Centre for Assessment

Information about assessment

National Curriculum levels

During their time at school, children will take a number of National Curriculum tests. These are compulsory in England at the end of years 2 and 6 (age 7 and 11) and there are optional tests for years 3, 4 and 5 of primary school and years 7, 8 and 9 of secondary school. The outcome of these tests is expressed as a National Curriculum level.

There are eight National Curriculum levels, covering the ages 5-14 years. The lowest is Level 1, which describes the achievements of children at around the age of five. The highest is Level 8, which is attained by the most able pupils at the age of 14. There is also a description of ‘exceptional performance’ above Level 8, which only a very few pupils are expected to reach. Children move up through the levels at a rate of approximately one level for each two years of school. Children at the end of year 2 are expected to achieve at least Level 2, and children at the end of primary school (year 6) are expected to achieve at least Level 4. At year 9, the expected level is Level 5 or 6. After this, pupils start on their GCSE courses in year 10, and the National Curriculum levels no longer apply.

To find the National Curriculum level, the teachers and markers who mark the National Curriculum tests are given a score range that corresponds to each level. So, for example, in the English tests taken by 11-year-old children in 2003, there was a total possible score of 100. A score of at least 24 was needed for Level 3, 44 for Level 4 and 69 for Level 5. These figures can be expected to change slightly from year to year.

National Curriculum levels are also used by teachers to make their own assessments of children, based on their ongoing work rather than on a test. The National Curriculum includes level descriptions for each level, for each subject, and the teacher makes a judgement as to which level is the best overall description of the child’s achievement. These Teacher Assessment levels are reported alongside the levels resulting from the tests.


Back to Information about assessment | Centre for Assessment home