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KS2 Spelling, Punctuation and Grammer (SPaG)

Year 6 children are all tested on their spelling, punctuation and grammar as part of the KS 2 tests. So what will your child need to know, and how can you help them brush up their skills? By Lucy Dimbylow (TheSchoolRun).


SATs have been overhauled in both Key Stage 1 and Key Stage 2 to reflect the changes to the national curriculum, which was introduced from September 2014.  The new English grammar, punctuation and spelling test (informally known as the SPAG test) was introduced in May 2013 as part of the KS2 tests programme for Year 6 pupils, replacing the previous English writing test. 

‘The Government wants all children to leave primary school with a sound grasp of essential English skills,’ says a Department for Education (DfE) spokesperson. ‘The test will put an additional focus on writing skills and encourage good teaching.’ 

For children taking KS2 tests from May 2016, the SPAG test has been updated (in line with the new primary curriculum) and will be more challenging.

What does the SPaG test examine?

The SPaG test includes questions that assess the following elements of the English curriculum:

  • Sentence grammar through both identifying and writing sentences that are grammatically correct

  • Punctuation through identifying and writing sentences that are correctly punctuated
  • Vocabulary through identifying and writing sentences in which a word is used correctly
  • Spelling (read out parents' guide to Year 5 and Year 6 spelling patterns and rules)

What sort of questions will your child need to answer?

The SPAG test consists of two papers:

Paper 1 requires multiple choice or short sentence answers, covering areas such as using connectives (because, despite, however, etc), using pronouns (I/me) correctly, capitalising the correct words in a sentence and explaining why, putting the correct punctuation into a given sentence, writing sentences that illustrate two different meanings of the same word (such as ‘present’), identifying the verb/noun/adjective/clauses in a sentence, and using plurals correctly.

For example:

Q: Which ending would make the word lazy an adverb?
A: laziness/lazily/lazier/laziest

Correct answer: lazily

Paper 2 is a spelling test, where children will have to spell words dictated by the examiner (presented within sentences).

For example:

Pria turned on the television to watch her favourite cartoon.

What skills and knowledge do children need to succeed?

‘The ability to write with purpose, accuracy and clarity, drawing on a wide range of vocabulary, is integral to success,’ says a DfE spokesperson.

But for your child to do well in the SPAG test, they don’t just have to be good at writing; they also need a technical understanding of how the English language works.

As well as being able to spell words correctly, use a wide range of vocabulary and punctuate well, they need to grasp the meaning of grammatical terms such as noun, verb, adjective, prefix, pronoun and adverb, know what phrases and clauses are and how to use them, understand what connectives are and how they work, know how to turn a question into a command, and so on. This terminology can be a stumbling block even for children who are otherwise good at reading and writing, and make the questions hard to understand; for a parent-friendly guide to the vocabulary and how English and grammar concepts are taught in primary school see the SchoolRun’s primary literacy glossary for parents.