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How To Create A Year 6 Maths Revision Programme So That All Your Pupils Achieve 100 In KS2 SATs [2023 UPDATE]

Year 6 maths revision for KS2 SATs starts in earnest at different points for different schools. As SLT, Maths Lead, or a Year 6 teacher, at a certain point, you need to pivot from teaching the KS2 curriculum to your KS2 maths revision programme.

Wondering where to start? We’ve got you covered with the ultimate list of highest impact SATs revision topics organised by priority, and updated so that you are ready for SATs 2024. Before you begin reading you may want to read our guide on What are SATs? first.

We’ve used the data from 5 years of SATs papers, 100,000 pupils following 25+ SATs lessons, plus feedback from teachers, pupils and tutors to create a well-oiled sequence of SATs lessons to help you achieve a good set of SATs results 2024. Not only that, but they’re already in priority order to give you and your pupils the best chance of achieving 100 in SATs 2024.

Tweet from teacher about Third Space Learning's SATs analysis

Sneak preview: Your top 5 SATs revision lessons

Before we shed some light on the thinking, planning and analysis behind our successful SATs revision programme, let’s give you what you came here for; the top 5 highest impact topics you should cover in your own SATs revision programme.

These are the topics that come up most often and are worth the highest number of marks.

  1. Addition and Subtraction
  2. Multiplication and Division
  3. Money
  4. Solving Multiplication and Division Problems
  5. Solving Problems using Mixed Operations

Want to know the rest? Keep reading for how we formulated the full list of 16 additional high and medium-impact topics (and the 8 you can spend much less time on).


An evidence-based SATs programme

Each spring, we teach booster maths lessons to approximately 10,000 Year 6 pupils across the UK every week as part of our Year 6 SATs revision programme.

Each child receives targeted one-to-one maths tuition from a dedicated KS2 SATs tutor who is trained in teaching them how to answer SATs reasoning questions, while also plugging any gaps and misconceptions in maths.

To ensure that the primary schools we work with get the best possible experience (and value for money) we annually review and revise our SATs revision programme based on current data. And the results are encouraging. Schools return to us year after year with a different group of Year 6 pupils to prepare for the exams and build stamina in maths.

With the cancellation of SATs in 2020 and 2021, our recommendations in this blog are based on data from 2016-2019 and 2022, combined with our Curriculum Team’s internal re-evaluation of what a great SATs revision programme looks like!

Quote from headteacher about Third Space Learning's SATs programme
Learn More About Our 1-to-1 SATs Programme

Learn More About Our 1-to-1 SATs Programme

Want to supercharge SATs results in your school year after year? Let us reduce your SATs data analysis workload with our online maths tuition, proven to increase attainment!

Data from 100,000+ pupils and 5 years of SATs papers

When you’re deep diving into data from your current Year 6, you’ve now also got the data from five previous Year 6 performances in SATs. So, you’ll have an idea about what’s worked in the past for your Year 6 maths revision, and what hasn’t.

Like all maths teachers and leaders, you’ll be asking yourself what you want to do differently when preparing your maths revision in the run-up to KS2 SATs papers 2023.

What if, instead of looking at 30 or 60 pupils every year, you had data from over 100,000 pupils to review and analyse when setting your SATs revision programme? That’s the lucky position we’re in thanks to the wide-reaching popularity of our one-to-one maths tuition.

We’ve taught, recorded and analysed over 1,000,000 one-to-one maths lessons to inform how we structure our KS2 maths revision lessons for 2023. That’s probably over 10,000,000 questions asked by tutors and answered by pupils. It’s a staggering amount of data!

What’s even more exciting is that we’ve also combined this data with our analysis of the 15 government national tests since 2016, the content domains, and difficulty level.

How we got here: previous question level analysis

Back in 2016-17, we embedded the national question level analysis (QLA) into our research, which ultimately formed the bedrock of the SATs revision programme we offer today.

Although the national QLA data is no longer collected and available, it was still part of our original thought process when creating a sensible programme of lessons. Indeed, we still analyse every question from every paper from every year ourselves!

A data-led analysis continues to inform the sequence of our SATs revision lessons.

Where we are now: 2022 review of SATs

In 2022, our Curriculum Team once again reviewed our popular SATs programme.

What did this involve, and what work have they already done for you?

  1. Analysis of our previous 25 SATs lessons

These lessons were already shaped by the previous question level analysis from 2016 to 2019 and mapped against real questions asked in each SATs paper.

  1. Analysis of the 2022 SATs papers

This especially focused on question styles and the number of marks ‘available’ per SATs lesson offered by Third Space Learning’s tailored SATs programme.

  1. Watching real online tuition sessions

The team also watched lots of real online tuition sessions to identify what was working, and what potentially wasn’t working as intended. This involved a detailed tracking document for the Curriculum Team reviewer to make comments and pull out recurring themes.

How could you update your own SATs revision programme for 2023?

To help you understand the scope of what we recommend in light of the revised data, here is a summary of the overall changes and improvements we decided to make.

Of course, you don’t have to do all of this, but it’s worth considering each aspect when you do your own analysis.

Are there any lessons missing in your revision sequence? 

We ended up adding 4 brand new lessons to our SATs revision programme as a result of our analysis this year; taking us from 25 to 29 SATs revision lessons in total. This will allow us to dedicate a bit more time to topics like Solving Multiplication and Division Problems, and Solving Problems using Mixed Operations.

Are there any lessons that need changing?

5 of our original 25 lessons needed significant changes. Sometimes, we’d been too ambitious in how much we thought a child could get through in one lesson; sometimes we noticed that we could actually include a wider range of question types.

Are you assessing pupils’ progress through your SATs revision programme?

We reviewed every single question we ask before and after a one-to-one session and ended up revising to varying degrees at least 80% of the total 232 post-session questions. These are the low-stakes questions we ask students at the end of every tuition lesson so teachers and school leaders can monitor their progress through our programme

Of course, for every change we made pedagogically, we then had to spend an equal amount of time training our tutors on the new concepts and strategies and also any new tools or support slides that we’ve added. It’s worth factoring in this extra training time for TAs or your Year 6 maths teachers if you change your revision lessons or scheme this year.

What is the goal for your Year 6 maths revision?

Our goal when starting this programme was always to end up with the best quality individual SATs lessons and the most effective order of SATs revision topics for a coherent topic order and breadth of coverage, and we’d encourage you to do the same.

This is the case whether pupils are doing our 15-week SATs revision programme or a longer SATs-focused programme. Every lesson counts. And it’s one of the reasons we’re able to achieve an average of double expected progress over a 14-15 week period.

Topic coverage is an essential part of creating your own SATs revision programme.

In 2019, our choice of SATs lessons covered topics that accounted for 91% of all questions that came up in SATs that year. In 2022, our choice of SATs lessons covered topics that account for 98% of all questions that came up in SATs that year.

We’re confident this percentage will increase in 2023 with our revised set of SATs lessons.


Step-by-step analysis of 2016-2019 and 2022 KS2 SATs data

Before we even thought about actually creating and designing our SATs lessons, we needed to determine the order and topic coverage of these lessons based on our analysis of the 2016-2019 and 2022 SATs reasoning papers and Year 6 arithmetic test.

So, what did we actually look at?

  • KS2 SATs questions by year group
  • KS2 SATs questions by topics
  • KS2 SATS questions by marks per lesson

And what did we find?

KS2 SATs questions by year group

No SATs question since 2016 has tested Year 1 or Year 2 content.

And while the majority of questions were on Year 6 content, in 2019, around half the marks went on Year 3, 4, 5 content (a trend continuing from the 2018 SATs).

A graph to show what year group content questions covered in SATs by year
An analysis of the percentages of questions in SATs papers
from Year 3 to 6, taken from the past 5 SATs papers.

Another important takeaway is that there was an almost even percentage of topics from Year 4 as Year 5 in the 2019 SATs tests. Through this analysis, we understand that it is more worthwhile revising Year 4 to 6-level questions during SATs revision.

KS2 SATs questions by topics

(Our grouping of the content domains)

Table showing content domain coverage of 2022 KS2 maths test

What does this content domain coverage table tell us? It’s not a good use of time to revise all these content domains separately. We need to group them into lessons that work together, rather than treating them all as individual, disconnected entities.

Following our analysis of SATs questions by year group, we then grouped all content domains together into 29 sensible topic-based lessons.

We also broke some big curriculum areas like multiplication and division into two smaller lessons; one focusing on straight multiplication and division methods and another with reasoning using multiplication and division facts. Four operations questions have appeared most frequently on previous SATs papers.

There was also the need for a lesson on mixed operations, especially for those 2-3 mark questions that involve multiple steps.

Here’s a quick look at how we grouped two highly interlinked areas into a single Third Space Learning SATs revision lesson; negative numbers and coordinates.

A note on lesson names

You might notice us including ‘Reasoning with…’ at the beginning of our lesson titles in some parts of the blog. Schools trust us to support their pupils with improving their reasoning skills in preparation for the two SATs reasoning papers. Reasoning is the focus of each lesson, which can itself cover multiple content domains or topics.

Slide from Third Space Learning's one to one tuition programme for SATs
Slide from Third Space Learning's one to one tuition programme for SATs

KS2 SATS questions by marks per lesson

(Groupings of content domains above)

After looking at questions by year group, and questions by topic, we then looked through every one of the 15 papers over the past 5 years, and investigated how many marks were attributed to each of our SATs revision lessons.

We split this up into three views:

  • All three papers (Arithmetic, Reasoning Paper 2 and Reasoning Paper 3) 
  • Just the Reasoning Papers
  • Just the Arithmetic Paper
A graph to show total marks across SATs paper
Reasoning with Solving Multiplication and Division Problems was
worth the most marks, and Reasoning with Perimeter and Area the least.
A graph to show total marks across 5 years for reasoning papers
Reasoning with Addition and Subtraction was worth the
most marks, and Reasoning with Order of Operations the least.
A graph to show total marks across 5 years for only SATs Arithmetic Paper 1
Reasoning with Solving Multiplication and Division Problems was worth
the most marks, and Reasoning with Multiples Factors and Prime Numbers the least.

So, we now have a clearer idea of which content domains were most fully tested each year i.e. most likely to come up, and how many marks they were worth.

Let’s see what this means for the list and order of SATs topics to cover during revision.


Key content domains for your KS2 maths revision

Using our multi-layered data analysis, we were finally able to work out which content domains were ‘most important’ to teach for KS2 maths SATs revision.

A table to show analysis of strands and marks
The raw mark totals for each strand per year and their total from 2016 to 2019.

To summarise, ‘Four Operations’ (Addition, Subtraction, Multiplication and Division) content seemed to be most important to revise, having had both the highest percentage of questions asked and the most marks allocated across 2016-19.

‘Fractions, Decimals and Percentages’, ‘Measurement’ and ‘Number and Place Value’ were all also relatively important. By contrast, ‘Position and Direction’ appeared least important, having the least marks allocated to it and the lowest frequency of appearance.

Top lessons to teach for KS2 maths SATs revision

In Third Space Learning’s KS2 SATs revision programme, we provide schools with weekly lessons that ideally last 15 weeks for Year 6. For best coverage, the programme then rolls over into Year 5 for the summer term.

As such, we’re looking at the top 15 lessons to teach within the SATs booster phase of the programme. Starting earlier or later than January, or teaching revision lessons more frequently, would mean adapting these recommendations accordingly.

Remember, this order has to take into account both the most ‘important’ lessons to teach and a sensible coherent order for addressing the individual concepts.

In 2022, the Curriculum Team once again sat down and tweaked the priority order list, taking into account which lessons would be more useful to know ahead of others.

Total number of marks per lesson topic from
5 years of SATs Arithmetic and Reasoning Papers
Priority order for the top lessons adjusted for concept and coverage

You’ll notice that the order includes some lower-scoring lessons higher up the priority list, such as ‘Reasoning with Fractions Decimals and Percentages’, but it was conceptually important to have it there. This is why considering content coverage, topics or marks independently would not provide a sufficiently nuanced picture for the final programme.

This order of topics also assumes a degree of equality in previous learning, which we realise won’t be the case because of individual knowledge gaps etc. Clearly, you’ll need to adapt this recommended order for your own pupils.

We build the need for personalisation into our SAT revision programme through a diagnostic assessment, which diagnoses the specific gaps of target Year 6 pupils for SATs.

Icing on the cake: structuring SATs revision lessons

So, you’ve worked out which topics to target, and what order to teach them in. But how do you actually go about tackling these in revision lessons?

At Third Space Learning, we have a two-pronged approach to each of our online one-to-one maths revision lessons.

The first part is our fluency section, which encourages pupils to practise for the Arithmetic Paper; the focus here is pupil confidence and using mental strategies.

We then have three sets of different reasoning questions to help pupils practise reasoning and showing all of their working out.

Want to learn more about the structure of our SATs revision lessons?

See also: A Tried And Tested Lesson Structure For Year 6 SATs Revision

There you have it; an evidence-based priority list of SATs topics to take back to your classroom. Want us to do the rest of the hard work for you? Request a quote!

Do you have pupils who need extra support in maths?
Every week Third Space Learning’s maths specialist tutors support thousands of pupils across hundreds of schools with weekly online 1-to-1 lessons and maths interventions designed to plug gaps and boost progress.

Since 2013 we’ve helped over 150,000 primary and secondary school pupils become more confident, able mathematicians. Learn more or request a personalised quote for your school to speak to us about your school’s needs and how we can help.

Personalised one to one maths tutoring to help Year 6 pupils build confidence and familiarity with SATs-style questions.

Candida Crawford
Candida Crawford
Third Space Learning
With over 10 years of classroom teaching experience, Candida now works at Third Space Learning with a focus on improving learner progress through curriculum design and tutor training.
Learn More About Our 1-to-1 SATs Programme

Learn More About Our 1-to-1 SATs Programme

Want to supercharge SATs results in your school year after year? Let us reduce your SATs data analysis workload with our online maths tuition, proven to increase attainment!

Find Out More!

Learn More About Our 1-to-1 SATs Programme

Downloadable resource

Want to supercharge SATs results in your school year after year? Let us reduce your SATs data analysis workload with our online maths tuition, proven to increase attainment!

Find Out More!

FREE KS2 Maths SATs Practice Papers (Set of 6)

Get ready for SATs with this set of 6 maths SATs practice papers that includes 2 Arithmetic and 4 Reasoning papers that follow the National Curriculum Assessments.

Mark schemes are included, enabling you to diagnose and assess where your pupils need extra support.

Download free