11 Dec 2019

What We’ve Learnt From Using Our KS2 SATs Revision Programme With Over 50,000 Students

As part of our programmes of online one-to-one maths support, we run a KS2 SATs revision programme every spring term.

The programme is designed to help Year 6 children fill the gaps in their learning and practise applying their knowledge to the kinds of questions that come up in the KS2 maths SATs.

The programme isn’t just used by parents. In fact, around 750 schools every year choose our online KS2 SATs Revision Programme to help prepare their own pupils for SATs.

Whether used in schools or homes, the goal is the same: to help children prepare for their SATs through weekly online one-to-one lessons from specialist maths tutors.

But this is more than just a revision programme.

Our curriculum experts carefully analyse questions from the last few years’ SATs papers to work out which topics are most important, and therefore which we should be giving more focus to – going over old content is important but meaningless if none of the things you study come up in the test!

So, let’s take a look at some of the analyses we do to ensure our KS2 SATs revision programme is as effective as possible…

Analysing Questions by Year Group

sats question analysis by year group

A graph showing percent of questions by Year Group for Years 3-6 for 2016-19

Looking over every question in the KS2 SATs from the past four years (2016-2019), two facts stand out: no SATs question has tested Year 1 or Year 2 content, and around half the marks in maths SATs went on content from years 3, 4 and 5. 

This tells us that KS1 is not essential to revise when preparing for KS2 SATs, but that it is very important to look at the whole of KS2 and not just on content from Year 6.

Analysing Questions by Topic

sats 2020 questions analysis by domain

The most and least common maths content domains for the KS2 SATs 2016-19

The importance of revisiting topics from each year in Key Stage 2 is made even clearer when we look at which ‘content domain’ questions came from each year. 

A content domain is simply the broad area of maths a topic is part of e.g. Multiplication questions fall into the ‘Four Operations’ domain. 

As the graph above shows, every content domain has had at least one question asked about it in every KS2 SATs from 2016 to 2019. 

However some domains come up more often than others, and these we know we need to spend more time teaching. The ‘Four Operations’ domain has had lots of questions each year, so it is clearly very important to focus on. 

By carefully analysing data in this way, our curriculum team can be sure that the revision programme they design has the best chance of helping students be ready for the questions they’ll have to answer in SATs week.

We don’t stop there, however. Once we’re sure of what our lesson content should be, we focus on when and how it should be delivered. 

Matr’s Recommended Revision Lesson Sequence

Based on our analysis, we can identify the most effective order to teach our KS2 SATs revision lessons

It is ordered so that we prioritise the lessons that cover the most ‘important’ topics first. This means the topics that are most likely to come up in the SATs papers, the topics that are worth a lots of marks and the topics that are needed to teach other topics. e.g. students should be confident in ‘Adding and Subtracting Whole Numbers’ before learning ‘Adding and Subtracting Mixed Numbers’.

Matr’s SATs Revision Programme is available from the beginning of January and ends just before SATs. This gives children 15 weeks to revise, with one lesson per week, so we teach the 15 most important lessons.

Of course, Matr’s revision programme is flexible and many parents choose for their children to have more than one lesson per week. In this case, children can really make the most of the spring term and cover even more of the SATs curriculum.

Why We Personalise Teaching To Each Student

However, the key to any child’s success at SATs is the child themselves, and tailoring learning to them. 

When a child first starts with Matr, they complete a short Maths Level Test. This test covers most of the topics they’ll learn at Key Stage 2 and shows us where the child is confident and where they have gaps in their knowledge. 

Tutors can use this information to adjust lessons to meet that child’s needs. For example, if the Level Test shows that a student is very confident with ‘Adding and Subtracting Whole Numbers and Decimals’, the tutor may spend less time covering these two topics. 

If the student struggles with ‘Short and Long Division’, the tutor might decide to spend more time on the topic, to make sure the child has learned the content and is confident in it. 

We provide weekly reports to parents, so they can see how their child is progressing and what they’re working on – again, to help ensure consistency in learning. 

Our 5-Step Structure For KS2 Maths SATs Revision Lessons

As well as identifying the best order for our lessons (and ensuring they’re all personalised!), we’ve also developed the perfect structure for a SATs revision lesson.

This structure provides the ideal framework of activities to help children maximise their learning and effectively prepare for SATs.

Step 1: Review and Revisit

SATs paper 1 is the ‘arithmetic’ paper. This assesses how quickly and efficiently students can carry out arithmetic-based tasks. The best way to prepare children for this test is to provide them with opportunities to revisit key topics and check they understand. This is where our revision slides come in. 

Each lesson begins with a 10 minute warm-up where children work independently to ‘warm-up’ for the lesson. Once this is complete, their tutor will join the lesson and begin with a set of revision slides like the one below:

The revision slides are designed to review the topic being taught. Our tutors will be looking to see if the child understands the topic well enough to progress onto applying their knowledge to some practice questions, or do they need a little bit more time to really understand the maths. 

These slides are all ‘scaffolded’. This means the tutors have access to supporting questions/ideas to help differentiate or adapt the slides to each individual child’s level of understanding.

Step 2: Practice Questions

Once a student is comfortable with the topic, they get to apply their learning through SATs-style practice questions. 

These questions have been designed using our analysis of past SATs papers, following the same style and complexity as the real SATs papers. 

We also include tips that help students choose the right strategy to answer these questions, so that they think about their learning (metacognition) and understand why certain methods must be used. 

Metacognition is, literally, thinking about thinking. It encourages children to consider which strategies to use to solve problems, and why those would be the best strategies. It’s been found to be one of the best ways to improve a child’s progress at school. 

If a student is answering confidently, the tutor can ask extension questions that encourage them to think more deeply, such as: 

  1. What do you know? 
  2. What do you notice? 
  3. How can you show your working?

Step 3: Reasoning Questions

SATs papers 2 and 3 are known as the ‘reasoning’ papers because they focus on questions that need children to reason out the solution to a problem (e.g. by completing multiple steps). 

Often times they also ask students to show their working out – this shows that the student didn’t just guess the answer but knows all the steps that led them there. 

In all of Matr’s SATs revision lessons we include a deeper reasoning slide that lets students practice those skills. 

Tutors support children in answering these questions by encouraging them to notice patterns, spot connections and justify their answers aloud – so they can understand their own work better. 

Step 4: Challenge Questions

Once a child has completed the main part of the lesson, they may be given a challenge question (if the tutor feels they need extra stretching).

These have been carefully designed so that they are easy to begin (sometimes called ‘low threshold’) but involve multiple steps and grow in complexity (‘high ceiling’). 

Tutors help students work through the challenge questions step by step so they can challenge themselves without feeling overwhelmed. 

Step 5: Support Slides

Not all children need an additional challenge; some need additional support. Sometimes during a revision lesson the tutor may realise that there is some part of the topic that the child finds especially hard e.g. Multiplying Decimals. 

In this case the tutor will find a more basic multiplication problem from their bank of support slides and start with this instead. 

This dynamic shift helps close gaps in the student’s knowledge and makes sure they are confident in the basics before moving back to the topic they were finding hard. 


As you can see, we take great care in designing our KS2 SATs revision programme to ensure it can help children maximise their learning and confidence in maths ahead of their exams. 

We hope that this post has also given you some ideas of how you can guide your child’s revision at home – it’s never too soon to start preparing for SATs after all! 

If you’d like to experience our SATs programme first hand, visit us at matr.org and Try a free 1-to-1 lesson


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