The Phonics Screening Check

The Year 1 phonics screening check assesses progress in phonics skills and knowledge gained throughout Reception and Year 1. The aim of the screen is to identify children who would benefit from additional support to catch up with their peers at this important early stage.

All Year 1 children in state schools and academies take the test in June. The check is carried out individually in one sitting, taking about 5 – 10 minutes. It is meant to be an informal and relaxed test with practice words to ensure that each activity is understood.

The check assesses the reading of

  • One-syllable and two-syllable phonically decodable words by sounding out and blending graphemes.
  • Nonsense ‘pseudo’ words in order to assess phonics skills in isolation without memory as a support. All pseudo-words are accompanied by a picture of an imaginary creature or ‘alien’. This provides a context (naming the alien) for children and ensures that they are not trying to match the pseudo-word to a word in their vocabulary.

The pass mark is called the ‘threshold’ and is published after the test. Schools report to both parents and the Local Authority by the end of the summer term. The results are not published in a league table. Children who do not pass receive additional support in school and repeat the check at the end of Year 2.

The government publishes a calendar of important dates for primary schools to plan for the key stage 1 and 2 assessments, including the phonics screening check.

2019 Assessment Calendar

Structure of the phonics screening check

The check consists of 40 words divided into two sections of 20 words. Both sections contain a mixture of real words and pseudo-words.

Section 1
  • Pages 1 – 3 Four pseudo-words
  • Pages 4 – 5 Four pseudo-words
Section 2
  • Pages 6 – 7 Four pseudo-words
  • Pages 8 – 10 Four pseudo-words

Content of the phonics screening check

Section 1

The words in section 1 have a variety of simple word structures (for example CVC, VCC, CCVC and CVCC) using:

  • single letters (a, b, c, d, e, f, g, h, I, j, k, l, m, n, o, p, q(u), r, s, t, u, v, w, x, y, z)
  • some consonant digraphs (ch, ck, ff, ll, ng, sh, ss, th, zz)
  • frequent and consistent vowel digraphs (ar, ee, oi, oo,or)
Section 2

Words in section 2 have more complex word structures (for example CCVCC, CCCVC, CCCVCC and two syllable words) with some:

  • additional consonant digraphs (ph, wh)
  • less frequent and consistent vowel digraphs, including split digraphs (a-e, ai, au, aw, ay, ea, e-e, er, ew, i-e, ie, ir, oa, o-e, ou, ow, oy, ue, u-e, ur)
  • trigraphs (air, igh)

Free Mock Phonics Screening Check

Monster Phonics Mock Screening Check

To help prepare your pupils for the short assessment, here is a practice Phonics Screening Check from Monster Phonics. Our free mock check models the government screen, having real word and pseudo alien word sections.

Download alien nonsense word and real word flashcards with our free trial. The free trial gives teachers access to lesson plans, songs, activities, videos, in fact, everything you need to teach an outstanding phonics lesson. More children pass the phonics screen after schools use the Monster Phonics programme. The 15-day free trial is limited to a wide selection of the lessons plans available. Full access to all lesson plans is granted to paid members.

Colour-coding and monster sounds makes Monster Phonics easier to teach and easier to learn.

Watch this short video to see how Monster Phonics accelerates learning.