English SATs Questions for Year 6 – Could you answer them?

Regular readers of this blog will know that I’m not averse to a bit of pedantry now and again and, in contrast to many of my colleagues, I actually find grammar quite interesting. I was however quite shocked to see these questions (shared on Facebook by a concerned parent). They appear on the Standard Attainment Test (SAT) for taken by her son, who is in Year 6.

I think they’re ridiculous. I wonder how many of you could answer these five sample questions correctly without looking things up on the web? I certainly wouldn’t have been able to do them all at age 11! More to the point, who* decided that the names of grammatical structures should be deemed so important?

Far better, in my opinion, to concentrate on cultivating a love of reading.

*It was Michael Gove.


Circle the relative pronoun in the sentence below.

“It’s too rainy for the picnic today, which is a shame.”


Circle all the determiners in the sentence below.

“The man’s hair was very long, so my uncle cut it using a pair of the clippers he owns.”


Underline the subordinate clause in this sentence.

“I don’t need a school dinner today because I have brought sandwiches.”


Circle the modal verb in this sentence:

“If I can leave early, I would like to meet Anna at the park, as she said she might be there.”


Tick one box to show whether the word ‘before’ is used as a preposition or a subordinating conjunction:

“We left the cinema before the film had ended.”

“Simon finished before Paul in the race.”

“Train tickets are often cheaper before 9am.”



11 Responses to “English SATs Questions for Year 6 – Could you answer them?”

  1. Question 4: I’ve never heard of a modal verb before, so didn’t follow your advice and looked it up. Now I learn there are modal auxiliary verbs with epistemic and deontic senses. I didn’t get learned that stuff at school. That’s for skolars and stuff, innit?

  2. I studied languages as part of my first degree (with a fair bit of linguistics in there), & I can’t trivially define all those grammatical terms. Indeed, the precise application of those terms is the subject of serious debate by grammarians (never mind 10-year-olds), and I can safely say that such understanding is neither sufficient nor necessary for learning a language or appreciating literature.
    It really pisses me off. A little bit of this information can help you read and write a bit better, but really, it’s rather like claiming memorising many digits of pi will make you a better mathematician.

  3. Dark Energy Says:

    Some (un)related questions from Catherine (Nan) Taylor
    and others:

    “Do you have to be English to teach English?”
    “Do Indians speak English or Inglish?”
    “Do you need to be good at Sudoku to teach English ?
    just as crossword is now mandatory for all physics related jobs?

  4. Anton Garrett Says:

    I was once staying in Budapest with a friend who was Hungarian and a teacher of English. One day I went into school and she introduced me to the class as a native English speaker. She set them an impromptu test. She then told them that I would give the correct answers. No problem. She then told them that I would explain why they were the correct answers. I whispered, “Oh no I won’t!” I had long ago been taught the rules of English grammar, but had almost equally long ago forgotten their formulation and simply knew what was and wasn’t correct.

    • telescoper Says:

      I was only really taught about English grammatical structures when I started to Latin. That was at Grammar School (!).

      My point is not that this is all unnecessary. It’s not. It helps learn other languages, among other things. I just think Year 6 us far too early to be learning about that stuff, I think.

  5. “I’ve never heard of a modal verb before, so didn’t follow your advice and looked it up. Now I learn there are modal auxiliary verbs with epistemic and deontic senses.”

    Once at lunch the topic turned to verbs. I pointed out that some languages have a form for something which is in the future when being written, but will be in the past when read. Someone remarked that he had seen something similar at a biker meeting: embroidered on the back of a Hell’s Angels denim jacket were the words “If you can read this, the bitch fell off”. 🙂

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