The year 6 SATs tests towards the end of the year are a ritual most children and parents are familiar with. With schools demanding consistently higher standards from children and panic setting in amongst parents, small, simple measures can be taken to prepare children correctly. This year's exams will be the first after the overhaul of the National Curriculum and many people involved in education suggest they will be the most challenging yet.
Basic Maths and English
Although the SATs will test quite a high level of Maths and English, in order to tackle the papers children need to have a firm grounding in the basics. For example, the Maths papers can become significantly more challenging and lengthy if a child has a weak knowledge of the times tables. In the English paper, precious time can be lost they are slow and unconfident readers. Practise things like the times tables, basic conversions, mental maths, division, multiplication etc. In English, encourage regular reading and writing, in order to broaden their vocabulary and improve the speed and quality of their work.
Know the Curriculum
SATs have become part of the educational furniture in the UK. However, after many years of familiarity, 2016 heralded a complete overhaul of the tests in line with the newly refigured national curriculum. The new papers have a different focus to them than in years gone past, so it's worth bearing these changes in mind.
In Maths, there are 3 papers for children to sit- one arithmetic paper and two reasoning papers. The arithmetic will concentrate on: number facts, calculation methods and, towards the end of the test, more challenging calculations. Examples of the types of question children may encounter include:
· 23 x 16
· 1/2+ 3/5
· A drawer has 120 spoons in it. 5 children take 8 spoons each. How many spoons are there left in the drawer?
· One litre of cola costs £5.65. How much would half a litre cost?
There are 2 parts to the English paper: one reading and one spelling, punctuation and grammar (SPG). The reading test has one paper and the grammar, punctuation and spelling has two papers.
The reading paper tests children's comprehension skills, focusing on a number of different types of questions such as fact-retrieval and inference questions.
The first paper in the SPAG is an assessment of grammar, punctuation and vocabulary. This paper will focus on grammatical terms and things like synonyms and antonyms. Punctuation to mark clauses or convey a particular meaning, will also feature.
The second paper is a spelling test, which requires children to correctly spell 20 words. Spelling rules and patterns will help children here, as well as remembering any exceptions to them.
As the exams approach, it is important that children have a feel as to how the papers work and are structured. Going through practice papers is hugely beneficial, allowing them to experience the style of questions they will encounter. After a few practice papers, it's then a good idea to start timing children, so they can gauge how long they have for a paper and understand if there are any parts they are spending too long on.
Many educationalists have pointed out that there are three main different learning styles: visual, auditory and kinaesthetic. It can really help them if they know which style of learner they are- once they do, they can then adapt their learning accordingly.
It's also a good idea to work out the areas your child is struggling on from their teacher. Once you know these areas, you can then target revision on them and work through some questions to help prepare.
Another consideration is whether to bring in a private tutor to help children prior to their exams. Although an extra cost, tutors are able to provide targeted one-to-one support for your child and go back through any areas teachers may have skipped through at school.
It may seem a little extreme, but it's important that children are mentally and physically prepared for the exams. In the build-up to the papers, make sure they have a regular bedtime and routine. If possible, give them a healthy and balanced diet- a healthy body means a healthy mind. Regular exercise is also crucial here. Finally, ensure they are rested and relaxed before, during and after the exams. Reiterate that there is no pressure on them and that they just need to go out and do the best they can do!