Strategies for preparing pupils for Key Stage 2 maths tests

Primary schools in England are held to account on the basis of results from national curriculum tests in core subjects, including maths. On the one hand, these measure are intended to motivate higher attainment. On the other, they risk effort being wasted on strategies that inflate test scores without a corresponding impact on pupils’ in-depth knowledge and understanding.

Previous research has looked at the impact of this kind of high stakes testing, such as ‘teaching-to-the-test’ strategies. However, this study will be the first in the UK to focus just on strategies used for teaching maths. It aims to answer the following questions:

  • What instructional strategies do teachers use in response to Key Stage 2 maths tests?
  • Which features of Key Stage 2 maths tests are teachers responsive to?   
  • How beneficial or harmful are these subject-specific test preparation strategies in promoting student learning?

The study will also consider whether it is possible to reduce the negative impact of tests through better test design.

Project details



Dr Melanie Ehren, Professor Paul Newton, Dr Ayshea Craig and Nick Wollaston

UCL Institute of Education

Grant amount and duration


August 2013 - September 2018

Project website