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What to expect from the Year 6 SATs English exam

Exam guides
How to prepare for Year 6 SATs English


What is the Year 6 SATs English exam?

The Key Stage 2 Standard Assessment Tests (SATs) are compulsory for all Year 6 students at state schools in England (optional for independent schools). They are designed to assess your child’s knowledge of the Key Stage 2 national curriculum and are used by the government to determine the quality of education across England’s schools.

SATs schedule 2023 udpated

There are three English papers on the Year 6 SATs. All three tests are administered on paper and take 125 minutes in total:

  • Paper 1: Grammar and punctuation. Pupils have 45 minutes to complete the test, with 50 marks available.

  • Paper 2: Spelling. Pupils have 15-20 minutes to complete the test, with 20 marks available.

  • Paper 3: Reading. Pupils have 60 minutes to complete the test, with 50 marks available.

Watch our free webinar to get the latest preparation tips for this year’s SATs:

Year 6 SATs - Parent Webinar. Education expert tips to help your child prepare. Watch now

What format are the KS2 SATs English papers?

Grammar and punctuation

The first English paper in the KS2 SATs is the grammar and punctuation test. In 2023 this takes place on Tuesday 9th May. Students have a total of 45 minutes to answer the questions, with 50 marks available.

Linked closely to the national curriculum, this paper is designed to assess your child’s understanding of concepts such as suffixes, conjunctions, parts of a sentence, parts of speech, tenses, as well as the full range of punctuation types.

Year 6 SATs Grammar and punctuation mock tests on Atom

It’s important to always read the instructions carefully so they know which type of answer is needed. The two question formats your child will encounter on the grammar and punctuation paper are:

  • Multiple choice selection: e.g. “Identify the verbs in the sentence below”

  • Short written answers: These questions are followed by a line or a box, showing that a word, a few words or a sentence is needed. Examples: “The sentence below is grammatically incorrect. Rewrite it correctly.”; “The sentence below has a comma missing. Explain why it needs a comma.”

The best strategy for this paper is for students to work as quickly and carefully as they can. If they finish before the end, they should go back and check their work.


Following the grammar and punctuation paper, the 2023 KS2 SATs spelling test also takes place on Tuesday 9th May.

Children take the spelling test one-on-one in a room with a teacher or classroom assistant. This is an aural test where a total of 20 words are read out loud over the course of 15-20 minutes. Your child will have to write down the correct spelling for each word. 20 marks are available (one mark per word spelled correctly).

Practicing the words on this list will stand your child in good stead for the Year 6 SATs spelling test.


The 2023 KS2 SATs reading paper takes place on Wednesday 10th May. It takes 60 minutes, including reading time, with a total of 50 marks available. The questions are designed to assess your child’s reading comprehension, and are linked closely to the national curriculum.

Your child will be given three texts to read, with a set of questions to answer about each. Students must use the information in the texts to answer the questions. Some questions will include a page reference so your child knows which page of text will contain the answer they are looking for.

The three texts are each likely to be in different genres. Students should read one text and answer the questions about it, before moving on to read the next text.

Year 6 SATs reading mock test on Atom

The Year 6 SATs reading paper includes several different question types. The space for the answer shows what type of answer is needed. It’s recommended that students read the instructions carefully so they know how to answer the question. The answer formats include:

  • Short answers: Some questions are followed by a short line or box. This shows that only a word or a few words is needed for the answer.

  • Find and copy: e.g. “Find and copy one word that suggests what the weather is like in the story.”

  • Labelling: Students will have to label the text to show certain elements such as the title.

  • Several line answers: Some questions are followed by a few lines. This gives students space to write more words or a sentence or two.

  • Longer answers: Some questions are followed by more answer lines. This shows that a longer, more detailed answer is needed. Students should write in full sentences and refer to the text in their answer.

  • Selected answers: For some questions, students do not need to write anything at all and instead should choose the correct multiple choice answer option.

  • Ranking/ordering: Students will need to number the events to show the order in which they happen in the text.

How is the KS2 English SATs exam marked?

There are 120 marks available across the three English papers. Your child’s raw score (out of 120) will be converted into a scaled score. This makes sure all pupils in the year group are tested on a consistent scale. The scaled score is adjusted for any differences in the difficulty of the test year on year.

Your child will also receive an age-standardised test score, which balances their score in comparison to other students of the same age (born the same month and year).

Parents receive their children’s results during the first two weeks of July.

Free resource: Download Atom’s KS2 English SATs checklist for a comprehensive revision list of the subtopics and skills for the exam.

SATs English checklist.svg

How can I help my child prepare for the KS2 English SATs exam?

Free SATs study guide: download now

Atom Nucleus can help your child prepare for the KS2 English SATs exam with intelligent, adaptive learning for £29.99 per month.

Atom’s technology personalises learning with a motivational interface and reward system to help keep your child engaged and motivated. The content on Atom is comprehensive across the KS2 English national curriculum for spelling, punctuation, grammar, and reading comprehension, so it’s ideal for SATs preparation.

Start your 5-day free trial today to get your child underway with revision for the KS2 English SATs exam.

Parent WhatsApp groups

If your child is currently in Year 6, why not join our Year 6 WhatsApp group? You'll get access to free resources to help your child continue to excel throughout Year 6, plus Education Expert advice on preparing for SATs and the transition to secondary school.



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