2017 KS2 Reading Test


By Laura Lodge
on 02 June, 2017

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Learning from the KS2 SATs: Reading

In May, teachers waited with bated breath to see how challenging the 2017 KS2 SATs would be, with reading being under particular scrutiny given last year’s demoralising test.

The general consensus has been that this year’s reading test was fairer and gave children a better chance of showing what they could do. Furthermore, with schools and staff having a clearer understanding of the rigors of the new assessments, pupils have been better prepared. Nevertheless, there are still things we can learn from the 2017 KS2 reading test.

What was assessed in the 2017 Reading test?

As seen in the ‘KS2 English Reading Test Framework’, the reading test questions cover eight content domains, in varying percentages.


Percentage of marks on 2017 Reading Paper

Percentage range in the ‘KS2 English Reading Test Framework’

2a Give/explain the meaning of words in context


10 – 20%

2b Retrieve and record information/ identify key details from fiction and non-fiction


16 – 50%

2c Summarise main ideas from more than one paragraph


2 – 12%

2d Make inferences from the text/explain and justify inferences with evidence from the text


16 – 50%

2e Predict what might happen from details stated and implied


0 – 6%

2f Identify/explain how information/narrative content is related and contributes to meaning as a whole


0 – 6%

2g Identify/explain how meaning is enhanced through choice of words and phrases


0 – 6%

2h Make comparisons within the text


0 – 6%

As in 2016, the focus was on inference (44% of available marks), retrieval (28% of available marks) and vocabulary (20% of available marks). The complete exclusion of prediction and comparison this year may surprise some, as prediction especially is a frequently used question type when discussing texts.

It is also interesting to note the difference in the proportion of marks allotted to content domains across the three texts. This year, having listened to teachers’ and parents’ concerns, the STA assured the public that the texts would build more gradually in difficulty. This does appear to have happened and there are obvious differences in questioning across the texts.

The first text ‘Gaby to the Rescue’ focused relatively equally on retrieval (33%), inference (33%) and vocabulary (27%), with only one question on another content domain (summarising).

However, in the second text, ‘Swimming the English Channel’, retrieval was much more prevalent with almost half of the marks for the text testing those skills (47%). This was followed by vocabulary (24%) and inference (18%), with only one mark each for summarising and explaining how content is related.

With the third text, ‘An Encounter at Sea’, the proportions changed more radically, with only two questions testing vocabulary skills (11%) and just one checking retrieval (6%). Aside from another single mark focusing on how meaning is enhanced through language, the remaining questions were all inference based (78%). Indeed, aside from the aforementioned retrieval question, every one of the last thirteen marks of the test assessed inference.

It is clear then that vocabulary, retrieval and inference skills are key to succeeding at key stage two, but how can we, as teachers, best prepare our pupils?

How to prepare pupils for reading in KS2

Use the content domains to focus teaching

It is crucial that we support children by explicitly teaching reading skills according to the content domains. One Education’s Jo Gray has written a comprehensive blog on content domains, which includes free resources created by us to support your teaching.

Aside from teaching using the content domains, it is also important to expose children to the language of questioning. Part of the complexity children face in the reading paper is the fact that the questions themselves are not necessarily formed in the same way as those posed by their teachers in the classroom. By asking a child ‘What is Gabby thinking?’ rather than ‘What conclusion does Gabby draw from this?’ we are merely focusing on one part of the problem – the inference. Obviously, both questions require children to use their inference skills, however if a child had never seen the construction ‘what conclusion does…draw from this?’ would they be able to use their inference and answer the question successfully? Therefore, it is important that we modify our use of language and provide opportunities for children to answer, explore and write their own questions using similar language. Jo’s blog includes question stems to support this.

Ensure children can use a wide range of vocabulary

As in 2016, vocabulary was a cornerstone of the reading test, with a wide range of words chosen both within the texts and as part of the questions. Whilst they all link to KS1 and KS2 spelling rules, the language included is sometimes far removed from children’s experiences.


Challenging vocabulary

Gaby to the Rescue

Siamese; crouched; who-knows-when; gato; full-blown assault; universal; Egyptian mummy; sipping dinner through a straw; simple as that; stray; rhinestone; charms; resettled; considering her options; Que bonita eres gatita; sweet-talked; manoeuvre; rolling Spanish r’s; latched on; scruff of the neck; balanced; squatted; trembled; pounced; secured.

Swimming the English Channel

Lone; Admiralty Pier; English Channel; merchant seaman; hardships; pioneering; consider; direct distance; crossing; hazards; hypothermia; unforeseen obstacles; motivations; such a venture; outlawed; illegal; deputy director; coastguard; well regulated; comparatively.

An Encounter at Sea

Louisa May (as a name for the boat rather than a person); baby-finger crease; like a toy sitting on a glass table; offshore; daily survey course; reflection of the sky; pleats; putt-putt; outboard motor; slanted; arcs of radiating lines; savouring; clenched fists; raised lip; astonished; sluicing; tapering; patchwork; submerged; draw away; finely stretched; galaxy; supernovae; caressed; did not seem to be alarmed; chugging; rocking tide; made to seem mysterious.

Whilst completing the table above, I was reminded of a year six teacher’s anecdote about a Guided Reading lesson where the children had worked immensely hard and succeeded at understanding and using some challenging vocabulary. At the end the lesson however, the teaching assistant, who had been working with a middle attaining group, explained that the group had spent a long time exploring what a ‘plum’ was. Understandably, the teacher had assumed everyone would know what a plum was, but they were wrong. It is important to remember that despite the need to increase children’s vocabulary to a level commensurate to the test, we must not assume everyone is at the same point. Every child will have a different starting point for vocabulary but by having a word-rich environment and encouraging reading and investigating language, we can help all children succeed.

Make links to other curriculum areas

The three texts all encompassed links to other curriculum areas, including modern foreign languages (MfL), history, geography and science. Many children and staff were shocked to see the Spanish word ‘gato’ used in the first text, with inference needed to understand its meaning. This was compounded by the phrase ‘Que bonita eres gatita’, thankfully followed by its English translation. Obviously, MfL is a part of the National Curriculum, however there is no requirement for a specific language to be taught which means some children attempting the test will have some understanding of Spanish, whilst others might be completely thrown by it. In my opinion, shared by many teachers, it seems unnecessary and unfair to include an entirely different language to that being tested. Aside from MfL, the first text also includes references to Egyptian mummies from the Ancient Civilisations section of the history curriculum (NC Hi2/2.3). The second text makes links to historical and geographical objectives, whilst the third text refers to three science topics: light (SC3/4.1), habitats (Sc2/2.1b) and space (Sc5/4.1). It is clear that we must support children to make explicit links between their curriculum learning and their reading, whether in-school or for their own enjoyment.

Build reading stamina

Aside from those areas mentioned above, it is also crucial to support children to build their reading stamina. Although most would argue that the test was fairer this year, many children still could not complete the paper. This was not merely as a result of the complexity of the vocabulary and questions, it is also because the children could not read quickly enough or for sustained periods. By building in additional reading opportunities such as DEAR (Drop Everything and Read) and explicitly teaching skills such as skimming and scanning, pupils can improve their ability to read quickly. However, these are not quick fixes and although the 2018 tests feel incredibly far away at this point, schools will want to act now across all year groups to ensure all children succeed at KS2.

One Education’s Reading Award can support your school to celebrate and strengthen its provision for reading.

For more information, contact us online or call Laura Lodge on 0844 967 1111.

Comment (1)

  • Gina Demetri avatar

    Gina Demetri

    This really was very useful. Thank you so much. I hope to read many more blogs written by you

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