Preparing pupils for assessments

To help with next steps, this guide outlines some key considerations for teachers ahead of testing, including guidance on test administration, helping children feel comfortable, and access arrangements. 

In a hurry? Download the handy pre-assessment checklist here to help your school get assessment ready.

Administering tests

Tests should be administered consistently to ensure the validity of the results. To help ensure this, the statutory national curriculum tests, as well as many commercially produced tests (including NFER’s termly assessment range for years 1-6), will provide test administration guidance.

This guidance outlines important information such as:

  • the format of the test
  • what equipment is required
  • what level of assistance can be provided to test-takers (if any).

If you are administering an independently produced test with no set guidance, watch the video below to make sure you determine the following before the test is administered:

Familiarising pupils with tests

Before a test begins it may be appropriate (unless otherwise stated in the teacher administration guide) to offer some practice questions to familiarise pupils with the types of question they will be asked.

Another way to familiarise pupils with different types of test question is to integrate some test familiarisation into teaching. This can help pupils feel comfortable with the types of question that appear in tests so they are able to show what they can do, and also aids learning. This may be particularly useful in the primary stage when pupils are unfamiliar with the requirements of written assessments.

Watch the short video below for some ideas for integrating test familiarisation into your teaching:

Access arrangements

The purpose of access arrangements is to ensure that there is a ‘level playing field’ for all test-takers. This means that no pupil should be disadvantaged by a feature of the test requirements that is not part of the construct (e.g. a skill, ability or understanding) being assessed by a test. For example, it is often permissible to allow a reader in a mathematics test – the pupil with reading difficulties can have the test questions read out and then they work out their answers. In this instance reading ability is not being assessed – it is not part of the test construct.

It would not, however, be appropriate to have a reader for a reading test, for the passages or the questions. The skill that is being assessed in this case is reading, including decoding. The provision of a reader would provide an unfair advantage to the test-taker.

Technically speaking, what we are trying to avoid is ‘construct irrelevant variance’ – something having an impact on test outcomes that is not part of the construct being assessed. It is important therefore that it is very clear to the administrator exactly what the purpose of the assessment is and what is to be taken into account in the evaluation or marking. What we must ensure is that each test-taker is given as fair a chance as possible to demonstrate their skill in the assessed construct; what we must be careful to avoid is compromising the assessment by introducing inappropriate access arrangements.


What about additional time?

Additional time is an access arrangement (also known as an accommodation) that can be very helpful for some children and actually be unhelpful for others. If teachers know that specific children need more time than is typical to complete work, and are provided with this in their day-to-day class work, then it can be appropriate to allow them more time to complete a test. (Although this can be contentious if the test is ‘speeded’ i.e. speed is identified as an element that is relevant to performance.)