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Reading for Success: Key Tips for KS2 SATs

Jun 28th 2023

KS2 reading paper 2022

Summer 2022 saw the first KS2 reading test since 2019. The reading booklet was made up of three texts: The Parsnips (fiction), My Circus Life (non-fiction, interview) and A Traveller in Time (more challenging fiction). The paper was slightly different from what we’d seen from the previous few years with the first difference being the word count. The word count was significantly lower than the average over the last few years and so it’s worth bearing in mind that this year’s paper is likely to increase in volume of reading for pupils again.

It’s also useful to look at the spread of questions over the content domains. There are three main areas tested each year leaving little space for assessment of the remaining five content domains. Knowing this will help you focus your priorities with your year 6 pupils.

  • 2a ‘Understanding of vocabulary’ was 10% of the marks, whereas from 2016 – 2019 it had been 20% of marks. In our work with schools, many teachers felt that pupils’ knowledge of vocabulary was an area that really suffered during the pandemic. It’s possible that the number of questions linked to this domain were reduced to account for this, so be prepared for the focus on this area to increase again.
  • 2d ‘Inference’ was the most tested aspect on the paper (44%). Over the last few years, it has been common for this domain to be around 40%. However, this year, there were more inference questions in the first text (The Parsnips) than in the second (My Circus Life) which made it more challenging for pupils from the start.
  • 2b ‘Retrieval’ was the second most tested aspect (38%); this also hovers around the 40% mark most years.

Top Tips for test success


  • Show questions to pupils before they read a text and encourage them to do this in a test situation so that they can read for a purpose.
  • Although skimming and scanning is a useful technique for pupils to be familiar with, each year, many of the retrieval questions cannot be answered with simple skimming and scanning for keywords. Teach pupils to scan for key words from the question and their synonyms. For example, Qu2 on the 2022 paper asked pupils ‘What effect did the knock on the door have on Veronika and her family?’ yet the text refers to ‘a banging on the front door’.
  • Encourage pupils to use grammatical knowledge to help them with scanning for answers to retrieval questions, such as names of people or places which will begin with capital letters.
  • Teach pupils to check their answers by reading the question followed by their answer – they need to make sure that their answer actually answers the question, as this is a common error that pupils make.


  • Encourage pupils to be detectives as they read, looking for the information the author hasn’t told us explicitly.
  • Encourage pupils to question what they read, particularly characters’ actions and reactions. Why did they behave in that way? Look out for ‘show not tell’.
  • In non-fiction, ask questions about the writer. Why has the author written this? What is their opinion about this information?
  • Questions with speech or thought bubbles appear regularly for pupils to fill in to infer what characters are thinking or were about to say before they were interrupted. This is a skill worth practising, as it’s a way to get easy marks.
  • Over the last few years, pupils have frequently been given an inference about the text e.g. ‘Veronika did not trust Yuri to pack her bag properly’ (Qu6), and they are asked to then find the evidence to support the view given. This is worth practising rather than always asking pupils to infer and find the evidence. Also, ask pupils to practise finding multiple pieces of evidence from the text to support inferences so that they can be selective about which is the best evidence in the text.


  • Address tricky vocabulary before reading, and teach strategies for working out the meaning of unfamiliar words, linking this to pupils’ spelling knowledge of prefixes, suffixes and root words.
  • Build pupils’ wider vocabulary as much as possible through reading a wide range of texts and genres. Use images or practical activities (acting out/mime) where possible so that new vocabulary sticks in pupils’ minds; identify antonyms, synonyms and shades of meaning; and ensure repeated exposure to vocabulary – use words from reading in modelled writing.


We hope you find these tips for the KS2 SATs helpful and are able to find some details here that will enable you to prepare your pupils. If you found this useful, why not share it with another KS2 teacher?

If you would like more information about year 2 or year 6 moderations, you can find our ‘New to’ courses here.