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Key Stage 2 Sats reading paper

Key Stage 2 Sats reading paper too difficult?

Key Stage 2 | May 18, 2023

The key stage 2 Sats reading paper deemed to be excessively difficult has been published on the government website.


A Standard Assessment Tests (Sats) reading paper that Year 6 students undertook last week has been deemed to be excessively difficult.

The key stage 2 Sats paper, which students sat on Wednesday 10 May, has been published on the government website.

Although the Department for Education (DfE) stated that the Sats were ‘rigorously trialled,’ this test paper has ignited a discourse among educators and guardians and parents regarding the objectives of the Sats.

Parents and teachers have voiced concerns regarding the duration and difficulty of the Year 6 reading paper as many children struggled to simply complete it within the allocated time.

The National Association of Head Teachers’ (NAHT) vice-president, Simon Kidwell, said that children returned home very upset as they had not been able to finish the reading test.

The NAHT vice-president, who is also the principal at Hartford Manor Primary School and Nursery, Cheshire, further added, ‘Staff had to really think about how they would answer those questions. So clearly it was quite a challenging, complex paper.’

Exam Stress

The ‘complex’ test

During the test, Year 6 pupils were allotted a time limit of 60 minutes to answer a series of 38 questions based on three text excerpts.

The first one was a passage taken from a story revolving around a group of friends who find themselves involved with suspected sheep ‘rustlers.’ The word was used as part of the excerpt.

The next segment was an interview piece about Texan bats based on a New York Times article published in 2016.

The last piece of text was an extract taken from the young adult novel ‘The Rise of Wolves’ by Kerr Thomson.

One of the questions asked the pupils to find a word that was synonymous with ‘eat’ from a passage which had the terms ‘feeding’ and ‘consume.’

A teacher, speaking with BBC News, pointed out the following questions as the ones she thought of as the most difficult ones from a test which was already deemed to be very challenging.

The screenshots of the test questions were taken from the materials published on the government website.

Key Stage 2 reading paper question 8


Key Stage 2 reading paper question 13

The paragraphs alluded to in the question are as follows:

‘By day the Congress Avenue Bridge in the city of Austin could hardly look more normal: a grey, dreary city-centre road bridge. By night, it plays host to one of the most amazing shows nature has to offer. The underside of the bridge is home to more than a million bats, and every evening in summer they all come swarming out at once, rising up into the city sky like a tornado before spreading out in all directions like plumes of smoke. Standing on the bridge, you might even feel the wind from their wings as they pass by.

Austin is the capital city of the state of Texas in the USA, but it is also the bat capital of North America. The bats under the bridge attract thousands of visitors every year, and every August lovers celebrate Bat Fest on the bridge in their honour.’


Key Stage 2 reading paper question 17

The extract referred to in the question is as follows:

‘It’s actually very appropriate that you call it a “hotspot”. The gaps underneath the bridge are a perfect place for mother bats to raise their young. Baby bats are born hairless and have only a few months to develop before travelling south in autumn. They need somewhere warm and safe and the gaps under the bridge are just the right width to trap warmth nicely. These bat pups need to spend their energy on growth, not on keeping themselves warm.

Texas in general is a paradise for bats because of all its tasty insects. A mother bat will go out hunting every evening and consume about two-thirds of her body weight in insects every single night to meet her energy need. The feeding frenzy can last all night.’


Referring to Question 8, the teacher stated that the answer was the third option, but many children would have been confused and would mistake the last option as the correct answer.

As for Question 13, the teacher believed that it was unlikely for children in the UK to be unfamiliar with US geography and could naturally assume that Austin, like Texas, was also a state.


STA states the test papers were trialled

Of the Sats paper, Gillian Hillier of the Standards and Testing Agency (STA) said, ‘We use a range of rigorous and robust processes to ensure the tests are appropriate and fair, including reviews by teachers, curriculum and inclusion experts and other education professionals.’

She also stated that measures were taken to ‘ensure that each test is of similar difficulty to those in previous years.’

She further added that this year’s test papers have been developed over the last three years and that they were ‘trialled’ with a significant number of students last April.

She said, ‘As is the case every year, we will use data from the marked tests and trials to ensure the score needed to meet the expected standard reflects the relative difficulty of the test.

‘We will continue to engage with schools, unions and other stakeholders to understand their views on the papers this year, and in regard to all aspects of primary assessment.’


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