Originally called Standards Assessment Tasks, but officially renamed Standard Tasks in 1990, SATs have informally retained their original abbreviated name, and have been an integral part of the national curriculum assessment process. They require pupils in England to be tested in Key Stage (KS) 1 at age 7 in English and mathematics, and the tests to be marked by the school and used as a basis for teachers to make an assessment of the attainment level at which the pupil is working. Pupils are tested again in KS2 at age 11, and in KS3 at age 14, in English, mathematics, and science. These tests are externally assessed and published nationally. SATs have been criticized by teachers and parents for imposing an unproductive level of pressure and stress on pupils. Partly as a result of this, the system which replaces them, single‐level testing, is intended to be more consistent with a personalized learning, ‘stage not age’ approach to pupil assessment.
In Scotland there are no synchronous national assessments at primary level. In the 5–14 curriculum each curricular area is divided into six levels, A–F. Assessment to attain these target levels can be taken when the teacher considers pupils ready. This is often completed as individuals or small groups; whole years do not sit tests. The levels are used as a confirmation of the student's current standard. In Wales there has been no testing at KS1 since 2002. A review of the testing and assessment arrangements for KS2 and 3 published in May 2004 recommended that tests should be phased out entirely by 2007/8. KS2 tests have been optional since 2005; KS3 tests became optional in 2006. External marking was offered for the first year of non‐compulsory testing. In Northern Ireland national testing is an option in KS3.