Attempts to help children adapt successfully to secondary school need to look beyond Years 6 and 7, according to research by Maurice Galton, John Gray and Jean Ruddock of Cambridge university.
The report for the Department for Education and Skills recommends primaries put more effort into Years 3 and 4, while secondaries give more status to Year 8.
The researchers worked with 50 schools and 12 local education authorities on transition and also tracked pupils' progress within 300 primaries. They found 82 per cent of primary school heads used practice tests in Year 6, and 74 per cent introduced booster classes.
Although schools were now paying more attention to transfer arrangements than three years ago, secondary teacher visits tended to be in June when primaries were concentrating on creative work.
The report said: "Secondary teachers are now better informed about the key stage 2 programmes of study, but many still hold over-optimistic views of primary practice. The reality is that for many pupils, much of Year 6 in the run- up to the tests consists largely of revision with an emphasis on whole-class direct instruction."
It said pupils did not find Year 7 sufficiently challenging or different from Year 6, although this varied according to subject.
Bridging units, resources used at the end of primary and beginning of secondary, seemed to work best when they had been constructed by schools.
One authority, which had developed units in the three core subjects, faced resentment from primary teachers who wanted to cover other subjects after the tests, and pupils who did not want to return to their primary work once they were at "big" school.
The researchers also found that pupils thought Year 8 was unimportant.