Standardised assessment: reading in year 1

By Tara Paxman, Researcher at NFER
January 2020

NFER provides KS1 reading assessments for years 1 and 2. In year 1, there are two tiered papers in both the spring and summer terms, and in year 2 there are two tiered papers in autumn and spring, before children sit the end of KS1 assessments in the summer term.

This article breaks down how NFER has developed standardised reading assessments for year 1 pupils, taking their young age into account to produce child-friendly papers that build confidence in undertaking assessment.

Introducing assessment
In the spring and summer term assessments of year 1, pupils are presented with two colourful and engaging reading papers. These are structured to support pupils through different question and answer formats, allowing them to show their understanding and preparing them for the increasing challenge of NFER’s year 2 assessments ahead of the KS1 national curriculum tests. All children take paper 1 while the teacher selects which pupils will complete paper 2, as it is an extension paper to challenge those working at a higher level.

NFER’s standardised reading assessments for year 1 start in the spring term, as pupils may not have the skills or breadth of curriculum knowledge needed for this type of written assessment in the autumn term.

Scaffolding and flexibility
Unlike the NFER year 2 or KS2 reading assessments, paper 1 of NFER’s year 1 assessments has aural teacher support. This limits the amount of text pupils have to read at each specific point in the paper to what is being assessed, minimising the burden on their reading ability and working memory. It also allows the teacher to guide pupils through the assessment, keeping them on task.

Teachers are also given more flexibility with the administration of the assessments than in later years, acknowledging that children of this age have different needs. For example, there are no set timings or comfort breaks, and teachers can read questions aloud as many times as they think necessary.

Tiered assessment
Breaking down the assessments into tiered sections supports year 1 pupils through the spring and summer assessments, easing them in gently and building the demand. Unique to the year 1 reading assessments are the aural comprehension measures in the first section of paper 1; the teacher reads a story and accompanying questions, and the pupils answer through multiple choice options.

These options are mostly pictorial, scaffolding the children’s response, and require no writing other than a tick to indicate their answer, enabling pupils who may struggle or be put off by writing to demonstrate their reading ability. The images are simple, colourful and child-friendly, encouraging interest in the assessment as well as supporting understanding. This section of the paper enables teachers to capture information about pupils who may struggle to read independently, allowing a wider range of pupils to demonstrate what they can do.

Figure A: Example of a pictorial-based question, as seen in paper 1, year 1

The second part of paper 1 progresses to assess word and sentence comprehension. These sections are sensitive to young pupils’ different levels of development to allow the teacher to differentiate and support their pupils’ learning needs. The answer format here is similar to those in the previous section, focussing on minimising the amount children have to read. Questions progress steadily from pictorial answers, such as those in Figure A, to sentence completion questions with picture-based responses, and then finally text-based responses (Figure B). The teacher still guides pupils through the different questions; however, by the end of the section the pupils read the text and the questions by themselves.

Figure B: Example of a text-based response, as seen in paper 1, year 1

The final section in paper 1 is a text comprehension. This differs from the NFER year 2 and KS2 reading assessments in that pupils are supported with scaffolding from the teacher, which gradually decreases as they progress through the questions. As with the previous section, the teacher begins by reading the stimulus text and questions aloud but as the section progresses the pupils work more independently.

Although paper 2 is an extension for pupils working at a higher level, it is also structured with younger children in mind. Unlike NFER’s assessments from year 2 onwards, the stimulus text and the questions are separated into manageable parts and appear in the same booklet. Additionally, there is only one text and the vast majority of questions are multiple choice so do not require a written response. This reduces the demand on pupils’ other literacy skills as well as their working memory, though the amount of questions requiring writing (both one word and open response) does increase in the summer assessment in preparation for year 2.

Beyond year 1
By the end of year 1 pupils should have the breadth of curriculum knowledge and experience of assessment to move on to more challenging question papers in year 2. NFER’s assessments are built to prepare them for this: scaffolding for pupils is gradually reduced as pupils go through each section and there is greater demand on wider literacy skills.

Did you know?
The NFER Tests range includes reading assessments for use across years 1-6. These standardised tests provide reliable standardised and age-standardised scores to help you confidently monitor attainment and progress, and are supported by a free online analysis tool. Click here to find out more.