caused some problems for children as the context of writing about a relationship is both abstract and subtle in the text.

On the whole, many teachers seem ‘happier’ with the reading test admitting it was rather dense and wordy. For many the discussion about what the threshold for ARE will be is a hot talking point. This year, the first two extracts had a combined score of 33 marks. We cannot all play ‘pin the tail on the donkey’ for what the threshold will be. All that is left to do is wait!

Maddy Barnes, English Consultant
June 2019

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

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