The National Curriculum tests, known as SATs, are used in all state-funded schools to assess children’s performance in key areas and to provide data used to monitor progress and provision in schools. The tests are quite rigorous and are designed to allow each child to demonstrate the breadth and depth of their knowledge and understanding.
The following list is designed to help parents prepare their children for the SATs exams. As you’ll discover, there are several things you can do to help your child maximise their chances of gaining a high score in the tests. Some of these tips are very easy to apply, whereas others may require more ‘training’, but all are aimed at helping KS2 children do their very best they can in this year’s SATs.
Keep Your Child Healthy
It seems like such a small thing, but eating well, sleeping well and relaxing are all an important part of doing well in any test. Although your child may have anxieties about the SATs, try to ensure that they feel relaxed about the exam, particularly at bedtime. Try to avoid sugary drinks or caffeine so that they get lots of deep, restorative sleep in the lead up to the big day. On the morning of the test, try to ensure that they eat a good breakfast, as studies have proven that hungry children have dramatically reduced levels of concentration in comparison to those who have eaten well.
Don’t Put Too Much Pressure on Them
Although the tests are important, they are only the first stage of your child’s academic career and may well have a limited effect on their future educational successes. That said, forming good study and revision habits at this age can greatly benefit your child in future examinations. A positive and proactive attitude towards learning and developing the skills required for SATs will stand them in good stead for the future.
With this in mind, we advise parents not to put too much pressure on their child. Allow them to consolidate and focus on any weaker areas that they need improvement in. If they seem worried or anxious about the tests, try to avoid setting hours and hours of revision at the expense of their leisure time – it’s important to keep a sense of perspective.
A common area of concern for a lot of parents is their child’s ability to focus for long periods at a time. Most of the SATs tests last for less than an hour, but for a ten or eleven-year-old, it can be very difficult to concentrate at full capacity for this length of time.
Encourage your child to focus on screen-free tasks that require them to concentrate away from a computer screen. Gradually build up these ‘concentration periods’ over time. For example, if your child only reads for five minutes before they become bored or restless, try encouraging them to aim for ten minutes, then twenty and so on. Board games that require skill, writing for a purpose (such as letters to a relative or composing a shopping list), fine motor skills activities such as building Lego models, and colouring activities are all ideal to help your child build up their ability to concentrate for longer periods of time.
Read the Question Twice
Many children lose marks when they misread a question. This happens in all of the subject areas and can easily knock 10-20% from a child’s score. Encourage your child to read the question twice in order to improve their chances of understanding what they are being asked to do. Although this is important for questions that are weighted with higher marks, it’s just as important for the seemingly easier one-mark questions too. If your child doesn’t understand what the question is asking them to do, they should leave it and come back to it at the end of the test.
Check the Answer Twice
Another common reason that students lose marks in the SATs exam is that they don’t check their answers. They often don’t see the mistakes they’ve made and simply skim over their answers without pro-actively looking for errors. Teach your child the following strategy to help them identify mistakes:
Encourage them to imagine that they are explaining their answer to their teacher. What would the teacher say? What questions would they ask? Would they be satisfied with what was written?
For maths questions, children at this age should understand how to use the inverse, or opposite operation, to check their answers. For example, if they were asked to divide 200 into 8 equal groups, and they arrive at an answer of 25, then they should be able to confirm this is correct by using the calculation 8 x 25.
Don’t Leave Questions Unanswered
Many children leave harder questions unanswered. Of course, an unanswered question has absolutely no chance of scoring a mark. If your child is completely confounded by a question, they should always aim to write some form of an answer, even if it is a complete guess – you never know, it could be right!
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