Is your child due to sit exams after Easter? Are you unsure of how best to help them revise? Whether you’re completely lost or just looking for some tips on how to help your child prepare for their exam, this is the guide for you.
You will no doubt be keen for your child to do their best, whether they are taking the unofficial tests in Year 2 or Secondary School or the official SATs in Year 6; the assessments are a fair indication of how they are doing at school and whether there are any areas that they need help with as they proceed with their school career.
Help with Revision
Any help that you can give your child to revise topics covered already during their school years will help to increase their levels and ultimately boost their confidence. It is also important for them to feel that you are part of the process too, especially during the early years.
As mentioned above, the assessments in Year 2 are a lot more informal than the tests in Year 6, and your child may not even know that they are being assessed. This is the ideal way, at this age, to assess children’s progress – you are more likely to get a more accurate picture of their ability without the pressure of ‘test stress’ tainting the result. The children sometimes go through the whole process without even the mention of the word ‘test’ and can be completely unaware that they have been assessed.
So for younger children, it is best to keep revision this way too.
The most effective and fun way to do this would be to take advantage of online resources. There are websites featuring revision activities which, if approached in the right way (for example, if used as a ‘treat’), your child will see as entertaining games. Particularly if some sort of reward system is put in place for progress made.
There are also plenty of activity books available for Key Stage 1 that are set out as puzzle books, and younger children will love completing these with a parent or other relative or friend.
The official Year 6 SATS tests are less likely to go unnoticed. The children are normally fully aware that they have some important tests coming up and that they will be the culmination of their 4 years in Key Stage 2, so helping your child to revise for these tests will help them to feel more confident and fully supported.
Even when older, it is good to remember that children learn better when they are comfortable. If you know your child is the type who enjoys spending time on the computer then let this be the main source of revision. Some children may prefer to try some of the many revision guides that are available to buy.
All of these resources are set out in a child friendly manner, but that doesn’t mean they will appeal to every child. Different children learn in different ways, and sometimes even the same child might prefer different techniques at different times, depending on their mood or just to keep things fresh. The main thing is to offer support throughout their revision and to keep sessions short. You know your child best, and if ten minutes here and there is all they can manage, then so be it.
You also need to bear in mind that they will have spent all day at school through the week, so if it becomes a struggle, keep revision for the weekends, but mix it up with plenty of free time and trips out; even just a walk to the shop, or having a friend round for a while, just to break the time up.
During the week when homework is completed, even if they don’t feel like sitting down to revision, there is no harm in practising times tables and number bonds. These are both key skills that, when they become second nature to children, have enormous benefits in all maths tests; particularly the mental maths paper.
So, when you’ve decided which form of revision works best for your child, sit down with them and, if possible, ensure there are no distractions. This isn’t always easy in a busy household, particularly with other children around, but even a few snatched moments with parental support will be of great benefit. And then maybe, when they are settled on an activity you can leave them for a while, checking when you can that they are happy and on task.
During the maths revision, particularly if working on the computer, it is handy to have some scrap paper for working out on. Marks are awarded in the tests for working a problem out correctly, even if the final answer is incorrect. So, encouraging your child to clearly set out how they arrived at an answer may gain them points in the test, aside from the fact that it is much easier to work things out having written them down as you go. Even in the mental maths, they will be allowed to do some working out on the paper if time allows. The calculator test also asks for the function entered into the calculator to be shown, so this is a good habit to get into.
The revision for the KS2 tests can also take a slightly more formal approach as the test dates near, but once more, there is nothing to be gained from a child getting anxious and the most important thing to remember is not to put pressure on them.
Once you feel your child is ready, you can try sitting down with them and working through a practice paper. It is good for your child to get a feel for what they will look like, get used to the time allowed, and generally familiarise themselves with the whole process. The papers that are available to buy are generally supplied with instructions on how to administer the tests. Make sure they have all the necessary equipment, particularly for the maths papers. They will need a sharp pencil, a ruler, a rubber, a protractor, a small mirror with straight edges if possible, and some tracing paper (greaseproof paper is a good substitute for this!)
At first, it might be worth doing one of the tests while you are sitting with your child, so that you are there to answer any questions and also so that you are familiar with the papers and the types of questions asked so that you can bear this in mind for future revision.
Remind them that they are not expected to answer every single question. If they come across a question that they are really stuck on, the best thing is to move on to the next. In the time spent trying to work out one tough problem, they could have gained a few extra points doing two or three other questions easily. They can always come back to any they have missed at the end of the paper if there is time left.
For children with learning difficulties, your child’s school may have made arrangements for extra help during the tests. They may be allowed a scribe for some of the tests, so that an adult writes down exactly what your child says. So it is worth checking to see if the school have felt it would benefit your child to make these provisions, then you can also do the same for them during practices.
It is important to remember when marking any practice papers that your child does, that no child is expected to get 100%. The overall score of the test gives your child a level. There is no ‘pass mark’ so you are just encouraging your child to do the most that they are capable of. For some, this may mean a score of just 20%, a child with learning difficulties could be a bit lower, but that is purely because that is the level that they have reached at that particular subject. There are no ‘fails’ in these tests. No qualifications are gained from them. There will be no retakes if levels are low. They are just to help the schools assess which level your child is working at on a particular subject.
The practice papers should come with a guide to help work out a level from their raw score. If you are concerned that the level your child is reaching is lower than the expected average, speak to their teacher, who may be able to let you know that this is in fact the level they would generally expect them to get and maybe give you some pointers as to how you could both work together to help to get that level up a few notches.
The Easter holidays are the last holidays before primary school children sit their SATS tests in Year 6. Assessments are also carried out in other years, so it is the ideal time to encourage some revision.
Key Stage 1
Completing some online activities is a great way to encourage revision without the child becoming agitated about having to do ‘school work’ during the holidays.
Rather than leaving the child to sit at a computer alone doing the activities, it is much more beneficial for them to have help at hand when needed, and also for you to discover which areas may need more input from you. Start with Year 1 activities and build these up to a level at which they feel comfortable and then try some that challenge them a bit if you think they are ready.
But families can be very busy and if time is at a premium, there are many activities that can be worked on alone and this will also be of great benefit to your child.
Helping them work out basic maths problems when shopping or just getting them used to what coins are needed to pay for items when shopping is a subtle way of doing some revision, as is asking them to do a small piece of writing for you. It may just be a diary account of a day out or a thank you letter to a relative for an Easter present.
Key Stage 2
The dedicated websites are also a good place to start for Year 6 children too. There are many activities to choose from and children respond well to the games that they are playing and sometimes forget that they are actually revising. Again, it would be beneficial if they could have some support from an adult whilst working through the tasks, even if this means mum, dad or a carer; just spending time in the same room so that they are on hand to answer any questions when they get stuck.
EdPlace has a vast range of interactive worksheets that are the ideal place to start revision. It might be worth beginning with worksheets a couple of years below their current year so that they can complete these confidently and then move on. If they are finding these a bit difficult, move down another year. This is revision after all. The tests will cover most subjects they have learnt right from year 3, so it is a good idea to go over those years too.
The questions on the SATS papers will switch between low level questions and more complex, to test children working at the higher levels; so getting used to completing the simpler activities will help ensure a confident start to the test.
However, when the children return to school after the Spring break, the tests will only be a matter of weeks away and will take a very different form to computer games!
So, the holidays are a good time to get some practice papers and familiarise your child with the layout, time allowed for each test and exactly what will be asked of them. It is a good idea to keep these practices fairly low key. You want your child to do their best, but a fraught brain is not one that can realise its full potential. Have a go at papers for all subjects and see how they get on, but remember it is the holidays and children need a break as much as adults do.
Try and limit the amount of practice papers to what you know your child can cope with. Most of them are completed in under an hour so are maybe something that can be done in the morning while other members of the family make the preparations for an afternoon out, or maybe with the promise of a visit from friends later in the day.
Revision doesn’t have to all be based around worksheets and practice papers though. There are many opportunities during everyday life to work on things that are likely to come up in the tests.
Maths problems are all around us. Fractions can be talked about when cutting up cakes or pizzas, or multi step problems when dividing up eggs for an Easter egg hunt. E.g. “I have bought 4 packs, each containing 6 chocolate eggs. How many will I have all together? When I share them out equally between you and 4 friends, how many will be left over?”
The English writing tests can cover all manner of topics. They might be asked to design a leaflet for a visitor attraction, or write a persuasive argument about recycling in their town. Look out for these kinds of pieces of writing and discuss what makes them effective.
Where to Find Resources
It is worth you or your child asking their teacher if there is any particular equipment they need for the tests. Most primary schools will provide all that is necessary but they may ask to make sure children have a calculator and a well-stocked pencil case.
Secondary school children are usually encouraged to be a little more independent and if they haven’t already got one, a scientific calculator is a good investment.
All items they are likely to need are widely available from larger newsagents and supermarkets.
If you decide it is a good idea to get hold of some past SATS papers for Year 6 children, there are plenty available online. Be sure to order them early as parents across the country will be thinking the same! If you have trouble finding some, speak to your child’s school. They may be able to help out. They are just as keen for your child to do well as you are.
Revision guides are also available online and in larger newsagents. Take your child with you so that they can be involved in choosing them too. Some of the discount online book companies do packs of revision guides that may work out cheaper than buying them individually.
And finally, online activities. EdPlace has a wide variety of interactive worksheets available right here on our site. We cover English, Maths and Science and have been developed by our qualified teachers. The worksheets are based on the National Curriculum, so you can be pretty confident that if your child has covered it at school we have a worksheet for it!
The worksheets are split into the different subjects and then into years so you can easily choose an area that you know needs more revision and the year group that suits them best. Remember, it can be a good idea to start a little lower for an initial confidence boost and then work your way up until they are fully prepared for what may lie ahead.
Is your child sitting the Year 6 SATs exams after Easter? We have just posted a set of the new SATs English test papers, for your child to practice on. They’re a great way of assessing what level your child is at and pin-pointing any areas that may need further revision. Click here to have a look!
In the next post on the blog we will give you tonnes of tips on how to prepare you child for their exams; including how to keep their confidence up, what they will need for the exams and the best way to behave on the day. Keep your eyes peeled for the next installment!
Written by Claire Fisher