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Key Stage 2 English: spelling, punctuation & grammar


Feb 10, 2023, 4:27 PM

Key Stage 2 English: spelling, punctuation and grammar

Are you looking for ways to support your child with spelling, punctuation and grammar? We've put together this handy guide to the topic, with a set of free resources to help boost their skills – including a downloadable set of practice questions!

What is SPaG?

SPaG stands for spelling, punctuation and grammar. These are important building blocks for children to be able to write, read and understand the English language. A strong knowledge of SPaG empowers children to communicate clearly through writing – a skill that will set them up to progress in their education and career.

  • Spelling: forming words with the correct letters in the correct order, including applying spelling rules to new vocabulary.

  • Grammar: the structure of language, ordering sentences to form meaning.

  • Punctuation: the symbols that enhance meaning and add clarity to written language.

The national curriculum aims to ensure that, by the end of primary school, children can control their speaking and writing consciously and use Standard English. At the end of Year 6, children are tested on their SPaG knowledge in SATs (Standard Assessment Tests).

What will my child learn during Key Stage 2?

Here is an overview of the SPaG topics that your child will have covered in primary school by the end of Year 6:

  • Grammatical terms and word classes: nouns, verbs, adjectives, conjunctions, pronouns (possessive and relative), adverbs, prepositions, determiners, and subject and object

  • The functions of sentences: statements, questions, commands, and exclamations

  • Combining words, phrases and clauses: relative clauses, noun phrases, coordinating conjunctions, subordinating conjunctions, and subordinate clauses

  • Verb forms, tenses and consistency: the simple past and simple present tenses, verbs in the perfect form, modal verbs, present and past progressive tenses, tense consistency, subjunctive verb forms, active and passive voice

  • Punctuation: capital letters, full stops, question marks, exclamation marks, commas, inverted commas, apostrophes, punctuation for parentheses, colons, semi-colons, dashes and hyphens, and bullet points

  • Vocabulary: synonyms and antonyms, prefixes, suffixes and word families

  • Standard English and formality: standard English, formal and informal vocabulary and structures, and the subjunctive form

  • Spelling: different word endings, suffixes, letter strings, ‘silent’ letters, and homophones

Find an in-depth breakdown of the national curriculum for SPaG for Years 3–6 here.

Punctuation & grammar practice questions

This free pack of 20 questions will help your child practice the topics they will encounter on the Year 6 SATs English Paper 1.

There is a separate pack with answers and explanations.

Download now
Punctuation and grammar question pack

What is the Year 6 SPaG test?

All children in UK primary schools (and most children in private prep schools) take SATs (Standard Assessment Tests) at the end of Year 6. They are designed to assess pupils’ knowledge of the curriculum and are used by the UK government to determine the quality of education across schools in the country.

Children take three English papers as part of their SATs. Two of the three papers test SPaG.

Paper 1: grammar and punctuation

In 2023, the grammar and punctuation test is taken on Tuesday 9th May. Your child will have 45 minutes to complete the test, with 50 marks available.

Questions will be presented in a variety of formats, including:

  • Tick boxes and tables: children will need to tick the box or table cell with the correct answer from multiple options

  • Circling or underlining: children will need to circle or underline the correct answer from multiple options

  • Matching boxes: children will need to draw lines between boxes containing matching information

  • Labelling: children will need to use clear labels when asked, e.g. writing ‘verb’ in the correct box to signal that a given word is a verb

It's a good idea to make sure your child is familiar with these question formats so that on the day they can focus on answering the questions to the best of their ability.

Paper 2: spelling

Like the grammar and punctuation test, the Year 6 SATs spelling test is on Tuesday 9th May 2023.

This test is taken one-on-one with a teacher or a classroom assistant. The teacher will read out 20 words over the course of around 15 minutes, and your child will need to write down the correct spelling for each word in the provided answer booklet. 20 marks are available, with one mark for each word spelled correctly.

Free webinar: watch now!

How to prepare for English SATs

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More ways to support your child's learning

Looking for ways to help your child excel at school and prepare for Year 6 SATs? Atom Nucleus is an award-winning online learning platform to help children achieve their learning goals.

Atom Nucleus is designed so that your child can work independently through the Key Stage 2 English, maths and science curriculum. Children build knowledge and confidence through:

  • 70,000+ interactive questions

  • Helpsheets and tutorial videos

  • Video lessons live and on-demand

SATs practice papers

With an Exam Prep Plus subscription to Nucleus, you get unlimited online SATs Mock Tests.

They're designed for your child to practice their exam technique, so when it comes to the real thing, they feel confident and fully prepared.

All Mock Tests on Nucleus are automatically marked for you.

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Key Stage 2 national curriculum for SPaG

Year 3 (ages 7–8)


  • Formation of nouns using a range of prefixes (e.g. super–, anti–, auto–)

  • Use of the forms a or an according to whether the next word begins with a consonant or a vowel (e.g. a rock, an open box)

  • Word families based on common words, showing how words are related in form and meaning (e.g. solve, solution, solver, dissolve, insoluble)


  • Expressing time, place and cause using conjunctions (e.g. when, before, after, while, so, because), adverbs (e.g. then, next, soon, therefore) or prepositions (e.g. before, after, during, in, because of)


  • Introduction to paragraphs as a way to group related material

  • Headings and sub-headings to aid presentation

  • Use of the present perfect form of verbs instead of the simple past (e.g. He has gone out to play contrasted with He went out to play)


  • Introduction to inverted commas to punctuate direct speech

Terminology for pupils

  • preposition, conjunction

  • word family, prefix

  • clause, subordinate clause

  • direct speech

  • consonant, consonant letter vowel, vowel letter

  • inverted commas (or ‘speech marks’)

Year 4 (ages 8–9)


  • The grammatical difference between plural and possessive –s

  • Standard English forms for verb inflections instead of local spoken forms (e.g. we were instead of we was, or I did instead of I done)


  • Noun phrases expanded by the addition of modifying adjectives, nouns and preposition phrases (e.g. the teacher expanded to: the strict maths teacher with curly hair)

  • Fronted adverbials (e.g. Later that day, I heard the bad news.)


  • Use of paragraphs to organise ideas around a theme

  • Appropriate choice of pronoun or noun within and across sentences to aid cohesion and avoid repetition


  • Use of inverted commas and other punctuation to indicate direct speech (e.g. a comma after the reporting clause; end punctuation within inverted commas: The conductor shouted, “Sit down!”)

  • Apostrophes to mark plural possession (e.g. the girl’s name, the girls’ names)

  • Use of commas after fronted adverbials

Terminology for pupils

  • determiner

  • pronoun, possessive pronoun

  • adverbial

Year 5 (ages 9–10)


  • Converting nouns or adjectives into verbs using suffixes (e.g. –ate; –ise; –ify)

  • Verb prefixes (e.g. dis–, de–, mis–, over– and re–)


  • Relative clauses beginning with who, which, where, when, whose, that, or an omitted relative pronoun

  • Indicating degrees of possibility using adverbs (e.g. perhaps, surely) or modal verbs (e.g. might, should, will, must)


  • Devices to build cohesion within a paragraph (e.g. then, after that, this, firstly)

  • Linking ideas across paragraphs using adverbials of time (e.g. later), place (e.g. nearby) and number (e.g. secondly) or tense choices (e.g. he had seen her before)


  • Brackets, dashes or commas to indicate parenthesis

  • Use of commas to clarify meaning or avoid ambiguity

Terminology for pupils

  • modal verb, relative pronoun

  • relative clause

  • parenthesis, bracket, dash

  • cohesion, ambiguity

Year 6 (ages 10–11)


  • The difference between vocabulary typical of informal speech and vocabulary appropriate for formal speech and writing (e.g. find out/discover; ask for/request; go in/enter)

  • How words are related by meaning as synonyms and antonyms (e.g. big, large, little)


  • Use of the passive to affect the presentation of information in a sentence (e.g. I broke the window in the greenhouse vs. The window in the greenhouse was broken (by me).)

  • The difference between structures typical of informal speech and structures appropriate for formal speech and writing (e.g. the use of question tags: He’s your friend, isn’t he?, or the use of subjunctive forms such as If I were or Were they to come in formal writing and speech)


  • Linking ideas across paragraphs using a wider range of cohesive devices: repetition of a word or phrase, grammatical connections (e.g. the use of adverbials such as on the other hand, in contrast, or as a consequence), and ellipsis

  • Layout devices (e.g. headings, subheadings, columns, bullets, or tables) to structure text


  • Use of the semi-colon, colon and dash to mark the boundary between independent clauses (e.g. It’s raining; I’m fed up)

  • Use of the colon to introduce a list and use of semi-colons within lists

  • Punctuation of bullet points to list information

  • How hyphens can be used to avoid ambiguity (e.g. man eating shark vs. man-eating shark, or recover vs. re-cover)

Terminology for pupils

  • subject, object

  • active, passive

  • synonym, antonym

  • ellipsis, hyphen, colon, semi-colon, bullet point



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