What Do I Need to Know About Exams at Key Stage 3?

What Do I Need to Know About Exams at Key Stage 3?


Taken at the beginning of year 7, cognitive abilities tests (CATs) are used by your child’s secondary school to work out which ability set would offer the correct level of support. Composed of a series of short tests, your child will be checked for verbal skills (words), quantitative skills (numbers) and non-verbal skills (shapes). As the tests are designed to assess your child’s ability to reason, rather than their knowledge, there is no need to revise and very little preparation is needed. Results are given in standardised age score format so that the pupil’s age is taken into account; the average score is 100. CATs are generally a school requirement rather than a compulsory part of the national curriculum, but do offer the benefit of assessing your child without targets to reach, unlike KS2 SATs.

End of year tests

It is no longer required for students to complete SATs at the end of Key Stage 3. Instead, schools are required to complete a report card to detail progress, and the results from these will be published in league tables. Most schools therefore conduct end of year tests in years 7, 8 and 9, in order to monitor progress; re-assess that your child is in the correct ability set; and to familiarise your child with the process of taking exams as practise for their GCSEs. Tests are usually conducted for all subjects that your child is studying, rather than just English, Maths and Science.

How will I know how my child is progressing?

You will receive a report from your child’s school at least once a year advising the levels your child is achieving according to teacher assessment and tests. On average, children tend to reach level 5 by the end of Key Stage 3, although anything between levels 3-7 is not unusual. Attending parent’s evenings regularly is also a great way to keep up with your child’s progress and to mention any areas that you think require extra assistance.

Visit our Educational Books page for further support for you and your child during Key Stage 3.

Key Stage 3 Further Reading: What Will my Child Learn at Key Stage 3
How Can I Help My Child During Key Stage 3 How Might my Child Change During Key Stage 3