Phonics Screening Test

The Phonics Screening Test is a test for children in Year 1.

What is the Phonics Screening Test?

The Phonics Screening Check is a short test taken by children in Year 1.

Children sit in a one-to-one setting with their teacher and are asked to read aloud 40 words. Half of the words are real words but the other half are 'alien' words (sometimes called 'pseudo-words'). Alien words are words that have been made-up to ensure children are using their decoding skills rather than their memory of past words.

Below are two example words from the Phonics Screening 2019:


The word 'fusp' is an alien word and the word 'shop' is a real word. To help avoid children misreading alien words as similar-looking real words, each alien word is marked with a picture of a friendly alien.

The Phonics Screening Test is split into two sections. Section 1 is the easier part and contains 20 words - 12 alien words and 8 real words. Section 2 is the harder part and its 20 words are split into 8 alien words and 12 real words.

There is no formal time limit for the Phonics Screening Test but it normally takes around 10 minutes to complete.

The Phonics Screening Test has a pass mark and hence children can fail it. If a child fails their Phonics Test then they are required to take it again at the end of Year 2.

To help schools prepare for the Phonics Screening Test 2012, the Department for Education published a phonics screening video to help parents and teachers understand what the Phonics Screening Test entails:

Phonics Screening Test Past Papers

Below are all the Phonics Screening Test past papers. Use these example past papers to help prepare your child for their phonics test. Make sure you click on the year of each paper to obtain full access to audio downloads, word lists and PowerPoint presentations.

What is the Phonics Screening Test Pass Mark?

Since the first Phonics Screening Test in the Phonics Screening Test 2012, the pass mark has always been 32 out of 40. This means that children had to read at least 32 words out of 40 correctly to pass.

Children that don't reach the pass mark are required to take it again at the end of Year 2.

What date is the Phonics Screening Test?

The Phonics Screening Test 2012 is taking place during the week commencing 6th June 2022. For further information about the 2022 test, see the dedicated Phonics Screening 2022 page. We also have a Phonics Screening 2022 page for parents that wish to prepare early.

Children walking around a classroom
The Phonics Screening Test takes place during the week commencing 6th June 2022.

Is the Phonics Screening Test compulsory?

Yes, all pupils in England who have reached the age of 6 by the end of the school year (i.e. Year 1) must take the Phonics Screening Test during that academic year. Further to this, pupils who will have reached the age of 7 by the end of the academic year (i.e. Year 2) and who have not taken the test before (or who did not meet the expected standard in their previous test) must also take the test.

If children are absent during the planned test week then the school is allowed to administer the test in the following week. If a child remains absent then the child is recorded as absent in their results.

There are some exceptions to this and for further information parents should check the official guidance.

Children taking their phonics screening test
Download Phonics Screening Tests to help your child prepare for theirs.

How do you pass the Phonics Screening Test?

To pass the Phonics Screening Test, children have to read at least 32 words out of 40 correctly to their teacher.

Here is Exam Ninja's recommendations to help ensure your child passes their Phonics Screening Test:

  • Preparation. The Year 1 Phonics Screening simply asks them to read 40 words. Practice their reading daily - then they're practising for the test without even knowing it.
  • Download the Year one Phonics Tests above and go through a few tests with them. In one sitting they should (in the test scenario) be able to attempt all 40 words.
  • Patience and perseverance are crucial. Learning to read is a long and at times frustrating journey. It's crucial that you closely support your child.

If in doubt, calmly remind your child to:

  • Say each sound in the word from left to right.
  • Blend the sounds by pointing to each letter, e.g. b in bat, or igh in high.

Whilst supporting their attempts to read by:

  • Running your finger under the letters, letter combinations or the whole word as they (or you) say it.
  • Not rushing.
  • Being patient and positive.
  • Giving encouragement and praise.

If they're worrying about not doing well in the Year 1 Phonics Test, calmly remind them to simply try their hardest. Remember, persevere and be patient - reading cannot be learned overnight.


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