What is the phonics check pass mark?

The pass mark has remained unchanged for the phonics test, taken by around 650,000 five- and six-year-olds this month

The pass mark for the phonics check for five- and six-year-olds has remained unchanged

The pass mark for the phonics check is 32 out of 40 for the eighth year in a row, the government announced today.

The phonics test was taken by Year 1 pupils between Monday 10 June and Friday 14 June.

It is a list of 40 words – 20 words are real, 20 are nonsense words, which this year included “joil”, “shig” and “quisk”. The nonsense words are printed next to a picture of a monster to make it clear to children that each word is a monster’s “name”.


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The nonsense words are included to ensure that children are being tested on phonic knowledge and have not merely memorised words.

Passing the phonics test

Some experts have said that the best test of phonics would be to only have nonsense words, to ensure that children are not being tested on vocabulary as well.

The test is taken on a one-to-one basis with the child reading the words aloud to their teacher, who then marks them as they go along.

Children in Year 2 who did not meet the pass mark in Year 1 or who have not taken the test are also given the test.  

In 2018, 82 per cent of pupils passed the test in Year 1 and 92 per cent had passed it by the end of Year 2.

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