Technical pre-tests of key stage 1 and key stage 2 test materials

Parent privacy notice
School staff privacy notice
Key dates leaflet
2023 key stage 1 and 2 technical pre-test trial information

What are the purposes and aims of the project?

The National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) has been commissioned by the Standards and Testing Agency (STA) to trial test materials for assessment at key stage 1 and key stage 2.

As part of that process we are asking a number of schools to trial new English reading, English grammar, punctuation and spelling (GPS), and mathematics tests. The trial is aimed at testing the performance of individual questions rather than the performance of any pupil and means that schools can have confidence that the tests function appropriately for pupils and that the results will be valid and reliable.

How have schools been selected to take part?

The schools have been randomly selected by the STA and make up a nationally representative sample. If your school has been selected we will have written to your headteacher and if your school is LA maintained or is part of a multi-academy trust (MAT) with more than 5 schools, we will have informed your LA or MAT that your school has been selected.

It is important that all schools that have been selected do participate in the trial so that the data from the trial includes pupils from all backgrounds across the whole of England. This means that you can have confidence that future national curriculum tests are accessible by all pupils and not just those with the highest abilities or from more privileged backgrounds.

Is participation in these tests required?

Since 2016, participation in all these trials, except the KS1 GPS, is statutory. For more information please go to

Along with your selection letter you would have also received a copy of a letter from STA with more details about the statutory nature of these trials. This will also be available for download from the NFER School Portal once you have completed your online reply form. If you are unable to access this please contact NFER using the details at the end of these FAQs and someone from the team will be happy to share a copy of this letter with you.

What does my school have to do once we have been selected?

Once you have been notified of your selection you will need to complete the online reply form as soon as possible, details of how to do this will have been included on your notification of selection letter and email.

The information we gather in the reply form is:

  • Confirmation we hold the correct school details
  • Nomination of school contact person that we will communicate with regarding the trial moving forwards
  • Informing us of any dates you are unavailable for testing within the testing window
  • Letting us know the name of the year 2 OR year 6 class you would like to participate and the number of pupils in the class. We only need 1 class for the trial so if you have multiple classes in your year 2 or 6, please provide details of only 1

Once we have received your completed reply form we will then ask you to provide the details of the pupils in the participating class. We also collect details about any test modifications you may require in order for pupils to access the tests (more details on this can be found below)

What does the trial involve?

Your school will be asked to trial tests in ONE of the below subjects:

  • key stage 1 OR 2 English reading
  • key stage 1 OR 2 English grammar, punctuation and spelling (GPS)
  • key stage 1 OR 2 mathematics

We will arrange for a representative from NFER to come to your school to administer the tests to one class of year 2 or year 6 children. The tests should be given to children that will be entered for the key stage 1 or 2 statutory assessments, in the appropriate subject, in May 2023.

The date of the trialling will be arranged at your convenience within the below testing periods:

Test trial Testing period

Key Stage 1

17 - 28 April 2023

Key Stage 2

17 - 28 April 2023 (17 – 21 April in cases where schools are allocated ‘anchor’ tests)


You can download a ‘key dates’ document from here.

Each school will be asked to trial the tests in one subject only. The tests will take the following form in each subject:

Subject Description

Key Stage 1 English reading

Each child will take one test, made up of two booklets that must be taken on separate days.

Booklet one will have the text and questions combined and will last 30 minutes.

Booklet two will have a separate reading booklet and answer booklet and will last 40 minutes.

Key Stage 1 – English grammar, punctuation, and spelling

Each child will take one test, made up of one spelling paper and one question paper.

The spelling paper will last 15 minutes and should be administered by a member of staff from the school as a whole class activity.

The question paper will follow and will last 25 minutes, including 5 minutes at the beginning for practice questions.

A reasonable break should be given between each paper.

Key Stage 1 - mathematics

Each child will sit one test, made up of one arithmetic paper and one reasoning paper.

The arithmetic paper will last around 20 minutes.

The reasoning paper will last around 35 minutes.

A reasonable break should be given between each paper.

All key stage 1

The administration times given above are a guide.

If the majority of children are still working at the end of the test time, along with the administrator, please use your judgement to decide if you will allow the children to continue or not. The test should only continue for a few minutes past the given administration time.

Administration arrangements are more flexible for KS1 so the tests can be stopped if the children need a break and then be resumed so children still have the appropriate length of time.

KS1 trial tests should be administered by a member of school staff and supported by the trained administrators unless specifically requested.

Key Stage 2 – English reading main and anchor

For the main trial each child will sit two complete tests, each comprising of a reading prompt and answer booklet.

Both papers will last 60 minutes each.

Children should be given a reasonable break in between each test.

A small portion of schools will sit the anchor-only combination, for this each child will only need to sit one complete test lasting 60 minutes. You will be told in advance of administration if this is your school.

Key Stage 2 – English grammar, punctuation, and spelling main

Each child will sit two complete tests, made up of a question component and a spelling component.

Both papers will last 60 minutes each.

Children should be given a reasonable break in between each test.

Key Stage 2 – English grammar, punctuation, and spelling anchor

Each child will sit one complete test, made up of a question component and a spelling component.

The paper will last 60 minutes.

Key Stage 2 - mathematics main and anchor

Each child will sit one complete test, made up of three papers.

Paper 1 (arithmetic) should be completed first, this paper will take 30 minutes.

Paper 2 and 3 (reasoning) will follow and will take 40 minutes each.

Children should be given a reasonable break between each paper.

All key stage 2

The administration times provided should not be changed for most pupils.

Additional time can be added for pupils with SEN who would usually receive this in the live national curriculum tests.

The NFER administrator will lead the administration with support of a member of school staff.


During the administration, a member of school staff, with experience in the test subject, is required to be present at all times. At the end of the administration, they will be asked to complete a short questionnaire giving their opinions on the content of the tests.

A PDF poster version of the above table can be downloaded here.

How are tests administered?

Tests will be carried out by an NFER test administrator. Your school will be allocated to someone from a pool of highly trained administrators, all of whom have a background in teaching and will be able to ensure children are put at ease during the testing.

Each administrator will hold an up-to-date DBS check certificate and they will carry a NFER ID badge with them when they visit the school so they will be easily identifiable. We will write to you ahead of administration to confirm the name of the administrator we expect to visit your school. Changes may still be made in the case of illness or a change of availability, but we will endeavour to keep you up to date if this does happen.

Your allocated test administrator(s) will contact you ahead of trialling in mid to late March. During this call they should:

  • make arrangements for any set up required including:
    • checking suitable room availability and layout
    • instructions to cover any subject relevant posters
    • confirm arrival date and time
    • instructions to seat pupils in alphabetical order by surname
  • check any modifications requested so they can check these against received materials
  • check the name of the class and expected number of pupils
  • inform you of any support they will need on the day

The test administrators will bring all test booklets and materials along with them on the day and will take them away with them at the end of the administration. As these are highly confidential the test packs will be sealed before leaving school and it’s important that no booklets are photocopied or taken away from the test administrator. All members of school staff who are in contact with the test materials will be required to sign a statement of confidentiality that the test administrator will bring with them.

How will my school benefit from being selected for the trials?

Your involvement in this trial is an excellent opportunity for children to practise and for your feedback to be considered in the development of future assessments. Participating children will receive a pencil and certificate to acknowledge their help with these trials. Regrettably we are unable to give feedback to the schools who take part in the development of tests. As these trials test the suitability of the questions in some cases this may mean that they are too difficult or too easy and the results the pupils achieve will not be indicative of their actual ability and may be misleading as standalone results.

What if my pupils require modifications to access the tests?

We try to emulate the live national curriculum tests in these trials where possible, however for trialling we are only able to offer enlarged and coloured copies of tests as modifications. You will have chance to inform us of any pupils that require modifications and which modifications they need when you provide the pupil data of the participating class. All requests for modifications must be received by NFER by 14th March at the very latest to ensure we have time to process these.

We will also endeavour to meet any access arrangements you may need, including sending additional test administrators, however this will depend on availability of administrators on your selected testing date.

How will NFER use and protect the data collected from my school?

Once you have let us know which class you would like to participate in the trial we will then ask you to let us know about the pupils in that class. The background data we need about the pupils will be:

  • name
  • date of birth
  • gender
  • UPN
  • SEN provision
  • language provision

We will also ask you to let us know about any pupils who will require a modified (enlarged or coloured) version of the test.

NFER will provide you with a downloadable excel pupil data form on the school portal for you to complete with the requested data. We will ask you to upload the completed pupil data form onto our secure school portal. We use this data to print pupil names onto test booklets and we will only provide test booklets for pupils we have received data for.

Once the trial is complete NFER will provide STA with the pupil data, the scores derived from NFER’s marking/coding of the tests, as well as the scanned images of the test booklets completed by your pupils.

Please note that the data and scanned images will be maintained as strictly confidential by NFER and will be passed to STA, the Data Controller, for the purposes of informing the analysis of the test results and ensuring that the tests are operating appropriately for all pupils. No individual school or pupil will be identified by NFER or STA in any report arising from the trial. For more details about the use of data for this trial please refer to the privacy notices which are available at the following links:

Who can you contact for more information?

Our aim is that your experience of taking part in the trial is a positive one and we are on hand to support you throughout if required. Please feel free to contact our team by email with any queries, or if you require further information: