Now a Department for Education and Skills publication is reminding teachers to ensure Year 6 children do not write only inside the answer box.
Springboard Six is a series of 22 booster lessons for children who need extra help to achieve level 4 - the expected level at the end of primary school - in the tests.
In addition to lesson plans, it includes advice on exam technique.
It suggests children practise past questions, are encouraged to attempt unfamiliar questions and to write ideas on the papers. The Qualifications and Curriculum Authority confirmed that past papers reveal that some children who have made jottings outside the answer boxes seem to have done better than others who have chosen not to do so.
And teachers agree that after years of being told to be neat, children can find it difficult to adjust.
Peter Keegan, head of St Albans RC primary in Blackburn, said: "Children have it in their heads that the workings and calculations look messy and are reluctant to put them down, but we advise them that they should do so.
"If the calculation is correct but they make an error, they can still get credit. Also, if they show their calculations, they can then check them if they have time and may spot errors."
Kevin Burnett, head of Bathwick St Mary CE primary school, Bath, said: "We try to encourage children to make jottings, certainly in maths.
"We tell them to be careful to put the answer in the answer box, but also to make notes to help themselves and to circle important bits of information."
Bathwick St Mary pupil Ruth Coverdale, 10, said: "I put down the workings-out and leave them.
"I try to be neat, but the workings-out aren't because you do them quickly. I think it is more important to get the question right."