Thoughts on the 2019 SATs - Mathematics

Each year many of us (hopefully not just me!) wait in anticipation of the latest national test for Year 6 pupils to see how it compares to previous years. And despite the 2019 Key Stage 2 Test being the fourth set of papers aligned with the ‘new’ mathematics curriculum, we are still keen to drill down, dissect and find out exactly what our Year 6 pupils across the country are being tested on.   

As many teachers, senior leaders and professionals in the industry know, the Year 6 mathematics national tests are aligned to the Key Stage 2 Test Framework. In theory, there is not much leeway as to how the papers can be constructed. But we also know the STA never fails to surprise, excite and even challenge our thinking of how mathematics questions can be composed. This year there has already been much talk about Adam cutting his rectangular card into two different sized squares and another rectangle using only two lines! Also, it seems gone are the days of a challenging area question focussing on just finding the area of a composite rectangular shape, but rather pupils having to apply their knowledge and understanding of much more complex questions such as Paper 2, Q17: 

For pupils to gain two marks in this question they needed to complete three steps: 

1.    Calculate the perimeter of the hexagon from the length of one side
2.    Use the perimeter from the hexagon to calculate the length of the side of the square 
3.    Use the length of the side of the square to calculate its area.

Going on gut feeling, Paper 2 reasoning felt more challenging than in previous years and it appears that many teachers felt the same. Third Space Learning carried out a survey and found: 

‘A whopping 71% of respondents to our survey said that they felt the 2019 Reasoning Paper 2 was harder than last year, and this sentiment was echoed all over social media and other teacher forums.’ 

Many questions across the reasoning papers required pupils to have a deepened understanding of mathematical concepts and good mathematical fluency. The level of challenge and cognitive thinking could be considered more complex than in previous years due to several questions requiring multiple steps to solve the problem, as we can see just from looking at the perimeter / area question alone! 
If we turn our attention to comparing the mark schemes over the last four years, the distribution of marks by year group and content domain has been fairly stable. 



Also, the distribution of question types has remained fairly steady: 

However, notable observations for 2019 are: 

1.    The 2019 papers had the greatest number of Year 3/4 curriculum content ever assessed. It will be interesting to see how many pupils will correctly answer Paper 3, Q14 which assessed pupils’ knowledge on the days in a  month – a year 3 objective:  


Hence, it is important to reiterate that tests are not ‘Year 6 tests’ but are rather ‘Key Stage 2 tests.’ As such, planned opportunities to consolidate and revise learning from previous year groups are paramount. 

2.    In spite of having the greatest number of Year 3/4 curriculum marks, the number of marks allocated to Year 6 in 2019 was also the most we have seen in the last few years: 

2016 – 48 marks (Year 6)
2017 – 50.5 marks (Year 6)
2018 – 50 marks (Year 6) 
2019 – 52.5 marks (Year 6)
3.    The total number of marks allocated to Measurement, Geometry and Statistics was the highest seen to date! With schools correctly placing a greater emphasis on the teaching of number, it will be interesting to see how pupils fair on these ‘other areas’ of mathematics questions. For example, Paper 2, Q13 required pupils to accurately draw a triangle, which was worth 2 marks.


4.    The number of ‘explain how you know’ questions is gradually increasing over time, with this year’s papers having three high level contructed respone questions. Again, this is the most we have seen. The last question (Q23) in Paper 3 certainly assesses higher order reasoning: 

5.    The emphasis on good problem solving and reasoning, strong number sense to include efficient written methods for all four operations and confidence with calcualting multi-step ‘show your method’ word problems remains a very important focus! 

Once results are in we will dig deeper and complete our full 2019 Teaching for Implications report  (due to be released in the Autum Term) to inform you of key recommendations for 2019 -20 Year 6 SATs preparation. But in the meantime, best of luck to your 2018 -19 cohort for results day!  Sign up if you wish to receive a copy of Implications for Teaching 2019

Sarah-Anne Fernandes – SolveMaths Ltd

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