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What to expect from the Year 6 SATs English exam

Exam guide

Mar 31, 2023, 1:55 PM

What to expect from the Year 6 SATs English exam


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. They're used to assess your child’s knowledge of the Key Stage 2 national curriculum and gauge the quality of education across England’s schools.

When is the English exam in 2023?

There are three English papers on the Year 6 SATs. All three are paper tests.

Paper 1: Grammar and punctuation

  • Tuesday 9th May 2023

  • 45 minutes

  • 50 marks available

Paper 2: Spelling

  • Tuesday 9th May 2023

  • 20 minutes

  • 20 marks available

Paper 3: Reading

  • Wednesday 10th May 2023

  • 60 minutes

  • 50 marks available

SATs schedule 2023 udpated

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. Children 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.

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

  • Multiple choice: These questions are followed by a selection of potential answers and your child must choose the right one. 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. E.g: The sentence below is grammatically incorrect. Rewrite it correctly. or 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.


Punctuation & grammar questions

This pack of 20 questions will help your child practise the topics they will encounter on the Year 6 SATs. There is an answer pack with helpful explanations for you to review together.

Download now
Punctuation and grammar question pack


Following the grammar and punctuation paper, the 2023 KS2 SATs spelling test takes place on the same day. 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 to your child 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).

Year 6 SATs English

Key Stage 2 spelling list

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

Year 6 SATs English

Spelling, punctuation & grammar guide

For more information and resources, take a look at the full Key Stage 2 SPaG guide.


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 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. Children should read the instructions carefully so they know how to answer the question. 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 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.

Learn more about how the SATs are marked.

How to prepare for the English SATs exam

Free parent webinar

Build the knowledge you need for SATs

The most reliable way to perform well in the SATs is to build a stable understanding of the Key Stage 2 curriculum. Atom Nucleus is a home learning programme created by teachers, designed to help your child build knowledge and confidence across English, maths and science.

You'll get:

  • 70,000+ interactive questions

  • Helpsheets and tutorial videos

  • 500+ hours of video lessons

  • Easy progress tracking

SATs practice papers

Looking to build exam technique? Feel confident and prepared in SATs week with an Exam Prep Plus subscription!

You'll get unlimited SATs practice tests, all automatically marked for you. Each answer is explained so you can review your child's results together and see where to focus next.

Test your knowledge

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Here to help with your SATs preparation journey

We're here to answer any questions you have about the SATs tests in 2023. To discuss your child’s progress with a SATs expert, get in touch.

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